Eliminating the Overkill

balthisar.com is now running a completely static website generated with Middleman. After switching to Middleman in order to simplify the development of Balthisar Tidy’s comprehensive help file, I realized that static websites didn’t have to be difficult to manage any more.

Since 2008, balthisar.com has been served to you using various versions of CakePHP, a framework for rapid prototyping and development of PHP applications. It’s served me well over the years, and has helped me quite a lot in my understanding of how MVC (model-view-controller) could be applied to web development.

With CakePHP I built complex controllers to automate serving of static pages wrapped into the site’s overall layout, and wrote a CakePHP front-end for serving content from a WordPress database without any requirement for WordPress. All in all it worked quite well, and gave me a good opportunity to keep my brain sharp. But boy!, was it overkill!

Switching to Middleman held the promise of being able to make changes to the website much easier, and also make it easier and simpler to add posts to the blog. Because everything is static, there are no security concerns (other than access to the server account), and page loading performance is out of this world when PHP doesn’t have to build resources for every request. Middleman also contributes to performance by making it painless to implement modern pipeline techniques such as both combining and minimizing JavaScript and CSS/SCSS automatically for deployment. No longer do pages require 20 separate requests to the server when only three will do.

I made the decision to switch to static sites primarily due to ease of development, but I made the switch to Middleman specifically in order to introduce a new level of complexity to my life: Middleman requires learning a little bit about Ruby and is highly dependent on the ecosystem that has developed around Rails over the years (CakePHP was originally influenced by Ruby on Rails), although it doesn’t use Rails directly (and in fact you can accomplish quite a lot without knowing a lot about Ruby).

Now that balthisar.com is running solidly from the static build system, I will extend my short break from Balthisar Tidy development to modernize the appearance a little bit. Only 18 months ago balthisar.com went through a complete change, and in comparison these upcoming changes will be more like a “freshening.”

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