Welcome to my brand new website, the 3rd iteration of ghall.dev! For the last year-and-a-half this has simply been home to my portfolio, but for a while now I’ve wanted to expand from a simple, single-page site to a multi-page site with a blog (which you are of course reading right now).
In the previous version of this site, I coded myself into a corner. I did a lot of little things I thought were cool, but maybe weren’t the best ideas design-wise, and put things together in such a way that I couldn’t simply tweak things very easily. One of the lessons I took from the experience of building and maintaining that site was to keep things simple, and not try to be too flashy for the sake of being flashy.
Another lesson I took was to plan ahead for any changes. I didn’t really think about wanting to start a blog until after the site was up, and if I had made things a little easier by planning for future changes it probably wouldn’t have taken a “nuke-and-pave” to cleanly integrate a blog.
I’m also a much better developer than I was when I built version 2. Not saying I’m amazing, I’ve only been at this since late 2020 after all, but I’ve learned a lot about coding, and organizing code in a way that makes sense. Of course, a year from now I’ll be wondering what the heck I was thinking when I originally wrote the code for this site.
Anyway, the first step to any project like this is deciding on the tech stack. As this is a solo project, being my personal site and all, I had a bit of leeway to experiment with different pieces of that puzzle, but I decided on the following:
Front-end Framework: Next.js
I’m a relative newcomer to Next.js, as I’ve only been using it for about 2 months now. But the learning curve was really low coming from React, and I was able to pick it up pretty quickly when I started my current job.
I prefer it to straight React in a few ways, one of the biggest being how easy it is to set up a multi-page site like this. While it’s definitely possible in React, Next.js makes it painfully simple. It was a no-brainer, and it got me rolling so fast I was able to built this website in a matter of days.
Check out Next.js
For styling, I went with good old Tailwind, which I also used on the previous iteration of my site. I’m a very visual person, and Tailwind makes it so easy for me to just built the designs I have in my head.
Check out Tailwind
Headless CMS: Cosmic
On the previous iteration of my website, I had built a rudimentary CMS in the command line using M3O for a database, which I then served to the front-end through a small API I built. It was slow and clunky, but it was good enough for periodically updating my portfolio. But, when M3O changed their pricing model, this system became economically infeasible, so I switched to essentially hardcoding my portoflio into my sourcecode, which was something I wanted to avoid. Also, it made the fact I was building my front-end in React a little silly since I had eliminated the one bit of dynamic content on my website. But it was serving its purpose, so I left it.
For this new iteration, since I wanted to not only go back to managing my portfolio on the back-end, but also build a blog, I knew the best thing to do was to find a pre-packaged solution so I could spend more time focusing on my strengths.
Check out Cosmic
There are a couple little Node packages I’ve used to make things a little easier, such as date-fns, react-jsx-parser, and Framer Motion. I particularly had fun with Framer Motion, but I ended up really toning down some of the animations.
Also, I ended up using the ever-popular VS Code as my text editor instead of my usual go-to, Nova. I started using VS Code again for the first time since early 2021 because of work, and I quickly got spoiled by a lot of the autocomplete features, expecially automatic imports. There will definitly be a breakdown of my thoughts about VS Code vs Nova at some point in the future.
This post was originally published on my (now defunct) blog on my portfolio site ghall.dev, and was republished here for archival purposes.