It sure looks different around here ...

or: 'I found the time to redo my website.'


Happy Friday!

Weird things happen on Friday the 13th.

In October of 1307, thousands of Knights Templar were tortured in France by the order of King Louis Iv. Some say this very massacre is the origin of wariness of this day.

In August of 1521, Hérnán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, captured the Aztec ruler and claimed himself the civilization's new leader, thus ending the Aztec empure.

In October of 1972, a plane carrying 45 passengers crashed in South America. Some people managed to survive the crash, but they were lost in the Andes Mountain range and forced to resort to cannibalism before rescue came more than 72 days later.

Tupac Shakur died in September of 1996.

And now, in November of 2020, got a long overdue update!

Recent events have left lots of time on my hands. I've considered updating the portfolio a few times, always distracted by some new video game or other shiny thing. However, here we are!

why the switch?

My old site was pretty dated - HTML and CSS on an apache server. I hadn't updated it since I built my first portfolio along with a Bootstrap 3 tutorial back in 2014. That site got me my first web dev job, and life has been a whirlwind since.

I was subscribed to the same webhost all that time, who made a nice chunk of annual change for my rarely updated page, some email accounts and two other unused domains.

Moving on was overdue, so I set out to build a site that was the total opposite of my old, expensive one — modern and cheap. I also wanted it to be as futre-proof as possible, expanding it for future needs.

so what's different now?

  1. Front-end built with Gatsby

    • Gatsby is based on React and NodeJS, much more modern than basic HTML/CSS on apache
  2. Hosted on Netlfy

    • deploys via Git
    • takes form submissions
    • limited CMS options
    • free
  3. I have a blog!

    • you've figured this out since you're reading it.
    • The old site didn't have this, or any regularly updated content.
  4. I have a working contact form.

    • old web form was beautiful and responsive, but insecure and was spammed to hell.
    • this one is a big improvement, ... that's not a challenge to spam it though!

Since I'm not doing much besides showing off pretty things here, I don't need many dynamic solutions. I figured this update a chance to learn to use some new technologies. I had been curious about GatsbyJS and building with it has been extremely educational.

Gatsby is nice to build with, once configured.

If you need a quick, simple and fast-loading site to build with, Gatsby is a good option. It's goal is to make fast-loading static websites, complete with tools for image optimization, SEO, blogging and more. I truly do hate when people say "and more", but just browse GatsbyJS's extensive docs for a list of what's offered.

The learning curve is pretty steep. It is based on React, and builds pages using GraphQL queries. Knowledge of those transfers well. Either way, like many frameworks, Gatsby is its own language of plugins, components and configurations that are many cases better off just copied from the docs and left alone.

The configuration is the beast – however once done, making new pages is as simple as adding a React component in your src folder. The people at Gatsby understand this, and to that end maintain a library of project starters that can be updated to your needs.

This fit my front-end nicely and made for a modern development experience, ensuring optimized images and quick load times throughout. We'll see how expandable this is though - I have concerns about Gatsby's proclaimed static limitaitons, but I've seen developers work around those.

My site is now modern. So where do I host it?

Netlify is cheap FREE hosting with forms.

Gatsby provides many deployment options via headless CMS. Netlify fits my needs nicely. With the proper configs I am able to dpeloy my site directly from Github. you can also deploy with a simple drag-and-drop of your build files if you choose.

I have two basic sites deployed on my account right now,each allowing several hundred deployments and form submissions a month. The deploy is easy, and the price is absolutely free. I am also able to add custom domains (each sold separately) to my sites and go live to my domains with a git push.

The form submissions are easy to set up. They can be monitored in the browser, forwarded to desired email accounts, or exported to CSV. There are also CMS functions that I have not played with, which allows for more easily updatable content, but I've yet to play with these features. I hear good things.

what's next?

I see lots of potential developing with Gatsby. It is made to serve static pages, and for sites like this it serves its purpose. I also chose a Gatsby themw with integration options with Netlify CMS, which I have not yet experiemented with.

In terms of the blog, I'll have to figure out what to write about. In between work and fun with my new wife (I've been marreied 5 weeks!), I'm working on several projects — some sites for family members, a community project, along with the regular nine-to-five work-from-home. Yes, I'm at the computer often. I always intend to start working out. I just got access to a bike. Maybe I'll blog about that a bit? We will see ...

In the meantime, thanks for taking the time. Much appreciated. Stay tuned for updates.


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