How I built this site

Woooo!

Finally, the time has come for an upgraded site! I initially built a personal website for myself using Jekyll with the Minima theme. I never really went far into customization, just using the defaults.

But as I got more into web dev and started working on more complex projects, and designing websites from scratch, I started to realize that the website that I initially started work on in October 2018, when I'd just started university wasn't really gonna cut it any more.

So, towards the beginning of this last academic year, I decided to build a shiny new website. And then that didn't happen because I got distracted with lots of other shiny projects, and coursework, and trying to have a social life, and all that. But during lockdown, I was actually able to sit down and build a new site from scratch.

Tooling

So one of the main things I needed to decide before starting any work was what tools I was going to build the site with.

Jekyll has kind of fallen out of style, and the whole JAMStack has become hugely popular and complex. Tools like Netlify CMS and Forestry.io have made it possible to hook up CMS-like backends to Git repositories, while more powerful and flexible frameworks like Hugo and Gatsby have shown up.

Having struggled with some of the limitations of Jekyll when building other sites, I decided I wanted to try something new. And because I've currently been playing quite a bit with React, it made perfect sense to pick Gatsby.

Styling

I didn't reallllly feel like writing CSS from scratch on this project. Not because I don't enjoy doing so, or because I'm bad at it, but because I'm currently doing a contracting job that involves fair amounts of it. So I turned to looking for available CSS frameworks.

There's lots of awesome CSS frameworks out there, like the classic Bootstrap, and property based CSS frameworks like Tailwind are becoming more and more popular. However, I really wanted something that was minimal, looked good out of the box, and was customizable. So I eventually decided on Bulma which satisfies all of that criteria.

Bulma is actually really nice, and it feels like a perfect fit for doing site generation stuff, and it also integrates really well into React, just by using the className property.

Pages

So aside from the fact I had to have a homepage and a blog, I really wanted to build some more complex pages.

I used to have a portfolio page on my old website, which used just pure markdown, but I never really liked it. So this time, I went for a more modern grid listing of different things I've done and helped organize. Annoyingly, doing CSS Grid things in Bulma isn't so easy, so I had to suffer through writing a couple of CSS classes to make up for it.

I also really wanted to attach a CV page. I'd worked on this earlier on in lockdown, and converted from my old google doc into a single responsive HTML page in Hugo. I preserved as much of the style of the CV as possible, as I've been really happy with the general layout. Now instead of editing a google doc to make changes, I just push a changed YAML file to GitHub, and it automatically updates on my site. I had a lot of fun here trying to learn CSS print styles, so that I could just print the page and use that as my printed CV.

Deployment

Two years ago when I built my site, the cool and popular thing was GitHub pages. But it seems that nowadays, everyone's switching away to things like Netlify, because they can build sites of any type, not just Jekyll.

While I initially experimented with deploying to GitHub pages, it just turned out to be too much of a mess, and requiring quite a bit of manual intervention. So I ended up giving Netlify a try, and am now totally convinced and use it for both my main site and my CV site.

Conclusion

Hopefully that's given you a good idea of the tech stack I've ended up using for my site! You can see the source code here.