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Hello 2020: New year, new site!

Posted in Site, Personal

Unrelated Python Code by Chris Ried on Unsplash
Unrelated Python Code by Chris Ried on Unsplash

The time has come to welcome in the new decade with an overhaul of my long-stagnant personal website.

My site has taken many shapes and forms over the previous decade. It started out as your standard run-of-the-mill WordPress blog/portfolio hybrid (back when WordPress was all the rage and every web developer worth their salt built, or had built, WordPress sites) before I decided to ditch the CMS concept altogether and code up my site in pure HTML and CSS like a proper programmer.

I moved the blog over to Tumblr (which I updated quite infrequently) and threw together a basic HTML template of which I was immensely proud. Every time I needed to add something to the site, I would open the HTML files, copy the relevant lines of code, insert the new values and upload that via FTP to my web server. And that worked just fine.

My site saw little traffic, except the odd occasion where I would self-host one of my Ludum Dare entries and give my sysadmin a heart attack (a friend hosted the site for me on his personal server). Still, every so often I would become bored of the layout, think I could do better and spend a few hours re-imagining how I would present the same 6 - 8 blocks of static content to the odd site-lander.

Around the end of 2016 my site saw more frequent updates as I picked up drawing again as a hobby and started posting those pencil sketches on my site too. I soon grew tired of copying and pasting the same 5 lines of HTML code with every single little addition to my site so I decided it would be a pretty cool thing indeed if my content could load from external data files. Then every update would be as easy as adding a line to a text file. What I'd just invented was a templating engine, but I didn't know that at the time. Chuffed with my new idea, I set about coding up my own templates in PHP.

This worked fine too, but I only used it for a few months before my life became too busy and any updates to my site became a low-priority. It sat on the shelf collecting dust for a year or two until some time late 2019 I randomly thought about it again. Just how was my old friend doing these days? It had been so long. I typed the address into my browser and was greeted with a page I didn't recognise. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten to renew my domain and it had expired, after which some company whose sole business it is to snatch up recently-expired domains had done exactly that. This was not good.

I reached out to the company via email and they agreed to sell my own domain back to me for a small fee (how kind...). Fortunately, my site had seen little traffic over the recent years and wasn't worth much to them anyway. I sent them the money and they signed the domain back over to me. Re-united, I decided it was long overdue that I gave my site a little overhaul.

By this time I had learned of templating engines and static site generators. I had used Eleventy to build a site for a friend and after the initial setup, adding content was a cinch. Furthermore, GitHub now offered static hosting with GitHub Pages, so I could host this humble little site for free too!

So here we are! Chances are you're reading this on a completed and functional site. I'll write another blog post about the actual steps I took in the setting everything up so that people can follow and do the same if they like. This post was only intended to be a "breaking-in" post for the blog anyway (so I could test styling and navigation).

To you, reader: I hope that the new decade brings you all the happiness and successes that you deserve. Go forth and prosper!