Tweaking this Site

As my beloved wife pointed out, a New Year makes me return to this site to restructure it. Funny thing was this year I had no interest in a redesign. The old one still suited me and I really need to focus on WHY I have a site; not to maintain one but to WRITE. I had to break the cycle of not achieving the latter goal due to being distracted by the former. Plus I love my faux terminal header.


In returning to this site I discovered that Middleman, the generator I use, had long upgraded. A lot of my site no longer worked. Additionally, while I was using Bootstrap and jQuery, both still great frameworks, professionally I have tried to stop using them. I decided it was time to kill two birds with one stone.

Here then is how I changed the site.

Moved to a Webpack Asset Pipeline

This was by far the most difficult change, driven by the Middleman team’s decision to abandon a Rails like pipeline. This was fine by me. In my work with Carbon Five I usually advocate using Webpack to generate front-end assets. Luckily Ross Kaffenberger had a great guide to using Webpack with Middleman.

The only problem I ran into was that running the Middleman local server (middleman server) did not use the Webpack content! I had initially had Webpack deliver the content to a build directory, but the local server never made use of that! In the end (and what I think Ross and the Middleman team intended) I had Webpack build into the Middleman source directory, letting Middleman take care of copying the output to the final distribution folder.

Leaving Bootstrap and jQuery

As mentioned, I also wanted to move off of Bootstrap and jQuery. Again there is nothing wrong with both of those frameworks. It’s just that I have become conciously aware of the bloat we introduce to our usually simple sites when we add these really powerful tools, especially when we only use a tiny bit of their functionality.

In my case, Bootstrap and jQuery was primarily being used for the basic navigation bar and menu functionality. At the time they were introduced this made complete sense. Getting consistent behavior of those features across web browsers was a difficult task and these libraries had done all the work for me.

However, both CSS and JavaScript have come a long way. With the introduction of flexbox and the long available media-queries to change styling and layout based on screen size I was able to rapidly recreate the navigation bar. In the past I would have used jQuery’s toggleClass functionality to make the menu appear and disappear. Except the ability to easily toggle classes is baked into the HTML DOM API; we simply find our element, ask for it’s classList and call the toggle function with the class in question. Quick searches on the net got me simple code to recreate the other small Bootstrap styles I was using namely circle cropped images and responsive embeds.


You can see all of this functionality and more by reading the code of this on Github.

There you have it. A day’s worth of research and work, and my site’s on the latest (for now) stack. And with it I get out my first blog post in a while. Here’s to another New Year and to again getting into a writing groove.