Jekyll

So here I am, another few days into Jekyll and a statically generated website. It was a rabbit hole and the bottom is/was in sight. Oddly, it was not as deep as some other ones I’ve been down. Here’s my current state of affairs with my Jekyll relationship.

The whole of my site is rather basic. The overall architecture is laid out and includes a few basic categories, though not exactly how Jekyll identifies categories.

  • Courses
  • Projects
  • Publications and Writing
  • Data Sets

Toss in the about and home pages and you have my site in a nutshell. The styling was done in a few stylesheets, one for each page type from above. A handful of projects had their own styles embedded to address project specific issues (embedded Java Applets, Flash, etc.).

I had initially set out, two or more, years ago to have a local template based site. All the pages were from a few core templates that I would copy and then edit. This got quite tedious. I do have access to Dreamweaver but did not want to rely on it in the future. It’s quite expensive. Also I didn’t want to employ any server-side code as the University provides only static page functionality. A similar situation exists for hosting on Google Drive.

Apple’s now dead iWeb was attractive for some time, but it generated very large files and a very large site footprint. That was another feature I wanted to avoid. Needless to say, my plans for a Python-based template system never panned out.

Fast-forward to 2014 and I needed to make some updates. Just a few mind you. That’s how it always starts.

All the course and most of the project pages were converted from HTML to Markdown. This was liberating and awkward at the same time. Markdown is nice in it’s textual representation and inclusion of HTML, but I have not yet mastered it. Specifically how to nest lists and code within lists. It was liberating as I stripped out all the HTML header, footer, and markup tags. I could read my text again!

It was a multi-step process as I refined and refactored the template pages. I started with a one-to-one migration and then continually refactored until I was at what I think are the minimal number of templates. Along the way they got marked up more and more with liquid template code. I’m not real happy with the amount of liquid code, nor the inablilty to express what I want to, but it gets the job done. There seems to be no method to reverse-sort a list by date for pages. This leaves my course and project listings sorted alphabetically where I would prefer them sorted in descending date order – so current courses appear at the top.

The home page internally remains prety much as it was previously. I stripped the header footer and use my default template to add those ornaments. Similarly with the about page. The complication on these is the connections with icons and links to social media, github, and other resources. I’ve not gotten the responsive aspect of these to work as I would like.

The last rework of the site added responsiveness to the layout. When viewed on a mobile deivce the course, project, or other data appear as a list element, aka the iPhone and Android table/list view. I liked and repeated this design on the revision. In actuallity, the brunt of all the work was in this phase, getting the CSS to do what I wanted it to.

The CSS refactoring was a similar, one-to-one migration and then successive refinement and refactoring. The last one, thus far, was to get down to a single site.css that included everything except for the jekyll provided code syntax highlighting. It also included starting from zero and adding only the styles needed to get the job done. I had developed a feel that the CSS, as I refined and refactored, was getting bloated with styles that were redundant or overridden in other areas. It was also, just plain hard to read. I’m not sure if I solved the readability problem but there seem to be fewer rules than I started with! I’ll count it as a win.

So, the proof will be in the pudding. Will articles, like this be easy to add in the future? Will I be able to add instances of courses easily? Will new projects be able to get added easily, quickly, and with relevant information? These are things that I can only test over time.