This content is considered archived and may not be accurate. Feel free to read it anyway, though.

Jan 02, 2022

Building a site in the open

One of the things I’m excited for with Bored Horse (this very site) is to be able to tinker with it. That’s why I’ve opted to design and build everything in the open, meaning that things aren’t even remotely close to being done, or even what I want it to be. Things might break, even though I’ll endeavor them not to, and features will be added, or removed. We’ll see what happens, literally.

I’ve been using WordPress for almost every project since version 1.5 (although I did use it before that as well). That’s some seventeen years or so, building things professionally on almost exclusively one platform. It’s the world’s largest content management system (CMS) by far, powering 43% of all sites using a CMS. There’s almost no competition whatsoever. I’ve written books about WordPress, sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and organized conferences, workshops, built and released things into the ecosystem — all that jazz.

And I’m bored with it.

I got into WordPress through blogging, and it truly was a blogging platform in those days, but that didn’t fit all my projects. So, I muscled it into a proper CMS, using plugins available as well as things I wrote myself, unconventional solutions, and every other kind of digital duct-tape you’d imagine. I’ve done that with open-source software before, building communities on things like PunBB, for example. To me, this is what I’m good at: Making tools work for me, even if it wasn’t the creator’s original intention. It’s also what makes web development fun.

My day job is a digital agency called Divide & Conquer. We work with clients, big and small, and most of them want and need WordPress. My role is rarely the lead developer on these projects, Divide & Conquer has an ad-hoc freelancing model where we find the right person(s) for every project, but lately, I’ve enjoyed developing again. But, again, typically, it’s WordPress, and should be WordPress, something I know pretty well by now, a truly mature platform in its own right.

This brings me back to Bored Horse, and the opportunity to tinker. I wouldn’t sell an immature solution to a client, but that’s what I want to play with. So, that’s what I’m doing.

Bored Horse runs on something called Astro. It’s a static site generator that’s gaining traction. I picked it on a whim, Eleventy would probably have been the more reasonable choice, but there you go. I’ve never worked with Astro before, but it was easy enough to get into. Astro builds static pages using various templates and the like, and then those pages are pushed, using git, to Cloudflare Pages. That’s another thing I haven’t used before. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I did put up a simple sign-up form for the Splatter placeholder page using Cloudflare Pages.)

That’s the whole idea, trying things.

All these things are development focused. There’s the other side as well, the design, and how the site feels to use and read. My only goal for this very first iteration was to make everything easy to read. This isn’t how this site should look, not by a long shot. You’ll see this happen live as well.

Building and designing a site in the open isn’t a new concept. Many designers and developers are doing it. I’ve been wanting to join that particular movement for quite some time.

And, don’t worry, Bored Horse isn’t about talking web development and the like, at least not exclusively. This was just a little peek behind the scenes.