It’s been a little over a year, so it’s about that time where I switch the technology this site runs on. This time I went with the “modern stack” of Gatsby & Contentful to build the site and manage the content respectively.
I find it easier to rebuild this site and learn new technoligies rather than think of something to write about 😒. Also, despite all the cool new stuff in Ghost v2.0, I found the editor experience to be…less good — not the goodest anymore. Maybe I just have stockholm syndrome, but I prefer plain old markdown to any kind of other editor. Ghost still supports that, it’s just not the core experience anymore.
I’m not going to go into how I built this site like I usually do as the Gatsby documentation is way better than anything I’m going to write. Take a look at the repo if you are interested and read up on the gatsby blog starter and/or the contentful starter.
Instead, I’m going to talk about how I decided to setup the deployment/hosting for the site. I originally setup the site on Azure App Services as I’m already very familiar with it. I set it up pretty quickly with a CDN. It was no big deal but only because I had already done it before.
For continuous deployment of the site, I chose to look into the new Azure Pipelines offering. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to build my static site using Pipelines. I first had to decipher the difference between Pipelines vs Releases vs one of the six other tabs that pop up after you create a project. After wading through a lot of documentation, I did eventually figure it out and get it working. My little experiment broke down, however, when I was trying to get Contentful to trigger a build with a webhook. It seemed that scenario wasn’t supported (or at least I couldn’t figure it out before I got frustrated).
That’s when I discoverd Netlify. I’ve seen it before but never really looked deeper. I saw that Contentful supported triggering builds on Netlify and decided to read the little spiel on their website.
Deploy your site in seconds
“Hmm, that sounds like a load of 💩. Let’s try it.” I thought.
I created my free account (from my Github account) and pointed it at my repository. It immediately figured out that I have a gatsby site and offered me a prepopulated build command. I pressed Next and was taken to a build log where a minute later, my site was deployed to a netfliy subdomain.
Color me impressed.
I then started reading up on their documentation to make sure they support all the scenarios I care about: HSTS, CDN caching, and
301 redirects. Not only do they support those scenarios, they are all already enabled and working with sane defaults right out of the box without me having to do anything.
I think I found my new favorite hosting service.
Netlify is purposely built exactly for my scenario. Azure Pipelines supports my scenario…along with a whole lot of other scenarios that I have no interest in. Rather than make me think the software was powerful; my first impression was just “this is hard to use.”
As a developer myself, I can appreciate how hard it is to build software like Netlify — software that “just works,” free from bloat and focused on solving a specific problem; software that focuses on the user experience over ticking boxes on how many features it supports. Don’t get me wrong. Netlify still supports a lot of scenarios, but the user experience is focused and the breadth of features unfolds after the core goal of deploying a site is met.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Quit adding features to your software. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Focus on your core user experience instead. It matters more than you may think.
I hate to pick on Azure Pipelines here. It is definitely not the first example I would pick when thinking of bloated software. I still may end up using it in the future when I need to build a “real app.” It just made a good foil in this particular scenario.