Dec 14

My review of SiteSprint II

It all started November 14th when I found out about SiteSprint II. SiteSprint was the idea of @bryanveloso, @gregnewman & @cdharrison and I find it is a great idea to get motivated, although there are no awards and no prizes, you are just doing this for you. So I joined the same day - as it started November 15th. Today is December 14th and I am writing this together as most of the parts of this page is done by now.

After 'signing up' for the SiteSprint (it was # 2, some guys already did a SiteSprint before) I decided to get going right away. My problem was - WebDesign is not one of my main knowledge areas - a little, but not as much as I want it to be.

The design

So CSS + layouting was on the schedule first! Lots of reading and trying out things lead me to try out YAML - Yet Another Multicolumn Layout. After playing around with it for a bit I found out that it is 'useless' if you don't know what you want your page should look like. A bit of looking around took me to mockingbird, which is an online tool that makes it easy for you to create, link together, preview, and share mockups of your website or application:

mockup01

It's a fun tool and has sime nice elements to put into the design. So my first attempt looked really similar to the actual outcome. After the layouting is was time to pick colors. Not an easy task (for me) ;-) I like the SiteSprint colors so decided to go for a similar look. This resulted in a first attempt of yaml, my layout and my logo:

stfnkhlr_20092511

As you can see - it hasn't changed much since then!

The backend

There are tons of backends that you can use for a blog, listing all of those is not the aim of my post. I decided to chose Django, which is a Python based web framework I used for a couple of smaller projects for myself. As 4 weeks isn't much time to work on a whole backend (I think you could do it, but I am not that good in Django / Python to do it nicely) I picked Django-Mingus which is written by @montylounge. He also has a pretty nice blog post describing all the apps he used to build this blog engine - and I really came to like it.

The hosting

As this was my first project / website with me taking care of the full development / deployment cycle it was really tough to find out what was needed, or best suited for my case. So I looked for providers that offer good service, easy access and a lot of power over the hostng machine. Slicehost was the one I actually chose, because it offers a relatively cheap service, and you don't have to sign a contract, it works on a month to month basis. This enables me to switch hosting as soon as I don't like it anymore (within a month). Seems like a good solution to me!

Problems

This is a list of the problems I had while developing / deploying this site:

  • Merging my CSS layout into django-minugs (mingus uses 960.gs for its layouting).
  • Getting Python, Virtualenv, Apache2 and MySQL to work together
  • Setting up the whole deployment machine on Slicehost (though the available docs helped a lot here)
  • Finding time to do all this ;-)

Used programs

For development I used a Macbook (late 2006) which works fine with Python 2.5 + Django. Other than the OS for development I chose Open Source Software: Django, Python, Gimp for the picture working, the font for my logo is open source too (The chemist - open source font). The hosting machine is running Ubuntu 8.04 LTS, using Apache2 and MySQL as a database. So, yay for Open Source! The only costs I am having are for hosting now!! No development costs, besides my own time!

Thank yous

I wanna use this post to thank a few people and projects, too: @d0ugal for helping with CSS and setting the hosting up via twitter and IRC. @jezdez for support on CSS and links to virtualenv and help on IRC! @justinlilly and @gregnewman for their support on IRC. A special thanks goes out to @montylounge for writing DJango Mingus and putting it on Github. Also thanks for all the feedback I got on flickr, IRC and Twitter - please excuse if I didn't put your name here, I got lots of feedback which really surprised me, so thanks everyone for that!

Feedback

Please feel free to leave a comment with your thought about my layout, design, hosting (speed and such) or anything else you wanna tell me via @skohler or via a comment here using disqus. Thanks in advance as I love feedback from others!

Tags: django, sitesprint