The Tech Behind This Site

When I set out to create this site, I knew I wanted some technology that made it easy for me to write posts in Markdown. One of my first thoughts was to set up GitHub Pages, create a Jekyll site and write away. Ultimately, I decided on Gatsby.

Along with the ease of writing in Markdown, I wanted to try out some technology I hadn’t used before. Jekyll satisfied that requirement but so did many of the Jamstack frameworks.

When I started to dig deeper I found Jekyll a bit unintuitive to theme and discovered that “Pagination does not support tags or categories”. I definitely want the ability to do this so that limitation and the limitations of GitHub Pages left me wanting to explore the Jamstack options.

Vue Frameworks

I then turned my attention to a couple of Vue-based frameworks, namely: Gridsome and VuePress. I really like Vue and had worked on an app with it for over a year. That was Vue 2, though, and I really wanted to try Vue 3.


Since I had heard of VuePress before, I started there. After creating an empty VuePress site and serving it up, I discovered that its “...default theme [is] optimized for writing technical documentation...” and it seemed like it would a lot of work to turn it into what I wanted.


Next, I tried Gridsome. I had never heard of it and was excited to give it a try. Like so many libraries in the Vue ecosystem, the documentation was excellent. I created an empty project and took a look around. I noticed that it shipped with Vue 2 and, while great, I really wanted some Vue 3 experience.

React Frameworks

I’m not the biggest fan of React. Most of my experience has been working on Ember and Vue apps. I really like Ember’s service layer and dependency injection system which don’t exist in React and Vue contexts. My Ember experience is one of the reasons I didn’t reach for empress-blog;

With that noted, the idea of getting some more React experience is still very exciting to me. I want to have a good understanding of what problems it’s good at solving, best practices and shortcomings.


I had worked on a couple of Gatsby apps before but only on the smallest of scales. A bug fix here and a small feature enhancement there hardly gave me a solid understanding of what Gatsby does and why.

When I started digging into Gatsby, I was initially put off by the amount of code I would need to prune after running gatsby new rocky-codes. I then learned about Gatsby’s concept of starters and tried again with their bare bones hello world starter. This was more like it.

After spending a little time with it, Gatsby proved to be flexible enough for me to implement the features I wanted and it has plenty of plugins so I didn’t have to re-invent any wheels.

In the end I chose Gatsby for a few reasons:

  1. Learning more React appealed to me.
  2. It had a good balance of boilerplate and plugins.
  3. It had the flexibility for me to add a wide range of new features.

A Note on Next.js

Like Gatsby, I had a little bit of experience with Next.js before. Perhaps the only reason I went with Gatsby is that I tried it first and found that it did everything I wanted it to do.


Since I decided against GitHub Pages, I wanted to explore some Jamstack deployment platforms. The 2 that came to mind first were Netlify and Vercel. Similar to how I ended up deciding to use Gatsby over Next.js, Netlify came first. I already had a Netlify account and was familiar with some of the features.

Other Considerations

Another technology I was interested in was Tailwind CSS. I didn’t want to reach for Bootstrap, Foundation or Material Design, all of which I had used before.

Many years back, I created a system similar to Tailwind; though, it was far less capable. It was great in some cases for modifying certain aspects of elements but in most cases I found it polluted my templates too much for my taste.

That prior, similar experience and some of the complexity of incorporating Tailwind left me feeling like avoiding it, for now. In the end, I wanted this site to have a very minimalist design and some custom CSS worked just fine.

The code for this site is open source. If you’d like to dig into how things work, feel free to visit