The time has come: I’m rebuilding my website (again). Welcome to robinmetral.com v5! 1
v5 changes from v4 in a number of more and less visible ways–here’s a quick overview.
The less visible
This website is now built using Astro.
I first heard about Astro from Connor, before following along Robin Rendle’s firsthand experience with it. He ended up having justified doubts about it, but still: after spending less than a minute on the Astro website, I was convinced to switch.
- I’m fetching data from a weather API to show an appropriate greeting on the homepage: “Hello from sunny/rainy/stormy/… Berlin”. The call happens at build time, so your browser never has to fetch the data itself 2
Finally, Astro also supports my favorite tooling out of the box: Tailwind for styling3, Markdown (with remark plugins!) for writing articles, TypeScript, and more.
Too good to be true? A little: Astro is still in early beta, so it still has a lot of bugs and crucially lacks developer tools like formatters or proper TypeScript type-checking.
Fortunately, Astro is under active development, and these issues are being worked on4. Exciting!
I want everyone who visits this website to have a good experience with it, so I’m trying to make it as inclusive as possible.
So far, this has involved:
- proper keyboard navigation and focus styles (unfortunately, Tailwind strips off these styles by default, so you need to set them explicitly)
- a skip link for keyboard/screen reader users (what is a skip link?)
- a dark/light theme switcher based on your OS’s preferred color scheme (read the rationale on Heydon Pickering’s excellent Inclusive Component)
- accessible footnotes (in progress: this is soon to be my first contribution to Astro!)
Speaking of which, it looks like you're using a screen reader. If you have any feedback or suggestions, I'd love to hear them! You can contact me any time at [email protected]
The more visible
I started using a font called Fern by David Jonathan Ross. It’s more playful and laid back than my v4 font, Bitter, a slab serif by Sol Matas. I also love its small caps, italics, and ornaments: ✷❧
To complement the font, I’m in the process of refining a fern-inspired color palette, with forest greens and mineral oranges. The biggest challenge so far is to make it suitable for both light and dark themes.
The content on this website will be published in the form of “notes” (term borrowed from Robin Rendle). Notes can vary in length from a tweet to an essay, they can come out several times a day or once a year, and they can (and will) cover a variety of topics.
One of the things I’ve struggled with in the past when publishing is setting too many fences, too quickly. Think: coming up with types of content and content categories upfront, or committing to strict schedules only to drop everything when I would fall behind.
This time, I want to start without fences, grow this space more organically, and see where this goes.
Also, notes can end abruptly and they can sometimes feel like unfinished thou
- I built my first few websites with WordPress (v1.x), then went through a couple homepages using Gatsby (v2, v3), one using Next.js (v4), and finally this one: v5.↩
- This should generally be the default, to avoid unnecessary runtime network requests (why ask every visitor to fetch the same data when a server can do it once and share it with everyone?) Of course, the challenge becomes building the website often enough to keep the data up-to-date—mine autodeploys every two hours (Update, September 3rd: I’m now making the call at runtime to avoid the CRON builds). Also, if a data source is highly dynamic, like a comment section, you might still want to fetch data at runtime. Luckily, Astro has a solution for this—go back to the second bullet point:↩
- Update, September 12th: I’ve stopped using Tailwind on this website in favor of vanilla CSS.↩
- There’s an issue about the lacking type-checking, and a Prettier plugin is currently being built into the Astro VSCode extension.↩