A Site Reborn

I’ve moved my Jekyll site into a Rails app, and I’ve done just enough work to have every post render without errors and added just enough style to make things readable. Some of the site still looks pretty bad, and none of it looks good yet. But that’s ok, because my plan is to rebuild and redesign the site in the open. I’d love to hear your feedback as I go - I haven’t built out the comments feature yet, so for now please feel free to email me at <caleb at this domain> or reach out/follow on Twitter! The first post in the Rebuild in the Open series, CSS-only Submenu Navigation with Post Tags is also up. It looks at how I use the front matter tags in my posts to generate the new top nav automatically, with a HTML- and CSS-only accessible menu with submenus to display the nav.

Why move to Rails?

I originally chose Jekyll because I could deploy it for free on GitHub Pages. When I started this site in 2013, it included a few “blog posts” I’d written around the Internet, and I was excited about an idea for a new post on writing READMEs. It was a fun, week-long project to build out, and since then I’ve tinkered with it over the years, eventually moving it onto Heroku so that I could run some custom plugins, which GitHub didn’t support.

I can’t remember where I heard it, but I’ve always heard that building a blog in Rails, despite being the focus of the “Rails blog in 15 minutes video, isn’t a great idea. Things like “there’s no good off-the-shelf Rails blog” and “Rails is overkill for a blog”. In my opinion, neither of those are true, and I think that the multiple Rails blogging engines available would agree. I’ve also heard that Wordpress or Medium are better options. That might be true for those without time or skill to build a site, but I think that given the opportunity, a web developer or designer having a space where they can show their skill and personality is a boon. Why did I pick Ruby and Rails instead of some other option? Simply, it’s the language and framework I’m most comfortable with and it offers a lot of flexibility and speed. Of course, I didn’t consider that it would take me weeks to figure out how to integrate rendering of Jekyll-style Liquid, Markdown, and yaml front matter into a Rails app, but as Kent Beck said, “first make the change easy (warning: this might be hard), then make the easy change.”

Goals

Possible open source extractions

These are features I intend to build out for the blog, and which Jekyll wouldn’t have been very friendly to building. As I build these out, I’ll do it in a way that could be extracted and released for others to use.

I hope to hear from you what you think, whether you’d use any of these gems, and what you’re interested in hearing about in redesigning a site from scratch or building a Rails blog. Once again, you can email me at <caleb at this domain> or find me on Twitter.