If you are reading this, odds are you doing it on my blog - mainawycliffe.dev - if you are not, please drop by sometime. On the surface, it looks like any other blog, but do not let that fool you, this hides away a lot of complexities for a blog. In this article, I would like to try and explain why I did this, not the first time, and why I feel it's a rewarding process for me.
Where to start? Let's start by looking at the stack that went into building this blog.
To easily manage the content, I went with Ghost CMS, which gives me an effortless way to add, update content. My previous blog was built with Hugo, which uses markdown and as much that was fun to work with initially, the process from writing a post all the way to publishing got exceedingly long and quite tiresome. I found myself posting less and less.
For the frontend, I decided to go with Angular and use Scully to generate static version website for the blog, with Tailwind for the UI. And then, the website itself is hosted on Firebase Hosting.
If you think that's it, then you clearly didn't read the title of this post. Since the website is statically generated, it means the content is fetched at build time instead of REST API request on load. This means that the website doesn't serve live updates or new articles unless it's rebuilt. To solve this problem, I am using web hooks to trigger a CI to do a rebuild and deploy the new site.
I know what is going on your mind, why go into all the trouble for a simple blog. I could have easily gotten the same or even better results on Medium or WordPress. I don't know what to say, but I enjoy building stuff. Working on this gave me an opportunity to create something and have fun at the same time.
In this case, I got interested in trying out some innovative technologies that otherwise I wouldn't get a chance at work or anywhere else to work with. So, having already an existing blog - codinglatte.com - I had a few requirements I need for a blog.
The first was, I needed an effortless way to add and manage blog posts, a UI quite like what is provided by WordPress or Medium. Ghost CMS provides an easy-to-use UI that's quite intuitive, on top of that, I can easily manage when posts go live via their schedule feature.
The second requirement I had was I needed to be able to add new features on top of the blog. I have dreams for this to evolve beyond a blog to a platform where I can interact and provide move value to my readers. For this I turned to Angular, with Scully for SSG, but this could have easily been Gatsby or Next.JS. The biggest benefit of this is having all the blogs posts and pages, progenerated to static HTML, which would allow the website to load fast and be responsive, while being cost effective.
And lastly, I needed to be able to hit publish and the blog would be re-built, and the recent changes push lived without me having to do anything extra. For this, I turned to GitHub Actions to handle the build process and Ghost CMS Webhooks to trigger the build GitHub Action.
As you can see, this gave me an opportunity to work with a few tools that I could not resist. This was my first foray into Scully, and I could not turn down the opportunity of learning how it works with a real project with potential of being used by thousands of people down.
So, after going through that process, would I do it again? The simple answer for me yes. I have learned a great deal from this, and I am looking to share what I have learned here, among other stuff on this blog. It was fun, challenging and gave me an opportunity to learn and improve my skills.
Would I recommend you do the same? The answer is it depends, as I stated earlier, you can easily get a blog up and learning with medium or some other platform with excellent results, and all you have to think about are the posts themselves.
On the other hand, building out your platform presents you with a lot of flexibility and is quite rewarding when everything is working. It also gives you the opportunity to experiment and learn while working on project that will be used by quite a few people, probably thousands if your blog posts are great.