New Approach, New Site

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With a new approach to building sites, it seems like a good time to get back into the fray. It's been quite some time since I've dedicated effort to learning new things in tech and applying them first hand. I've been looking for a good excuse to get back into writing, so here it is.

Working with Eleventy & Netlify

I started with the eleventy-netlify-boilerplate project. With a single button click it provides the Eleventy static site generator with a preconfigured Netlify CMS integration on the Netlify platform. I didn’t quite figure out how to do that on my own during my first run, so finding this existing project for my second attempt made it much easier to accomplish my goal.

This boilerplate is opinionated, like all starter projects, but in a pretty lightweight way. I wanted to start with something tangible, so that I could investigate what my ideal setup and needs are. I don’t do well starting completely from scratch with concepts I don’t fully understand. But if I read instructions along with something that is already in front of me, I grasp the concepts better. This boilerplate helped me to do that.

What I do know

I managed to figure out some things I wanted for my project while learning Eleventy and Netlify CMS:

  1. I like having a CMS. As a web developer, I don’t need one. I could do just fine without it. But, I also like knowing how CMSes work, because when working with clients or in-house, there will be non-technical people who do need a CMS in order to add content to the website. I don’t want to stray too far off that mindset, so that I can continue to provide optimal experiences for people who are not like me.
  2. I really like how Netlify CMS works. It seems incredibly straightforward for customizing content types (pages vs. posts) and the forms the content administrators will fill out to get content onto the site. Right now, my personal needs are not very robust, but some light reading on what is coming indicates robustness is in the roadmap and it still seems to be pretty straightforward to set up those features. This is good to know for larger scale projects than my personal site.
  3. I use Sublime 3 as my IDE. I like having templates that are .html so that I don’t have to remind the template file that I want HTML syntax highlighting. I'm sure there is a setting somewhere that makes that possible, but if I don't have to bother with that, then yay! In Eleventy I can have an .html file behave like it is .liquid or .njk (or whatever) without needing the file extension to match. So, I changed all the .njk templates in the boilerplate to .html because it suits my preferred working style.
  4. I’m using Nunjuks as my templating language. I wanted to understand how it works in comparison to the templating language I am more familiar with--Liquid. So far, they aren’t wildly different. There are a few syntax differences, but they don’t seem insurmountable. It has been a few years since I’ve done any hands on development work anyway, so even Liquid has evolved over the course of time. Either way, I was going to have to learn some stuff. I can’t argue a specific reason to stick with one over the other at this point in time. I’m committing to Nunjucks just for the sake of learning something new. If I decide to change my mind later, I will have a bit of reconfiguring to do, but that’s the risk I run by doing something just to do it, rather than having a requirement as a guide.
  5. I will create my own theme. While this boilerplate had a minimalistic style, it doesn’t suit my taste at all. I am still seeking inspiration for how the site will appear, but it will end up how I want it when I am done with it. I will also attempt to use newer features in CSS for layout and design. I don’t intend to use “fallbacks” for those features. This site will be progressively enhanced, to work with the browser’s own characteristics.
  6. I’m inspired by the IndieWeb. I really want to commit to the concept, but I find that the connections are too difficult for me to grasp fully, then I get discouraged and give up. I’m going to try again and when I have that all worked out, I will write up what I have learned and what I think needs to happen to make this approach more accessible to non-programmers.
  7. I have to figure out what to do with my old, abandoned blog. I may shut it down entirely. I may move posts I think are worth keeping over to this new URL. It’s not like I had a wild amount of traffic that will lose the sacred SEO juice. I haven’t made up my mind yet, so it will continue to sit there for the time being. If I do shut it down, I would save money on the hosting costs. That might be nice.

I still have a long way to go figuring out what is worth sharing with the world and how to make it all originate here before it gets distributed to other platforms. This will be a live work in progress. I expect it to take me weeks, maybe months, to make significant headway because life has a few other demands for my time. But, I'm choosing to add this to my plate. For me.