Ruby, Jekyll, and a redesign

Written on 13 December, 2012

Two weeks ago I started to teach myself Ruby. If I recall correctly, this is my third significant attempt at learning a programming language, previously flirting with PHP.

Despite still working with PHP on a day to day basis, mainly via WordPress, learning Ruby appeals to me more. Despite my brain’s reluctance to pick up the fundamentals of programming, I’ve picked up a scattered knowledge of basic PHP simply by looking at it over such a long period of time. But it’s minimal, weak, and messy portion of knowledge.

Along with the encouragement of developers who I have plenty of respect for regularly praising the language and community around it, Ruby also appeals to me more because it means starting afresh. With Ruby, my mind’s a clean slate, and I’m approaching it in that fashion. But I’m also learning from my mistakes in the past.

You’ve got to be making something

My previous attempts to teach myself PHP were based around learning via theory - books, or very specific tutorials online. There was no overall target to aim towards.

This time, I’ve got an app that I’d love to build. Enough of a challenging concept to get me passionate about making it, but definitely still achievable.

I’ll also be embracing frameworks this time around. I’ve looked at both Rails and Sinatra, deciding that Sinatra is probably more suited to a fairly simple app like the one I’ll be making.

Nonetheless, the perfectionist in my doesn’t feel fully comfortable solely diving into a framework. I’ve also finally signed up to Treehouse, and started the programming/Ruby courses on there, to gain an overall knowledge on the fundementals, and how things actually work. Overall, I think this will be the perfect mix of making and learning. The ultimate hope is that the two will crossover beautifully further on down the line.

Soon after looking at Ruby, I also downloaded and played with Jekyll, a static site generator. After spending an afternoon evening with it, looking at its glorious liquid markup and lightweight file structure, I’d already decided that WordPress (which I’m still a huge fan of for various project types) now feels strongly out of place for the personal home of a web designer who’s perfectly comfortably working around files and code. Jekyll is small, quick, but surprisingly powerful. I love it.

I couldn’t shake the thought of dropping WordPress and embracing Jekyll, so I did exactly that. And with that decision, naturally, came a redesign. I’d genuinely tried to make a resolution to stick with the same design for an extended period of time, but I’ve had a change of heart with this opinion recently. I’m not a prolific blogger with a huge audience who could potentially be frustrated with regular design changes, I’m a small fish, so for all its disadvantages, it does mean that I can still treat my online home as a playground. Regardless, I’m chuffed with this new look. My redesigns may occur a little too often, but looking back, I’d say each one has been an improvement on the last.

P.S. It’s a work in progress

So ignore the fact my sidebar mini profile lazily disappears via “display: none” at a smaller viewport. It’s almost 1:30am and I can’t quite gather the energy to solve that yet! I also need to add some retina friendliness on a few icons and the project images. Critique or bug reports about anything else via Twitter or email is certainly welcome though.

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