Welcome to my site!

Hello and Welcome

This website is a little project that I've been working on for the last few weeks. Initially, it was intended to serve as a quick showcase of my recent work, however, I came to the realization that I would also like to occasionally document and share insights regarding development and the technologies I work with. To that end, I will be updating the site on a periodic basis with my findings.

As an example of the type of content that will be coming in the future, here's a brief overview of Gatsby, the site's design, and a thank you to some of the projects that this site depends on.


On Gatsby

This was my first experience with Gatsby, and overall I think it's pretty close to the ideal tool for building portfolio style websites. In case you're not familiar, at its core Gatsby is a static site generator — it allows you to point to a source of content, write some React components for it, and compile the mixture into browser-food. Of course, on top of this it also comes with tools for pre-fetching, lazy-loading, code splitting, image optimization, etc.

Though what I personally liked the most about it is that it gives you a solid starting point for your website or web application. I typically tend to set everything up manually since I've never really managed to find a starter template that had everything I wanted configured to my liking. Plus, every time that I have used one, I eventually found myself tearing through config files to figure out why something that I just added refused to cooperate with everything else. Essentially, I value having the knowledge of how everything fits together after having assembled it myself.

The difference with Gatsby is that it already comes with a ton of tech that has been configured and integrated to work well as one package. In fact, I suppose you could break Gatsby down and claim that fundamentally it is a mixture of React SSR, GraphQL, Webpack, Reach/React-Router, Babel, Sharp, and many other components. But really the key feature for me is how well all of these parts are integrated out of the box. There's nothing that immediately stands out as being its own distinct entity and by default most things are kept out of sight unless you need to gain access to them for some specific purpose.

Responsive design

On the Design

I wanted this website to feel somewhat unique so I opted to create my own design instead of using a pre-made theme or template. At the time of writing, I do not consider it to be finished — it's more along the lines of being functional enough to serve as a basic foundation for things that I'll be gradually adding on to it in the future. In that regard, I am pretty happy with it thus far; it adapts well to various text and screen sizes, and although somewhat basic, it leaves me with a lot of freedom towards content presentation.

Ultimately, however, I would like the site to have a bit more of its own distinct look and style, and I have some ideas on directions I could take to do so. Among them is making use of the fact that the site is being statically generated to programmatically tweak aspects of the design and layout based on the content that will be shown. This is something that I've typically not had the chance to explore much in the past, primarily because of two factors:

  1. Client Side: I do not like to programmatically alter major aspects of a website's layout or design at runtime. This is something I typically only find to be appropriate to do when in the context of a web application (rather than a content driven website), or as a result of a user requested action to change something about their view. In the case of the former, you are already committed to the client having a given set of capabilities for your web-app to do its job, and being able to dynamically alter the view is probably going to be a very basic requirement among these. In the case of the latter, you have a default view to fallback on should the client not be able to make the requested change as expected.

  2. Server Side: Using the properties of the page's contents to programmatically alter the design at request time sounds like another way of saying "unnecessary overhead" to me. Having the server be responsible for presentation specific logic is typically less than ideal to begin with, but I think that aspect can be solved cleanly through a variety of means. I just typically strive to create designs that do not require any server side logic primarily because of efficiency considerations alone.

Now, the neat thing about static site generation is that it can avoid both of those issues. Since the layout can be tweaked at build time there's no additional overhead during the request, and the client doesn't need to make any runtime changes to accommodate the content. This opens up a lot of design possibilities that I'd typically steer away from, and I'm eager to try some of my ideas out in the future. I will most likely be posting updates on this subject once I've gotten deeper into it.

In the meantime, I'd like to give thanks to unDraw for creating an amazing collection of open-source graphics. They offer a comprehensive library of customizable vector-based illustrations that are created for websites and applications. They are free for use in both commercial and non-commercial projects and feature a very non-restrictive license. All the images found in this post originally came from unDraw's collection, though I have adapted them to fit the website's theme a bit better.

Feature overview

Other Tech & Credits

Besides Gatsby and unDraw, this website also makes use of:

Huge thank you to all the developers and contributors involved with these projects.

The personal portfolio of Ernie Wieczorek. Ernie is a Philadelphia based software developer who specializes in full stack web application development. Contains summary of recent ventures, discoveries, and guidance on technical matters.
© 2021 Ernie Wieczorek