Switching to Jekyll and GitHub Pages

OVERVIEW

Ever since I decided to become a professional designer, I wanted to have a personal website where I could share my work and other life experiences. After several iterations, I recently launched my revamped website which is powered by Jekyll and Github pages. Before this I was using Wordpress as the platform but I had a lot of problems while working on it.


WHY I SWITCHED?

I started to shape up my website in the beginning of 2016. I asked one of my classmates to help me building it up. Due to our limited front-end knowledge we couldn’t build anything useful. After trying a lot and getting frustrated, I thought of using Wordpress to build my website. I did not want to code and wanted to set up the website with little effort as possible. I paid for the not so expensive domain and hosting.


Setting up the website was not that of a task. I set up the home page in a couple of days. I wanted to add more pages that I had in mind but adding more pages with same visual theme was cumbersome. Also, I wanted to write and publish a blog but then again I couldn’t have custom blog design matching the overall visual appearance of my website (maybe we can’t do it or I was not able to find out how to do it).


To summarise why I shifted from Wordpress to Jekyll & Github Pages-

  1. Domain and hosting are free with GitHub pages so you can basically set up a website without spending a dime.
  2. With Jekyll, I have more power on the visual design. I am able to reuse a lot of layouts in order to avoid repetition. If I want to add a project case study, I can simply use the case-study layout. No need to create pages from scratch.
  3. With Jekyll, I am easily able to maintain my blog. I set up a page to list all articles and a layout to show a specific article. If I want to publish a blog post, I would just add a markdown file and start writing. It is as easy as it gets.
  4. To update assets and validate them, I do not have to upload media to a server again and again. Just update them locally and check if you are good to go.


THE HOW

I had not done any development work for a long time (The last time I developed and launched something was in October 2014). So I had to face a couple of problems in the beginning. I was asked to learn front-end at work, Foundation framework to be specific. I started learning it only to realise that I can’t learn it without working on a real project. Since I had been having a lot of problems with my Wordpress based website, I decided to pick it up and work on it as the project to learn.


After a little bit of research, I got to know about Jekyll and Github pages. The last time I had tried to use Jekyll was in 2013 when I knew almost nothing about it. I did a thorough research this time, compared the pros & cons and decided to stick with them. Using Jekyll and Github pages to set up a basic website is pretty easy and hardly takes 15 minutes to do so. Now the problem was - how to use Foundation with Jekyll. I had negligible experience working in front end. To my luck, I found a guide on GitHub which helped me set up everything required for the development (after a couple of tries of course).


In between the development I realised that adding paddings and margins in css classes were ceasing their reusability. I wanted to use a modular approach and that is when I found Tachyons - a css framework. Adding padding and margin decoupled from everything made life easier. Now I can directly alter an element’s margin and padding from HTML, no need to add a property in a css class.


Deploying the website is no rocket science - you just push your changes to the master branch of your repo. That’s it and your changes will be live within a couple of minutes.


Working with blog posts is easier too. You create a _posts folder and add your posts in that folder in the format of year-month-day-title.format. Following this format is necessary in order for Jekyll to recognise them as articles.


All in all, Jekyll and Github Pages fit into my requirements of updating the website without complications and hosting it.


// KEEP MAKING.

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