Tanner J. Ferguson

Welcome to Jekyll!

June 3, 2014

No, I didn't forget to remove the example post.

I primarily develop websites in Drupal, and the past three versions of my personal site have been built on Drupal. It's an amazingly robust and extensible Content Management Framework, backed by an equally amazing community. All of that said, I was long overdue for an update, and I just wanted to try something different. I also wanted to focus on good content and a design that supports it, without worrying about routine maintenance like security updates.

Oh hai, Jekyll!

If you poke around in Github a bit, you'll find it has an awesome Github Pages feature, which lets you host static websites for free. It also supports Jekyll, a static website generator, that essentially gives you most of the benefits of a full-blown CMS without worrying about the requisites of maintaining one. Oh, and it also doesn't ship with a boatload of default markup and styling to work with (or against).

Jekyll, in conjunction with Markdown and Git, gives me everything I needed, and only what I need. It makes it very simple to take a static website, drop in some simple templating elements and go. Working through this experience, I honestly feel as though I have not been forced to make any trade-offs moving to Jekyll. There's even more that Jekyll can do that I'm not currently taking advantage of - namely support for multiple post types, similar to the idea of Content Types in Drupal. All while providing the editing experience in your text editor of choice - which is still one of the biggest wins for me in this experience.

What about sites that aren't just personal blogs?

There's a lot of potential for using Jekyll beyond my use case. Github uses it for its own Training Library, and with a lot of folks in the industry pushing to bring design and development closer together, it makes for a great way to start prototyping design in the browser. Static HTML prototypes are very helpful, but it doesn't take long before you start running into issues as your design scales such as updating markup through a handful of HTML files. Jekyll can give you just the right amount of flexibility to solve that scaling issue and send you happily on your way.

Getting to the point

It's easy to get used to the tools you use everyday. Based on my extensive experience with Drupal, I honestly could have launched this site a lot quicker using Drupal than I did using Jekyll. I'm glad I took this route though, as it's been a great reminder to look at various technologies to determine the correct solution for a particular problem. Drupal is so robust and extensible, that there are really few situations I've run into where Drupal can't do what I need to accomplish. There are plenty of situations, however, where Drupal, or any full CMS package, are simply overkill, and the resource requirements simply aren't justified.

It's also far too easy to become too engrossed in a single solution to see what else is happening on the outside. Regardless of how you do it, what tool or process you choose, I highly encourage you to find an opportunity in an upcoming project to just try something new and different. It's exciting to see what else is out there, and the experience can leave you with a lot to bring back to your next project in your primary space.

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