From CSS to SCSS, WordPress to Grav. My website has always been a place for me to try different techniques and learn new technologies relating to front-end development.
Over the years my personal website has undergone numerous changes under the hood. This has allowed me to experiment with several platforms and approaches to front-end development. I've then applied this knowledge to my professional work and shared what I've learnt with wider team members and the community.
The latest iteration of my site included a design refresh as well as moving from WordPress to a flat-file CMS that uses the Twig templating engine.
Key skills and technologies
- NPM, Browserify and Grunt;
- WordPress and Grav;
- CI testing, build and deployment.
It's often my curiosity that drives me to learn new things and thus my site is often the starting point for me to try out new techniques. Because of this, the design and technology used to build my site has changed significantly over the years…
Back in 2010 I set out with the vision of creating a "newspaper" themed site. I simplified the colour palette and tried to draw focus to my blog posts. This design gave me chance to experiment with some of the latest HTML5 structural elements and CSS3 properties. The site was originally built using WordPress, which seemed like an obvious choice back in 2010.
It only took me 2 years and 8 months to update my site again (that's a lifetime in front-end development!). During that time my design skills hadn't improved much, but the HTML5 specification had evolved and that is what I was more interested in! So my site went through another refresh.
I stepped away from the old "newspaper" layout to try something much simpler. My goal was to focus further on content and reduce clutter. The design aimed to surface more information on the homepage and highlight some of other areas of the web I could be found.
Overall, I was pleased with this refresh. It gave me a chance to move my codebase over to SCSS and restructure the WordPress aspect of my site to allow for easier maintenance of the core and plugins being used. Ultimately, the maintenance overhead of using WordPress was one of the main reasons I decided to move away from WordPress in 2016.
The latest iteration simplified things further on the back-end with the use of a flat-file CMS called Grav. I was keen to move my site over to a flat-file CMS having also used Statamic in the past.
Grav gave me more control over the front-end through the use of YAML front matter and a Markdown text editor. I also found that embedding things like CodePen snippets was much more developer friendly in a flat-file CMS! One of the other reasons for choosing Grav was because it used the Twig template engine. I had experience using similar templating engines, such as Jinja and Swig, in the past and felt it would be a good opportunity to learn more about Twig.
The refresh also allowed me to experiment with a few other things I'd been itching to try. This included tools like Browserify and setting up CI with GitLab's to run my Grunt tests and deploy changes straight to my site. This was something I'd used Codeship for in the past but having it all handled by GitLab just made sense.