Website redesign (markdown + pandoc)


As you might have observed, I recently updated my website. Although it’s been on my mind for awhile, I finally got around to it because I had a good template to follow and I’ve learned enough about building websites to maintain one on my own without needing to depend on (highly useful) third-party website builders.

Some history

I first started blogging on in 2005 after I graduated college and had begun writing, recording, and performing music. Blog posts became a way of cataloguing thoughts and ideas and keeping people updated about events in my life, a practice I started during college through email newsletters as I traveled abroad to places like Tanzania and Afghanistan. When my music became a livelihood, I invested in a website but continued to post on Blogspot, with my website serving a feed of those posts.

When I moved to Singapore to pursue a PhD in 2010, I continued posting on Blogspot but after some workflow changes in 2012 (certain programs I used for posting stopped being maintained, my website host decided to change jobs) I began looking around for a design that would allow me to post directly on my website, rather than having to link multiple sites. I wanted something simple that could handle media files and downloads, as well as something that wouldn’t break the bank. I also didn’t have much knowledge/experience building or hosting a website on my own, so I needed a third-party website builder. I looked at a bunch of these, and the best I found were Wordpress, Wix, and Weebly. After spending a couple of weeks trying to build websites on each of these sites, I chose Weebly. Each of these website builders/hosters are really good, but at the time I was looking for a new website they seemed to target particular niches - Wordpress was focused on bloggers, Wix was more for small businesses, and Weebly had the best hybrid website options, which is what I was interested in. The fact that Weebly has hosted my website for the past 10 years is really a testament to the quality of their service.

Some changes

Over the last several years my linguistic focus has shifted slightly from a strict Language Documentation orientation to something more computational. Along with that, I’ve learned how to program apps and websites that host them. My Weebly site began getting less attention as other life concerns took over, and particular aspects of updating the site changed and made it less easy. As a result, I’ve been looking for awhile for a way to serve a simple static site with a blog that would be easy to maintain but look decent. The best candidate for this seemed to be generating html pages from markdown, with a combination of static html templates and decent css.

Road to the result

After various forays into generating html pages from markdown over the past couple of years, using Flask and Github-pages in various contexts, I stumbled across the markdowncss project and their excellent templates. It wasn’t until I found Jilles VanGurp’s repo, however, that I was able to get the blog + static website feature working. This site is now the result, and I’m pretty happy with it. There are still some adjustments I want to make, but overall it ticks all the boxes: simple static site, blog generation with a sidebar of titles, and easy to host/serve/maintain. If you’re interested in something similar, I’ve created a basic template (forked from Jilles’ original repo) that you’re welcome to make use of.