A New Personal Site

If you went to sachagreif.com last week, you would’ve found the site basically unchanged since mid-2014, a blog frozen in time as if awaiting a next post that never comes.

No more! I took time over the holidays to completely refresh the site, starting from scratch with a new platform, a new aesthetic, and a new goal.

Blogs Are Dead

Well, maybe not all blogs, but mine sure was. There are three factors here: first, maintaining a personal WordPress blog is just a bad experience compared to the ease of just writing on Medium.

Second, although I write a lot more than before, I don’t really blog. My writing is usually focused on a specific purpose, and more at home on different specialized sites than on a generic personal homepage.

Finally, there is no comparison between the reach you can have on your own site and on a platform like Medium, especially if your articles get accepted into some of the larger publications like FreeCodeCamp. Even Signal v. Noise, which already had a pretty large built-in audience, saw a big increase in views after moving to Medium.

So instead of being a blog, my new site is more like a hub, with links to all my other projects around the web.

From WordPress To Gatsby

These days the mere thought of dealing with a WordPress site makes me shudder, so I went all the way to the other end of the spectrum and embraced the convenience of static site generators.

Specifically, I used Gatsby, an awesome piece of software that lets you generate static sites using React.

Although when I say “using React”, that’s a little misleading, as any React-specific code tends to melt away when making static sites, leaving you with a very elegant functional-components-only codebase.

But even though your code might not look like the typical React app, you still get to leverage the power of the React and NPM ecosystems, making for a super-smooth developer experience.

The Next Wave Of CSS

Speaking of the NPM ecosystem, this project was the chance to try out styled-components, a new library that aims to redefine the way we think about and use CSS.

In a nutshell, styled-components does away with the concept of CSS class, and instead assigns CSS directly at the component level. So you’re not using a div with the class hero anymore, you’re using a Hero component that itself possesses styling. This might seem like a small distinction, but it made me reconsider my pre-established CSS-writing patterns in interesting ways.

(Oh and by the way, we’re more than due to drop that “C”, because the idea of “cascading” styles will hopefully be put to rest for good soon.)

I’m not sure yet if styled-components is the perfect solution we’ve all been waiting for, but it’s definitely a strong contender, and part of a new wave of CSS abstractions worth keeping an eye on.

Introducing “Neo-Brutalism”

You might’ve heard about Brutalism, the latest web design fad. Brutalism in the architectural sense was all about exposing raw materials and doing away with any flourish.

But when transposed to the web, this trend somehow mutated into “make everything as ugly as possible”.

My eyes!

The truth is that the best we can hope to achieve on the web is “Fake Brutalism”, as there is nothing inherently “raw” about 36-point Helvetica, no matter what the hipsters tell you.

So I prefer “Neo-Brutalism”, which I define as adding subtle visual references (monospace fonts, thick borders, flat colors) to the early days of the web, without giving up on all the advances (typography, grids, colors that don’t make your eyeballs explode, etc.) we’ve made since.

A great example of the trend is the Gomix site:

I really love how Gomix’s pseudo-barebones aesthetic subtly recalls the earlier days of the web, which totally makes sense given that Gomix’s mission is to make modern web development as easy as it was in the earlier days of drag-and-dropping files to your FTP server (but without losing the benefits we’ve gained since!).

I’ve always loved doing one-off static sites (see also: Brick By Brick, State Of JavaScript), as they’re a great occasion to try out new technologies and new ideas.

I had a lot of fun working on this, and there’s no better way to start off the year than shipping a new project, no matter how small!

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