Matthias Vandermaesen

Colada

Tales in web development written by Matthias Vandermaesen

Moving to new pastures

Say hello to the new colada.be. This site has gotten a complete overhaul. It's been redesigned and rebuild from scratch. It's one project I wanted to do over the fall season. Not only did I take the opportunity to try out several new hip tools such as Sass & Grunt, I also wanted to confront myself with my own creative process.

Choosing Jekyll over a fully fledged CMS

I've decided to move away from Drupal and go with Jekyll as the motor for this site. Since I'm a Drupal developer by trade, such change is a Big Thing. However there are well-founded arguments to make such a move:

  • This site is just a simple blog. Drupal is a complete content management framework. Even out of the box, it does a lot more then I need. Adding unneccessary complexity comes at a cost when it comes to security & performance. Any database-driven CMS requires regular attention and upkeep.

  • I wanted to learn new stuff. I've been completely missing the boat at the frontend of web development. SASS, mobile, frameworks,... I've been encapsulated in this bubble of backend Drupal development. This prompted me to explicitely dip my toes in new waters. Not having to care about the underlying CMS was important if I wanted to keep my focus on just writing frontend matter.

  • If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Drupal is great. Although it allows you to build blogs, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best tool. It's always worth exploring what's out there.

Just serving plain HTML & CSS makes sense when you're keeping things simple. Static site generators are just what you need: they automate just the most painstaking tasks when maintaining a collection of HTML documents.

Static site generators aren't a new concept, but the Jekyll project definitely has made them increasingly more popular in recent times. It's a logical choice since there's plenty documentation out there, and it's community is thriving.

New paintjob

I've chosen to refit the entire look & feel of the site. Here's why.

I'm not a designer. Not in sense that I can come up with visually stunning Photoshop designs with. However, I know what I like and I've read enough about typography, grid layouts and color to know the do's and don'ts. I wanted to give the creative spark a chance, and so I challenged myself.

The previous version relied on Drupal's default Bartik theme. I didn't bother building a new Drupal theme back then. The downside was that the site looked very unpersonal and very generic. I didn't like it and it didn't motivate me to keep up with new content.

The process

The worst client you can have is yourself. Past endeavours learned me that it's easy to get paralysed by self doubt, lack of confidence, loss of motivation and all that.

Instead of architecting a complete personal site with a portfolio and all that, I went for a simple design build within the browser. It was the perfect moment to pick up new things and look what did and didn't work. I've learned a lot about hip new tools such as SASS, Compass, Bourbon, NodeJS,... through my colleague and frontend maestro @frankbaele.

I'm not very good at killing my darlings. Changing ideas and letting go of your initial assumptions can be beneficial, however. So, halfway development, I decided to drop Compass for Bourbon. As a consequence, I had to throw away a lot of what I had already written. The flipside are better maintainable, less Ruby dependent, stylesheets. I like that.

The take away here is that this project thaught me not to over think stuff too much.

And now...

Let's get to some proper writing.

Comments powered by Disqus