Waving a thankful goodbye to: static-websites and more.

This is a part of the 100 Days To Offload challenge.

I’m not going to cover “everything” in this post. You may expect several posts in a loosely-coupled series over the coming weeks and months.

I may take back my goodbyes too.

In fact, I may not write any more posts other than this one, and just get on with my new workflow and site.

Honestly? I imagine dealing with this transition will be as tiresome as writing about it. I… don’t know.

Rant on static sites.

Look, I’m in a weird place.

Really.

I dislike maintaining my (static) website, and dread implementing features that come out-of-the-box on a framework like WordPress.

I can’t remember how long I’ve had “implement search” sitting in my README as a to-do.

Don’t get me wrong — SSGs are brilliant for readers and tech-savvy folks alike. They package everything into, well, static HTML files. Incredible load-times, secure-by-default, and portable deployments.

It was definitely fun…at first. Working so close to the three primary tenants of the web — HTML, CSS, JavaScript — feels like magic. And dear God, having full control over the process? Oof. You have me.

Yes, it’s true — your static sites could be as simple as you want. And, I probably wouldn’t have made this decision then, if my static site was super simple too.

What my static site involved.

Hah, I did go all-out.

Here’s a quick list off the top of my head:

  • responsive images, which required building two variantsof each image from the source files on each build,
  • lazy-loaded images, which required updating the markup before the final HTML is output by the static site generator,
  • implementing IndieWeb, including,
    • incoming webmentions,
    • outgoing webmentions,
    • syndication to other platforms,
    • a microblog that includes notes, likes, replies, RSVPs, etc.,
    • building a Micropub client on the side,
    • marking up everything with microformats2,
    • maintaining several microformats2 feeds.
  • typesetting the blog content so it looks nicer,
  • SEO stuff that makes my header partial look like a nightmare (even with friendly comments),
  • a design system based on TailwindCSS/PostCSS, mid-transition into just PostCSS,
  • sprinkling of JavaScript for analytics, nicer-looking emojis, and a hamburger menu that I never made CSS-only,
  • feeds for each content type (article, note, like, reply, boost, RSVP) across two syndication formats (RSS2.0 and microformats2),
  • fetching data at build time, including,
    • GitHub stargazers for my selected projects,
    • webmentions from an external API,
    • feeds I’ve subscribed to on my feed reader,
  • defaulting to a cache for the data,
  • a bash script to create a new Markdown for my articles based on a template, and,
  • a cronjob to trigger two builds per day, regardless of whether the site needed it or not.

Blimey! I’m certain I still might have missed something.

Yet, that’s a lot of stuff for a personal website, right? No wonder then that even after cutting down a bunch of this temporarily, I was still spending 1.5 minutes just waiting for the site to deploy and go live. Even if all I did was fix an embarrassing typo.

Nuh-uh. Not done.

Looking back, before I look forward.

I’ve gone from Middleman, to Jekyll, to Eleventy in the last… six years. I used to write personal blogs on WordPress before that.

WordPress was what inspired me to pursue web development professionally (the first time around, anyway): so many plugins, themes, blogs… why wouldn’t you want to be a part of this?! To build something, be employed in such a massive ecosystem?

True, I did not ultimately pursue WordPress specifically.

Anyway, you know I’ve been writing about how I am cleaning things up behind the scenes (there are several posts on this)? Frankly, I no longer have the energy to continue or finish that process!

At least, that’s where my head is right now.

I’m going to go on a limb, and trust it.

The goodbyes.

So, as the pandemic has gone on… as changes in my life, my earnings, my time commitments, and so much more have taken place, my website is the last thing I’ve wanted to meddle with at the level I have been meddling with it on.

It’s wearing me out.

And so, goodbye to…

  • Static websites
  • IndieWeb
  • Celestial

Aside: That last bit breaks my heart 😒, but more on these two some other day. // Update: I wrote about IndieWeb. I’ll try to write about Celestial too.

You do learn something from everything. I walk away with some lessons from the static website ecosystem. And one day, I might walk away from the WordPress ecosystem similarly too: having learned something valuable from it.

Until then, I hope that…

  • WordPress and its defaults will treat my mental health and my time better.
  • I’ll be able to transition all my content to this site without crying every weekend.
  • My barrier to writing will be much less, and I’ll write more, engage more, and learn more.
  • There will still be joy to derive from JAMStack on my side projects.
  • My website won’t get hacked.

I had to get that last one in. πŸ™‚

My first order of things will be to:

  • Create static pages on this site, and remove dead links from the content if any.
  • Update the font.
  • Deploy the static website onto a subdomain for posterity. (available now)
  • Add a big, fat notice on my new page not found page to clarify the state of things and link to the old site in case someone would like to reach a post or page in the interim. I imagine the 404 page is going to get the most traffic in the next few months. πŸ˜–
  • Port over my RSS feed seamlessly, so existing readers get, well, this post in their readers sometime in the next few days.
  • Create pages for my side projects, at a minimum.

So far, none of this is done. What you’re looking at took no more than 30-40 minutes. This quick to-do list might trickle slowly onto the site. As will everything that comes after.

Closing thoughts.

I’m not alone in this.

Kev Quirk tried Jekyll, and then moved back to WordPress. Chris Wiegman moved back recently too. As did Gregory Hammond and Jamie Adams.

I’m certain there are more folks out there who went this route.

If you have transitioned from a static website to a classic CMS, do you have any tips for me to smooth my transition? Any gotchas a WordPress person must know in 2021?