New year, new site 🎉

By Caroline Liu

I find it so incredible that this website will be a decade old in just a few months. has gone through several platform changes along the way – the latest of which happened this week! – but it has survived. Congratulations, me.

But yes, for those of you who remember the previous wild appearance of this site, you will notice that everything looks different. Well, everything under the veneer has changed too! 2020, as awful as it was, gave me the time and mental space to work on hobby development projects again. I decided it was time to re-evaluate the very outdated personal website I built as a new developer, many years ago.

There were a few big problems with my old site:

  • It was using WordPress. There’s nothing wrong with WordPress – in fact, I still think it’s a great CMS! However, it was overkill for my blog and its tiny amount of posts. I also didn’t enjoy fighting with it over post formatting.
  • I no longer liked the design I had. It was fun to me when I made it seven years ago, but as time passed, it went from fun to gaudy to me. The thought of retheming was also painful, because I was no longer familiar with modding WordPress themes or working with PHP. I’ve been fully immersed in JS land for most of a decade now!
  • Hosting was expensive, relative to what I actually needed and used.

So when I asked myself how I wanted to refresh this site, the answer was: Why not try that newfangled JAMstack thing everyone has been talking about?

It took several months of on-and-off tinkering to complete, but this is now a Eleventy site hosted on Netlify! 🎉 Here are some highlights:

  • 🚀 Super fast page loads. All pages are pre-rendered static HTML pages, with minimal JS loaded.
  • ✨ Simplified styling. No more nausea-inducing parallax effects.
  • ❤️ Emoji support and syntax highlighting!
  • 🔖 Structured data for blog posts.
  • 🚲 Improved accessibility. Fun fact: Seven years ago, I really didn’t understand the importance of alt text.
  • 🔒 A content security policy and better settings on Disqus to limit questionable tracking cookies. There are still improvements I need to make here, but it’s better than what existed before.
  • 🏡 An environment that I enjoy working in: An IDE instead of a complicated CMS dashboard, composing posts in Markdown instead of a WYSIWYG editor, and proper dependency management with npm instead of manually updating CDN links in script tags.

This rebuild was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun! The entire process reminded me of why I started building websites over a decade ago: It’s so enjoyable and empowering to be able to bring your own ideas to life. I’m hoping to document some of my rebuild here over the next several weeks, both for my own reference and for anyone who’s working on similar tasks. Fingers crossed that work will leave me the time and energy to do that!

Thanks for reading to the end of a post that is really only relevant to myself. See? Twitter hasn’t ruined our attention spans at all! 😂 You are awesome, and I wish you the very best for 2021!

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