A while back I started messing with my personal site again. I had always wanted to use a framework like Jekyll to create a simple blog, but had never got around to doing so. After a bit of design work (wanting to try something different), I reached out to some co-workers for feedback on my latest iteration. One coworker asked why I was even updating my personal site.

After all, who looks at them these days? Most everyone who writes content regularly seems to be using services like Medium, and if your audience is friends and co-workers, why not just write content on a platform they’re familiar with such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think the mistake in this thought process is approaching the task as creating content for others; the chief audience should be yourself.

Well why should I be the audience?

I currently work at CoverMyMeds as a Rails Developer. In my day to day, I cover a wide spectrum of languages, frameworks, and concepts. I write front end React components, Rails/web app constructs (Controllers, models, and views), some SQL now and then, and even some meta programming from time to time. With so many different concepts, rarely do I get time to hone the basic tools that the web is built on.

When working on a personal project as straight forward as a static web site, all the usual things that take precedence disappear. Is this or that bit of code performant? Am I making the right abstractions? How do I solve this weird edge case that might break X for user Y on browser Z, 3 years from now? In the context of a simple static web site, you get the freedom to focus on your own needs.

When I first wrote my website, it was inspired by a bad interview. I rambled on and on trying to explain why I was qualified for a position centered on front end web development. The important detail being I had never written a single line of Javascript, and at best 50 lines of CSS. Unsurprisingly, I went home without a job.

From that experience I started a simple site hosted on Github pages. I was able to learn the basics of Javascript, making some JQuery soup, and construct a passable site. Eventually these skills helped me in my first development role (luckily for me a way better deal than the interview I messed up), my senior capstone project at Ohio State, and finally in my current position at CoverMyMeds.

In this latest iteration, I’ve gotten to learn about Jekyll, mess around with Gem development (Jekyll theme), play with some SCSS (vs. the older SASS standard I have used in the past), and mess around with Heroku configuration because Github Pages do not support custom Jekyll themes and I needed a new host :(.

Okay, I get the idea. Why does this only apply to personal sites?

Well, it doesn’t. Any personal project is a great way to learn and become familiar with new ideas. A personal site is just my favorite kind! If you are a web developer, having a small space on the web somewhere to call your own is a great way to establish an identity. It can be a simple static page with some contact info, a blog like the one I have now, or even a full blown web app. At the end of the day, hopefully you’ll have practiced some old skills, learned something new, and most importantly had some fun!

And if you did a good job, others might enjoy it too!