The thoughts of Spicer Matthews

Hello World: My New Blog, Hugo, Tailwind CSS, and More

Date: Jul 17, 2019

Today, I am launching, once again, my personal blog. Starting over. Hopefully, this is my last reboot (more on that below).

I could not even begin to count the number of blogs I have had in my life. Currently, I blog for Options Cafe, Skyclerk, and Cloudmanic. However, in the past, I have had all sorts of personal blogs. Just for fun here are some of my past blogs.

All my blogs in the past have died for 2 reasons. Keeping up with the site updates were a headache, and many of my posts were better suited for company blogs.

Maintaining a Blog is a Headache

Yes, I am someone that runs websites for a living but the headache of keeping my personal site up is often annoying. Prioritizing a site that does not bring in income just never happens. It could be months between blog posts, and without constant updates content management systems grow to be out of date.

In fact, as I write this I can’t access the Cloudmanic blog because all I get is PHP errors when I try to login to the admin panel. Yes, at some point I will take 30 minutes and fix that -- it is just off-putting when you are in writer’s mode and your tools are broken. Over the years, the site neglect led me to just taking down my sites and starting fresh -- always with the latest and greatest in content management systems.

The main headache of running a content management system is staying up-to-date. Many content management systems run on PHP. Just keeping up with PHP versions can be a headache. Not to mention many versions are no longer supported.

As a side note for my business blogs (with the exception of the one currently spitting out PHP errors), I am using Craft CMS. I think Craft is one of the best CMSs out there and so far keeping my sites up-to-date has been a breeze. Since they are business blogs the effort to maintain the site is well paid for.

I am launching my new personal site with the following goals:

  • To stay up regardless of technology -- no need to upgrade any CMS system.
  • No complex hosting (ie. no PHP, Mysql, and so on to support).
  • Something I build from the ground up. No need to hire designers.
  • Something that will last me the rest of my life.

To try to meet my goals I decided to go with a static site hosted on Github pages. My final product will be nothing more than HTML, CSS, and some images. What is amazing about this is I do not need to update any software under the hood, I do not need to deploy any databases or particular webservers.

I chose to use Hugo. Hugo is just brilliant software. It is written in Golang and is super easy to use from the command line. Among other things, Hugo solves the problem of compiling shared HTML into final HTML files. For example, each page of my site might have a header and footer that is shared among all pages. With a static site, we do not want to copy this shared HTML to each file we need a tool that upon complication generates complete pages. Hugo allows me to build partial HTML snippets that will be added to each new webpage. I am really into the perks of Hugo and hope to post more on this in the future.

A Site I Can Design Myself

Every website I have ever built hiring a designer to design the site, and an developer to convert that design to HTML was part of the process. I am someone who is proud to put my name behind a nicely designed site. However, this becomes a roadblock at times because my design and HTML teams are often busy working on business-related sites. Sidetracking to a personal site is not a productive use of time. With that said one of my main goals is to build a personal site that I can build from the ground up, relying on no other help.

Since I am not a designer, nor a good HTML / CSS developer, this site might not win any awards but I think I can meet my goals of having a relatively nice home on the Internet for myself. To help with design, and HTML / CSS creation I have decided to use Tailwind CSS. I can not speak highly enough of Tailwinds CSS.

They say Tailwind is tomorrow’s Bootstrap and I could not agree more. Bootstrap is amazing, but I think its time has passed. You can build a great website with little effort with Bootstrap but that site looks like every other site on the internet (since tons of sites use Bootstrap). You can customize Bootstrap but it tends to be a fair amount of work and not very straight forward. I find Tailwind to be much more straight forward for building a unique site.

Furthermore, I find Tailwind to be more non-designer developer-friendly. It comes with nice increments in spacing out of the box, good colors with shades, and much, much more - making it so a non-designer does not shoot himself in the foot. Another nice feature is it allows the developer to tweak things very quickly within the HTML. So with little effort, one can experiment until a perfect design is found.

I am sure there are standards of design regarding paddings, fonts, margins, and more that would be second nature to a good designer. Tailwind helps a developer like me produce a nice design without knowing those rules. I really hope to share my journey with Tailwind CSS more as I play with it more. As of right now, this site is my first attempt to use it.

Going Forward With This New Site

As I mentioned above I blog on a few other blogs for business reasons and will continue to do so. For everything else I have to say I will now post here. My guess is I will likely blog tech-related stuff here but also could post my random thought of the day as well. All I know is I would like to build a site that stays with me forever. You can find lots of my random thoughts on Twitter and Facebook but those thoughts drift off as people’s timelines fill up.

Thanks for reading. Please check back in as I build up this site more, and share more thoughts.