Website Development

April 18,2019

Web Technology

Developing websites.

This present website is a sort of amalgam.  It started as a nanoc static website.  But I have now added some Couch CMS to it, so it can no longer be generated by nanoc.

I started building websites long ago and, since I’ve been in IT since 1968, that probably means just after they were invented, I honestly can’t remember. The first attempts were written directly in HTML, the web’s markup language for websites invented, I think by Sir Tim Berners-Lee of CERN in about 1980, I was certainly using it before 1990. In those days you could not do much with HTML except put text out in various ways.

Then I moved on to using WYSIWYG editors like Microsoft Frontpage, and that’s all very well, but I now operate a total Microsoft-free-zone. A few years ago I needed to build a couple of websites for organisations, like CTIK and the local Anglican Binsey Team Ministry, so I started to use Joomla!, which is wonderfully complicated, and a complete nightmare to learn how to use. The websites are pretty, but since I’m the only one who updates them, Joomla! is overkill. Joomla! is written in PHP and keeps all the content for the pages in a MySQL database, and builds each web page on-the-fly as requested, so it’s ideal for websites that change a lot, or which need to updated by lots of people.

So I have ended up wanting to build my websites statically again, writing HTML just as I did in the old days. But HTML has moved on, and we can now build very sophisticated sites without needing databases and server-side language support. The new standard HTML5, which is supported by the main browsers (although Microsoft Windowsers will need to use Internet Exploder 9, or better still a recent Chrome, Opera or Firefox) can do fantastic things.

The original nanoc website.

It was written in a number of different computer languages. Most of the content started out as Redcloth, a variant of Textile. The Templates are just HTML5, but I wrote them in Haml. I styled it with CSS3, but I wrote it in Sass. And the whole shooting-match is put together with Nanoc. If that makes sense to you, you are a real Techy!

The present incarnation.

For some of my websites I wanted to let others add and edit content.  This is difficult with a static site because the whole thing must be recompiled and then uploaded to the webserver.  I used this method for the Synaxarion and continue to do so with it and for The Early Christian Ireland sites, but in those cases the main content editor is not highly computer literate (as anyone born since 1980 will be), so it is best to let him edit source files that I can check and then rebuild.

For other sites, such as the Bassenthwaite Village website, I want others to be able to log-in and make the changes themselves.

I discovered Couch CMS, which is a way of retrofitting the required functions to an existing website, and it is very easy for me to use.

The alternative is to go back to Joomla!, Drupal, or Wordpress - full scale CMS systems, or, perhaps to use a Wikiwiki system.  I'm not convinced these give the right ballance of development ease and access control that I wanted.  Couch CMS is what I use today, but the world changes fast....


By the way, I test this website with Firefox, Opera, and Chrome, nothing else. If it doesn’t look right to you and you use Internet Explorer, tough, I am not interested in pandering the Microsoft’s idiosyncracies.


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