The annual benswift.me re-write: 2019 edition

Welcome, traveller. You’ve managed to find my blog without being eaten by a grue. If you haven’t visited for a while, you might have noticed that I’ve re-written my website. Again.

There are a few reasons:

  1. it forces me to keep up to date with web stuff, which I teach for a living (students can sniff out a fraud)

  2. my academic activities don’t fit the traditional “list of journal publications” shape that my university-provided web presence is geared towards

  3. if I move to a different institution, I don’t have the difficult job of exfiltrating my content from my old institution’s platform

  4. building things is fun (I’m good at this stuff, and it feels good to use the skills you’ve spent years developing)

  5. part of being an academic is brand-management, and that’s much easier to do if you completely control (at least one of) the platforms you’re putting your message out on

  6. I’m a control-freak, and the idea of not being in control bums me out (this is the pernicious flip side of #5)

Some of these are good reasons, some not-so-good. For a fun party game, argue with me on twitter about which is which 😉

The nitty-gritty technical stuff

I’ve (once again) gone with a Jekyll-powered static site. This time, though, I’ve opted for my own lovingly hand-crafted HTML & CSS rather than one of the out-of-the-box themes. In doing this, I decided on a few design priorities:

  1. modern markup: CSS grid & flexbox all the way (sorry if you’re on an old version of IE)
  2. minimal markup: there’s really not many elements in each page (I wanted to see how far I could push back against the div soup that’s so common these days)
  3. semantic markup: we have nav and article and main and aside, so let’s use them

Typography-wise, I used @rsms’s new Inter UI font family, and I really like it. I’m not a designer (as you can probably tell) so I kept it simple—one typeface, one highlight colour, and then I poke around with Sass’s colour manipulation functions to get a bit more variation.

The verdict: I was really pleasantly surprised—it came together in about a day of hard work. Next time around (i.e. now that I know what I’m doing a bit more) it’d be even easier. I particularly liked using grid template areas to draw a little ascii-art diagram of my desired layout. Obviously the layout for this blog is really boring, but I can imagine this being really handy for more complex layouts.

If it’s broken for you and you’re on a modern browser1, then please let me know and I’ll try to fix it if I can. I don’t think I’ve broken any (many) links, but again let me know if you find something I’ve missed.

The other thing I really like about this iteration of the annual benswift.me redesign is that I finally understand the whole thing. No more magic themes which I hesitantly poke around in “eye-of-newt” style whenever I want to make changes, and that’s a nice feeling2.

Let me know what you think of my new redesign in the comments. Just kidding—there are no comments. But do get in touch in some other way (see the icons at the top for various options).

  1. that’s my subtle way of throwing shade at IE 

  2. especially if you’re a control freak