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Slice of Life: Converting my Personal Site

Over the last few months I have been having a lot of fun converting my personal site (http://drusellers.com) from a pure static html site, to one that uses a back end server side language.

When I first started the main purpose was to learn a little more about python. So I started off using Flask, a micro framework for python. Flask is a lot like Sinatra for ruby and the comparison was a lot of fun because my good friend Ryan Rauh (RyRy) was writing a site in Sinatra at the time so we were able to compare and contrast the two approaches quite easily.

As I learned more about flask and all that it could do, I was impressed by how much I could do with so little. It served as a solid reminder that we should strive for simpler solutions.

In addition to learning python I also took the time to dive into LESS. Organizing the CSS content of applications has always been difficult for me. Finally, with LESS I had variables and the ability to nest selectors. Basically, all of the things that I have wanted CSS to do for a very long time. I started out using the runtime compilation modes of LESS, but as I learned more I eventually switched to running the watch mode on the compiler and then stripping that functionality out of the app. Right now, I really like this approach. It feels more like PROD vs DEV, but I still have the ability to iterate quickly. The real choice to use LESS, was that the popular CSS framework from Twitter called Bootstrap had just launched. By studying their approach and trying to deconstruct things I have learned a lot about CSS and its application to better CSS approaches.

But as with all things in the technical world, a change was on the horizon. That change was SASS/SCSS. RyRy read a post somewhere comparing SCSS and LESS and he came away with the impression that SCSS RULED, and LESS DROOLED. This was one of those moments, where I gave RyRy a stern look and then sat down to start converting my website from LESS to SCSS, because when the guy you ask all of your questions too, changes directions sometimes its just easier to go with the flow. Thankfully it wasn’t that hard, allowed me to revisit my CSS and improve things further.

Around the same time, I discovered semantic.gs, a SCSS friendly grid system, finally I can get rid of the BS classes like span-4 and what not that have been plaguing me since I first found blueprint.css and 960grid. Whoot! I have been able to further clean up the website’s CSS approach.

Well, of course the project can come to a close quite that simply. After improving my CSS and getting an understanding of python, I of course, had to completely rebuild it something new and shiny. Damn, my attention span.

So, yeah. Node.js the new shiny language/framework. My JavaScript skills have always suffered, so I rationalized changing my backend code to JavaScript as a means to improve my JS skillset. So, I converted my site again, learned a lot about JavaScript in the process, melted my brain trying to get things to work in this under powered language (under powered because I am used to my language providing much more to me).

So now my site is running Node.js – its a whole lot cleaner and easier to work on. I love how simple the underlying code is, and I have really learned a lot about some of the new languages and frameworks out there.

About Dru Sellers

Sr. Software Engineer at Dovetail Software.
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  • http://chadmyers.lostechies.com Chad Myers

    “I don’t always re-write my site. But when I do, I use every language and framework” – Dru Sellers, most interesting man on the web