Jekyll and Hyde
How did I get here?
Over the years I’ve moved through a series of personal websites.
There was my very first site, built in the good old days of Frontpage Extensions and animated gifs, over a 56k modem I remember being so excited at watching an animated spider bungee down the page… they were simpler times.
Next up, was an XML/XSL-T site built for a university module on XML, trying to demonstrate that content style and separation could be achieved with XML, XSL-T and CSS. We’re still not really there but thankfully we have moved on (largely) from the fun of XSL-T. The grounding in standards, semantics and schema though were useful pieces of learning which still apply today.
Shortly after, the turning point for me was an ASP.NET 1.0 site which was my first experience of server side programming, dynamic web-page generation and databases to build websites. It was effectively my own CMS, complete with discussion forum, and I shudder to imagine the code I wrote back then. As a first “proper” website though, it sparked me on the path of where I am today, and I probably wouldn’t have ended up in a career in web development if a friend hadn’t patiently explained concepts to me that set me on my way.
After a few aborted attempts at building handcrafted sites again, and a few years of abandonment of my site, I setup a Wordpress site, which a few incarnations later is the site I’m replacing today. Interestingly, although I’ve played with it a few times, I’ve never run my own site on Drupal, which given my current occupation might seem strange. However whilst the power of Drupal is compelling, it’s always felt overkill for the tiny amounts of content, functionality and traffic my site is likely to attract. Added to that, coming home and doing more Drupal after a day in the office isn’t one that really appeals right now (unless it was fun stuff that would never appear on my site anyway :) ).
After deciding I wanted to move away from Wordpress, it wasn’t too long before I’d settled on Jekyll. I’d heard a few people talking and blogging about it, and was interested in learning more about an alternative approach to building simple websites. In a lot of ways, it takes me back to my roots of handcrafting sites, and after only a day of playing with it feels very simple and natural.
A big benefit I see is being able to draft posts offline more easily than with Wordpress or another hosted CMS. Publishing static HTML appeals as well, as although traffic isn’t likely to be a problem for me there are simply fewer things to go wrong - as long as my web host keeps Apache up and running then I’ll have a site, and if they can’t do that then it’s probably not a good sign.
Most importantly though, it’s something to learn, an approach to play with, and incorporates some tools and technologies I’ve not played with yet. Isn’t that what all geeks want for Christmas?