How this site came into being...

The need for a static CMS.

20 February 2018

Jekyll Meta

I was on the lookout for a way to showcase my projects and write a little about how they came about. I wanted a website where I could easily upload my projects and publish quickly.

In the beginning, I started out by exploring these options:

I was fascinated with Wix because of the smaller apex domain (wix) and more customisability of the themes, but it also had a few downsides:

  • Not so easy to post as wordpress.
  • Customisation of site using the WYSIWYG editor is a bit of a pain.
  • Annoying “Made by Wix” brand at the bottom.

While wordpress seamed to be the standard, used by all, I still felt a bit limited by:

  • non free hosting for custom domain
  • web interface
  • heavy, themes with limitations in usage
  • not as much freedom as I’d like

Over the time, I learnt to work with HTML5, JS and CSS3 well enough to start experimenting with free hosting providers like:

I got familiar with their CPanel controls and web editors and ftp clients to upload/change sites but it still had a few flaws:

  • non free web hosting for custom domains
  • sometimes ftp unreliable
  • they were compatible with php/wordpress but setting and managing the databases etc through the web app was a pain, not to mention the site itself.

I was on the lookout for a system where I had the control for customisability of a static HTML5 website, but also a system to add posts without copying unnecessary HTML to new files. I also wanted a way to get better urls ,which seemed possible only with web frameworks then.

I experimented with Lumen(PHP) and Django(Python), but there were few more problems:

  • No free hosting, and those like Heroku had limitations
  • They needed databases and all that seemed like overkill
  • Too much work to make and set up

And one fine day I did come across a phrase that seemed very intersting at that time and only later did I know how uselful was it too:
Static Site Generator

The one I read about was called Octopress which promised to be a

“blogging framework for hackers”

It was created by a guy called Brandon Mathis, and it led to the developement of Jekyll.

This statid CMS idea seemed brilliant and I got to experimenting and reading through the entire documentation, checking out almost all the themes available , I decided I’ll make my own theme.

Jekyll was brilliant because of the following features:

  • Complete control of the site
  • Automatic post and site pages generation
  • Posts written in Markdown, which is much more convenient
  • Url customisation as a setting
  • Site wide custom variables
  • using static pages like post pages (and their YAML front matter) as datat to be shown in html
  • Ruby gem support
  • Blog system with tags, categories etc
  • Facility to make collections , which i have used for my projects
  • Feed as XML for RSS
  • Robots.txt and 404 page support without .htaccess
  • Completely static, no databases
  • Liquid, simple templating language to make my own theme
  • Storage in the form of YAML in _data folder
  • Wide range of ruby gem plugins for features like pagination etc
  • Github pages support for free with custom domain forever
  • other service providers too, like Gitlab and Netlify
  • Good documentation and brilliant forum support
  • Made to keep you in control

I was sold and I sat down and made themes for the following from HTML5 sites:

In the next post I will give an overview on how to make a Jekyll theme.

* : Site now using a customised form of Tale theme, but original theme I made can be found here .