Between being sick at the start of the month and a three day weekend, I recently had some free time to devote to some personal projects. One of those personal projects was the redesign and relaunch of JonDavis.name. While I pride myself in my work here on Snowulf, I like to keep JonDavis.name as a “portfolio” site. A portfolio site, like a custom email domain, is something everyone in technology should have these days. They are neither very hard build, nor to maintain, yet quickly demonstrate some proficiency with technology.
I already had a site up, so the most obvious question is “Why did the site need an overhaul?”. Let me put it to you in the form of GeoCities. Remember a time on the web when GeoCities was cool? When having all those banners, “Site under construction” notices, and blinking text were The Hotness? Then you probably remember that a few years later you saw those sites and thought to yourself “Still using GeoCities? Isn’t it time to upgrade yet?”. Then later still you saw those sites and said to yourself “I will never admit to having had a GeoCities page back in the day. No one can prove it”. Like fashion, tastes change. What is “tasteful and modern” now, will be crusty looking in a few years. The last iteration of JonDavis.name, based on WordPress, was launched in about 2011 (I think). It was, as they say, time for an upgrade. The new design I chose came compliments of HTML5 UP, which is a collection of free CC-BY-3.0 templates. All of them are responsive, CSS3, and very attractive. My CSS and web design has been getting rusty (other than the most basic of modifications), so this gave me a chance to really stretch my legs. I’d recommend any of the templates on HTML5 UP with one major caveat, there is negligible documentation. Even changing the colors of a menu bar will take a bit of work to understand and execute on (and more work when you “go responsive”). Next upgrade I think will be more in the jQuery world.
Also, as part of this upgrade I chose to change technologies. The site went from WordPress (which yes, I was keeping up to date), to straight HTML. Many in the tech world would consider moving to static HTML a step backwards, however I disagree. All too often, we use technology for the sake of technology (and I’m not immune myself). Since I consider this site relaunch a “production” grade item, I wanted to use the right tool, for the right job. I don’t need to spin up a PHP call for a dynamic pages on every hit, especially if the content is only changing a few times a year (at most). Plus, every bit of tech you introduce on the server side is another piece of security to keep in mind. Static HTML is about as bare bones as you can get, security-wise. Skipping server side calls also helps speed a great deal. Getting a 96 out of 100 from Pingdom, with a sub-half second load time makes me quite happy.
So, why all the work? Why all of a sudden? Partially it was a small project that provided me a chance to get my hands dirty in newer web design technologies. The most important reason is that it was time to either update, or shut it down. I mentioned in the intro that a decent portfolio and a custom email domain was a nice touch for someone in technology. A “portfolio” (of any kind) that is years out of date (or looks it) does you more harm than good.