Why SSG? Why Eleventy? Background. Start Converting AmesHigh.org AHSAA 26 year old Website to Eleventy

Ed's Blog Index & Contents

Apr 1, 2021 8:00

AmesHigh.org an ancient 26 year old existing website in the process of converting to Eleventy.



Why use an SSG? a Static Site Generator???


Investigating ways to do a complete local side (vs server side) automated development build independent of a remote host server.

  • The main reason, at first, I was wasting time, local edit, FTP upload, refresh the browser, do this again over and over. There were at least 300 server side includes (SSI). Having the server pull in files like a common header and footer along with dozens of other snipits of HTML. I had devised that scheme a long time ago to get some semblance of a consistant theme. Mind you this website is nearly 30 years in the making. 30 years!! Of which I have maintained it for 22 years. I started looking for a way to do server side includes on my local system along with a method to refresh the local browser to speed up the process and decouple the need to upload to the server which led me on a path to SSG's which I didn't know existed until Spring of 2021, during the height of the pandemic ...
  • All of us, the entire world is in the middle of this dang Pandemic starting early 2020 and now well into 2021 and heading into 2022 I fear (update, as you know, it did go well into 2022 but has tapered off a lot). I couldn't sit there withering away sipping red wine and watching "Last Man on Earth" again on Hulu. I want, need and felt and feel the never ending pull to learn, to take advantage of my alone time, absorb cool new technology, better myself during this long Pandemic. The choices were to come out of the pandemic "a skunk, a hunk, a drunk or a Monk". Plus, the Internet is soooo cool if you use it correctly, so much knowlege and so much sharing and caring if you think about it in a positive way.
  • 2020 Missing Tech, a lot. I worked in high tech for 27 years before my layoff from PLM UGS in 2006 along with 200 others that same day April 26 2006. Luckily, I had a parallel career in small real estate investments. From 2006 to now I have been working in that business, and to me, it is mundane and boring, and not remotely like Tech. Tech always calls me back and it was calling me. I manage a few websites. I had this old website AmesHigh.org I have maintained as a volunteer since the year 2000. AmesHigh.org is an old, cluttered, duct-taped together web site built on volunteer time and it was a good candidate for updating and for me learning a lot in the process.
First Attempt
  • End of 2020, my first attempt at replicating my 491 HTML files and server side includes and the PERL code, and javascript etc that had evolved over 26 years (21 of them from me). I installed a local web server that supported server side includes. It wasn't going super smoothly and the results were not what I wanted and it felt clunky, like it was before and I don't think the server side includes were working either. It wasn't a waste of time, it was time spent learning and thinking about my goals with this project.
SSG Choices
  • Winter 2021 More research. I randomly discovered SSG's. How could I have not heard of Static Site Generators? No idea what they were. So many choices! I read further about Jekyll, Hugo, Gatsby, Next.js, Nuxt.js and a new SSG, Eleventy.
Pro's and Con's
  • Reviews are mixed about SSG's and I wasn't sure it would work for my needs. I read different articles both Pro and Con There are some valid reasons not to use an SSG. Some do not like SSG's, some love SSG's. It's a big world with a lot of opinions so you'll have to decide on your own what you want and the time you have to invest in new tech. Barely anyone sugested converting a site unless it was already baesd on some other SSG.
Why Eleventy?
  • Why I chose Eleventy? because of its flexibility and the ability to ease into Eleventy a little at a time. I thought this flexibility would come in handy while converting so many files to the Eleventy SSG.

  • I chose to learn Eleventy after diving into more modern Web develpment techniques. Reality check. when I started working in 11ty, it was a bit overwhelming, at first, because I also had to learn a bit about a lot of other software, such as: YAML, Nunjucks, JSON, JS, not to mention 11ty itself. I couldn't find very many blogs that talked about converting an existing website to 11ty. Most 11ty information was usually along the lines of "Getting Started with Eleventy". Not much about coverting an existing site to 11ty. After working on the conversion off and on for a few months I decided to keep track of my progress and thoughts along the way, and since 11ty is semi-designed to create blogs, to help others, and also for future reference for me or for anyone else that maintains this website I chose to start this blog. My fear is people will read it. :-)

Harder than it looked
  • I knew that process would be a bit ... I wouldn't call it difficult, definately frustrating. It is taking longer than I thought, mostly because of the learning curve. This is the first time I have used an SSG plus the first time for Eleventy, nunjucks, YAML and Front Matter.
  • Prior to my involvment with AmesHigh.org there were to 2 system crashes were they lost the entire website. This was clear back in the 1990's. I was asked to help get the website back after the web host went bankrupt in 2000. I knew someone that worked at the defunct webhost company and they gave me a CD with the files. I found a hosting company, Powweb, and put all the files there for 20 years until 2021 when I switched to Accuwebhost.com for faster speed and way lower cost. Sorry Powweb, you served us well for almost 2 decades.
Update 1 year later ...
  • Its been a year, I have had multiple other major projects in the real estate side of my life, and still managed to make progress on AmesHigh.org. We are now up to 682 files evertime elventy builds. I am still learning, it took way longer than I thought. I finally decided in March I would upload what I have and go live with eleventy files.