New blog for 2024

blog astro tailwind

I’ve been troubled by something for quite some time now: how can I consider myself a frontend engineer if I don’t have a custom-built blog? Relying on an external platform started to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

That’s why I decided, at the start of this year, to build my own custom blog. I began my blogging adventure in 2019 by writing on Medium, like many others. In 2021, I moved to Ghost because I wanted my space on the Internet. Finally, in 2024, it’s time to have my state-of-the-art, blazing-fast, and custom-built blog.

This article will go through some of the reasons that pushed me to create this new blog, the different features I wanted to include, and finally, how I built it.

Why a Custom Blog?

I’ve been relying on third-party platforms since the beginning of my blogging journey. Both Medium and Ghost were fine, but no longer suited my needs. You might ask, “How does it matter that you haven’t published anything for nine months?”

It hurts, but you’re right. I’ve been quiet for a long time, and this wasn’t because I was preparing something big. Work and life took over, and I had less time to focus on my blog. Moreover, the current design of my blog wasn’t bringing me joy anymore. Joy is an important motivation for me, and I wasn’t getting enough of it.

Ghost is a great blogging platform. However, I wasn’t pleased by how themes are customizable, and I started to find my blog outdated. Additionally, the pricing was difficult to justify at $300 per year — this doesn’t cover the cost of the domain name.

Custom Component Integration

Ghost is great for publishing regular blog articles, but it was also limiting for me. It’s not possible to integrate custom components or media besides images or video.

Integrating custom components is something that I have wanted to do for quite some time. They could be used to demonstrate programming behavior, add some jazz to the articles, and avoid relying on images that aren’t that fun.

I have to give credit to the mind-boggling work Joshua Comeau produces on his blog. I can only dream of reaching the level of quality he releases in each article. Anyway, the sky is now the limit, and I can do whatever I want.

Also, it’s Freaking Fun

Finally, I like programming and testing things. Building a blog helped me get rid of a hitch I had for a long time. I was able to experiment with new technologies (for me), spend too much time on color and font selection, and, of course, include ducks.

Why this custom blog?

Let’s now dig a little deeper into the nitty-gritty of this new blog. This is the part that I’m most excited about.

Let’s start with the basics: the initial requirements. Surprisingly, these haven’t evolved much since the start of the project.

Color, Fonts, and Ducks

I have 46 different colors on my blog—23 for the light theme and 23 for the dark theme. I’m not sure yet if this will come back to bite me in the future. Only time will tell. To be fair, 12 of those colors are used for the gradients present at the top of the article

Did you notice the ducks? 🦆

Colors of the blog

Main colors
dev
beyond
accent
Gradient colors for dev articles
dev 1
dev 2
dev 3
dev 4
dev 5
dev 6
Gradient colors for beyond articles
beyond 1
beyond 2
beyond 3
beyond 4
beyond 5
beyond 6
Colors of different states
Success
Error
Input
Muted

Fonts—I love fonts. I spend a lot of time looking at fonts and imagining how they can be used. From the beginning of this blog, I wanted to use a serif font for the content of the blog. Serif fonts are readable and work well for long-format text. There’s a reason why books are still printed using serif fonts and not Inter (no hate for Inter; it’s a great font). After a lot of searching, I landed on the “Bitter” slab serif font, which I find stunning.

Having only one font was not sufficient; a sans-serif font was also required. I wanted something impactful that caught your eye when you visited the blog. A grotesk font was the logical choice, since the right one can provide a great contrast with the Bitter font. After testing more than 30 fonts, I chose the Space Grotesk font. The lower case ‘g’ is absolutely stunning with its long tail!

Finally, I need a mono font for the code snippet. I use the Cartograph font on VS Code, which is a paid font. A free font, available on Google Font, was required. I remember the beautiful mono font used on iA Writer and decided to use this one here.

Bitter Serif font
Space grotesk Sans-serif font
iA Writer Mono Mono font

You might have noticed the duck in the gradient at the top of the article. I like ducks; ducks are cool. I wanted to have some on my blog 🦆

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

I would not have been able to build this blog without some inspiration I found around the web. Here are the different websites I drew inspiration from:

How I built this blog?

I won’t spend too much time discussing the details of the stack I used to build this blog. This might seem counterintuitive for a frontend engineer to only spend a few lines on the stack of his creation.

Well, in reality, the stack is quite underwhelming. I wanted a fast blog that would allow me to integrate custom components into the articles. “Integrate custom components” implies that there aren’t any custom components the rest of the time. So plain HTML and CSS (with a touch of vanilla JavaScript) are used on most pages.

This is why I opted for the amazing Astro framework. By default, Astro sends no JavaScript to the client, making the site static. Which is great for performance. However, if the need arises, it’s possible to integrate components from the most popular frameworks within its page. This allows for an infinite amount of personalization.

Astro checked all my requirements: it’s fast, extensible, and the syntax is really pleasing to work with. This was my first choice, and I don’t regret it one bit.

I used the following packages to make everything happen:

Finally, the blog is open source, so feel free to snoop around my code.

🦆 Everything is available on GitHub.

Wrapping Up

As you might tell, I put great effort into making this blog my little piece of the Internet. I wanted to build a blog that I could be proud of and that would bring back the joy of writing.

There are still some things that aren’t 100% right in my mind. However, it’s better to launch the blog than nitpicking on details that either don’t matter or won’t be noticed. Also, the renewal of my Ghost subscription was approaching.

I have many ideas for the future of my blog. I want to write about my experience building the Proton desktop application in Electron, explain the most interesting aspects of building a blog with Astro, and do deep dives into some React primitives we use daily.

That’s why I encourage anyone who reached the end of this article to subscribe to the newsletter. You’ll receive an email for every new article I publish, and nothing more. If you’re reluctant to give me your email, I can suggest that you use the RSS feed of the blog.

If not for me, do it for the 🦆

Flavien Bonvin · 2024 Share on 𝕏

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