New Website!

Redesigned website and blog built around Jekyll and GitHub Pages

I just completed a redesign of my website based around Jekyll and GitHub Pages! The driving factor here was cost. Until now I had been paying $14/month for hosting on Heroku ($7 each for my homepage and my blog). In addition to the cost, making changes was somewhat challenging. I rolled my own template for project pages, and making changes was a bit tedious.

In comes the elementary OS blog template: elementary/blog-template. Big thanks to Cassidy from the elementary OS team for pointing me to their GitHub repo a couple months ago!

The Blog

I really enjoy the clean look of the elementary OS blog, as well as the model for creating new posts: simply create a new markdown file and push it to GitHub! Doesn’t get much easier than that.

I made a few changes to removing any elementary OS branding, tweak the items in the navbar, change the footer, fix the positioning of an arrow symbol at the bottom of the page, etc. but the vast majority stayed the same.

Importing the old content was as easy as copy-paste. I had been using Ghost as a blogging platform, and it too used markdown files.

I created an account with Cusdis to handle comments. This is a change from Disqus which I was using before. I really like the clean look of Cusdis, and the fact that it doesn’t require users to login to a 3rd party service to leave comments. Bonus: it supports GitHub markdown! There’s currently a bug which prevented automatic importing of the Disqus comments, but doing this manually took just a few minutes - there weren’t many!

The Homepage

To create the homepage, about page, and project pages, I copied my blog repository and made minor alterations to display project pages instead of blog post pages. Under the hood, the mechanism is identical. I also made some minor changes to use “Categories & Technologies” labels instead of “tags”, along with a change in color.

I also created a new “cover” page layout that would allow the page content to expand to fill available space. This was particularly useful for the root page which simply displays my name and photo.

As with blog posts, create a new project page is as simple as drafting a new markdown file.

GitHub Pages

Setting up GitHub pages was very easy until I ran into a few hiccups near the end.

I started out by moving my homepage code into a new avojak.github.io repository as is expected for GitHub pages to serve content for an apex domain (in this case avojak.com). I then made the required changes to my Cloudflare DNS configuration. Within moments, it was live!

Setting up the blog was where I started to run into issues. I wanted to keep the blog and homepage repositories separate to simplify the way Jekyll handled project and blog content. Trying to do pagination and whatnot for both within the same project seemed too complicated.

Originally I wanted to continue serving my blog from blog.avojak.com, however because I was already using GitHub Pages for avojak.com, this was not possible. Instead, GitHub Pages would allow me to create avojak.com/blog. Unfortunately this means that any links to my old blog are now dead, but I don’t think anyone linked to it anyway, so it’s a small price to pay.

This did complicate the Jekyll side a bit, and I had to make some minor tweaks to the blog configuration to fix pagination. In some cases it was attempting to direct users to avojak.com/archive/2 instead of avojak.com/blog/archive/2, etc. In other places I ended up with links to avojak.com/blog/blog/archive/2, etc. In the end I managed to hack together something that works!

Drawbacks

There are only two drawbacks that I’ve encounted during this entire process:

  1. Duplication of CSS

    At the end of the day, this is hardly a drawback because from here on out it should be pretty much constant.

  2. Weirdness with GitHub Pages

    Now that it’s working, I just won’t touch it!

Bottom-line

This has been a fantastic transition, and I’m very happy with how easy it was to setup! Plus, the low low price of $0 - that’s tough to beat!

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Up Next

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Warble is a native Linux word-guessing built in Vala and GTK, and designed for elementary OS

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