Site update: November 2020

For the past few weeks, I've taken a break from posting to work on an assortment of site changes.

What started as a bit of experimentation morphed into a rework of the site. I learned a ton along the way, taking leaps forward in CSS and using more Gatsby features.

What's changed?

Single stylesheet

Initially, with limited CSS knowledge and wanting to get going, I opted to use a CSS framework.

The framework did the job, but CSS is something I've always wanted to understand more. To speed up the process, I decided to convert the site to a single stylesheet.

CSS started to click when I looked at these concepts:

  • The cascade and specificity: Knowing how CSS applies rules to each element. What does CSS do when two or more rules can apply to the same element?
  • Selectors: Target elements for styling by being general and specific.
  • Organizing CSS: Ways of writing CSS so that it's efficient and easy to maintain. Specifically, BEM and OOCSS methodologies.

Markdown site pages

If you follow the Gatsby Tutorial, you'll create your site pages as JavaScript files and your blog posts pages from Markdown.

However, it's also possible to use the same method to create site pages from Markdown.

To do this involved:

  1. Adding the site pages or content directory to the gatsby-source-filesystem plugin. Doing this makes any .md content in the directories visible to the gatsby-transformer-remark plugin.
  2. Because the .md files are visible to the plugin, slugs are created and added to both blog post and site content nodes.
  3. Create a template for rendering site content.
  4. Filter for site or blog content and use the appropriate template to generate each page.

Markdown site content is useful for text-heavy content like my About Page. I can define a site content as Markdown, then have Gatsby create the page and render the HTML.

Layout changes

I decided to tweak the layout and made the following changes:

  • Use 8pt grid, a design system that uses multiples of 8 to define a site's dimensions. 8pt grid works quite well and doesn't require too much thinking to get a consistent site layout.
  • Sticky Nav is gone. I like Sticky Navs on other sites, but here I don't think it adds much.
  • Include useful links in the Footer.
  • Use a Dark Theme for code blocks to improve the separation of article text and code samples.

In the pipeline

  • Dark Mode: Implement a toggle to change the site colors and experiment with Themes.
  • Responsive Layout: Mobile-first is conventional wisdom. This site's design breaks down at smaller screen sizes, and this is another area of CSS I'd like to learn.

Final thoughts

50+ commits later, and I'm pretty happy with the result. There are still some things to fix, but as the saying goes - progress over perfection!