Blogging Nostalgia

I started blogging on WordPress back in the summer of 2008. I managed to keep it going through until January 2011, which is quite an achievement in itself. Then, for whatever reason (laziness) it just kind of fizzled out. This was all on my previous site, chris-smith-web.com. I was struggling for a domain name. Can you tell? Don’t bother visiting – it just redirects back here these days.

I started up again on this site, chrissmith.xyz, in late 2014 and am still going in January 2017. Go me!

When 2 Become 1

You’ve guessed where this is going. I recently had the idea of closing down the old site and importing all the blog posts into this site. Everything in the one place, less maintenance. Easy win. And surprisingly easy to do. Good job, WordPress! When I publish this post it will be my 89th in all. Zoiks! Let’s try to hit the ton.

When I Were a Lad

I’ve found it fascinating looking back at some of the things I wrote about in the early days. Cue harp music and wobbly faces. It goes to show how fast things move. Here are some of the topics I covered:

Web 2.0 – what version are we on now? (Aug 2008)

In the past websites were a one-way read only process, an online brochure which people visited to get information. Now, with the whole concept of Web 2.0, it’s all a two-way interactive process with customers or fans playing an active part in a website.

Gold.


Chrome, when it was Google Chrome and still in BETA (Sep 2008)

Having another browser on the scene, and with a big name like Google behind it you know it’s going to have a lot of users, means more testing and increases my chances of having to recode.

Hmm. Didn’t imagine it would be quite so good.


Link exchanges, when that was a thing (Sep 2008)

Don’t listen to anyone, not even me.

Excellent advice.


Responsive design, kind of, whatever, I’m claiming it (Sep 2008)

The majority of users in the UK use a Windows PC with Internet Explorer 7 and a screen resolution of 1024×768 pixels.

Ouch.


Although a lot has changed there’s actually a lot of good stuff in there that still holds true. I’m quite impressed. Now I just need to get some other people to read it.

Boosting Web Performance

One of the areas of front end development I’ve really got into in the last year or so is performance. It’s always been there in the background (along with SEO and accessibility) but it seems to have a lot more focus in the web community lately.

For a while I’ve been looking at different ways to speed up various sites I work on. This site has given me a perfect guinea pig for trying out some different techniques. Let’s give it a boost! Oooosh!

Static

My first idea for making this site super fast to load was to make all of the pages static. I started off by just making a few pages but soon realised that as things grew and I wanted to make design changes it just wasn’t scalable. It was fast though. If I was building a simple site with only a handful of pages this is the way to go.

Jekyll

To try to get the best of both worlds, static for speed and CMS for convenience, I moved on to using Jekyll, a static site generator. After jumping through a lot of hoops I got it set up. It works really well and if you’re planning to update a site from a single machine I’d say this is the perfect solution.

WordPress

For various reasons I moved back to good old uncle WordPress. It’s so easy to update from anywhere, which means I actually do it, plus I feel that it’s become so big in the web industry (almost its own industry) that I can’t really afford not to know my way around it.

So, my new challenge is to make my WordPress site fast. There are various well renowned caching plugins, e.g. W3 Total Cache, which would effectively turn my PHP into static pages. Unfortunately, these don’t seem to work with my multisite setup so I’ve tried something different.

Cloudflare

I’ve routed my site through Cloudflare. It’s a website fronting service which aims to improve performance and security. They host your site on various servers around the world so you get the benefits of a CDN – fast delivery to far flung parts of the world. They concatenate and minify static files for you – one less job. They also handle security threats and high spikes in traffic so your site doesn’t go down. As if that wasn’t enough, they also serve your files over https – cheaper than SSL hosting and great for SEO.

So far so great. Definitely worth a look on top of whatever other optimisations you’re doing. :)

My New Website

After years of working on all sorts of websites I thought I’d create my own personal site. I’ve created quite a few sites for myself before but they have always been about my web design and development work or (failed) entrepreneurial attemps to generate a bit of money. This is different. I’m not looking to gain any money, work or reputation, just giving myself a platform to publish, well, whatever the hell I feel like.

I’m not sure what will go on it yet, maybe a bit of a blog, maybe some articles, photos, video, music. Or I might just fill pages with adverts and animated GIFs. Seems to work for some people.

The Design

I thought I’d just share some of the thinking and technical approach behind the design. As a web designer/developer I don’t want the site to be just about its content, I see it as a bit of a playground for trying out new design ideas.

To begin with I’ve focused on keeping the design as clean, clear and simple as possible. It’s fully responsive so works on devices of all shapes and sizes. I’ve also kept the technology involved to a minimum serving up static HTML files for maximum speed.

Going forwards I’m sure I’ll play around with different design ideas so not all pages will look the same. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, enough. Hope you enjoy. Now go and do something more useful.