10 months ago · 4 MIN READ

New Site, Built on Canvas

If you have followed me for some time, you might have noticed that my website has changed. While Jacurtis.com always has, and will be my personal website, that doesn't mean my plans for it haven't changed.

I really wanted to modernize my website first, and make it content-centric. I am no longer focusing on getting freelance clientelle, but instead I want to simply share the more personal side of me, that you might not get if you follow me on DevMarketer.

Introducing the New Site


The new site is something I am very excited about. While my other site was good, I focused a lot on developer and marketer related content. It was informative and educational. The posts were very detailed and I ranked well for many of my best posts.

My old site allowed me to teach people about development and marketing and how the two disciplines intersect. But there was always some stuff I wanted to write about, stuff that didn't necessarily involve that topic, but were random musings that interested me, information I wanted to share. These random anecdotes about Life, Business, Entrepreneurship, and more all felt out of place on the old site.

As I launched DevMarketer, it became clear that my main source of content actually belonged over there. Finally I had a clean seperation between the Marketing and Development stuff I wanted to teach, and the personal stories I wanted to tell. Jacurtis.com in home to those personal stories, while DevMarketer is home to the educational tutorials and tips.

The new site was crucial to this new beginning, and it is ironic that it just so corresponded with the new year.

Old content has been forwarded to DevMarketer, and this new site will maintain itself as home to these personal stories about Life, Entrepreneurship, and Business. These stories will be personal, potentially posted irradically, and might feel random. However, I truly think the content on this site might just be my best content. By not feeling the pressure to push out content like I feel on DevMarketer, I can use this space to only write what I am passionate about. Meaning only the best of the best gets through to you.

These stories will be raw and unfiltered, giving you the most realistic and honest views I can give. They will be personal and candid. I don't expect a certain number of views, and I know my viewership on this site will be lower than DevMarketer, and I am happy and OK with that.

Technology Stack


I am still a tech guy at heart, so I would be remissed if I didn't spend a little time to talk about how I built this site.

In the past I had always built blogs on top of Wordpress. This is still a great platform, but it has become so bloated and complex of late, that I found myself looking for alternatives.

As you know, I am a huge fan of the Laravel community, and it is my preferred framework for developing modern web applications. Within the community, in the middle of 2016, came out a project that really intrigued me. This project was called Canvas.

I encourage you to check Canvas out. While it is nothing like Wordpress in its extensibility of plugins and themes, it does some things I really like.

Canvas

Canvas is built on Laravel. This means that if you know Laravel, that you will feel immediately at home in Canvas. You know where to find the views, set new routes, and add Laravel functionality. You know how to deploy it and you feel at home extending it. This is the number one thing that drew me to Canvas as my blogging platform, is that I could extend it and customize it very easily. I already know Laravel, so I can easily use my Laravel skills to customize Canvas to my liking.

I also really like the backend of Canvas. As an admin, when you login you have a very easy to use interface. Along the left side is a vertical navigation menu. This allows you to access everything very easily. You have a dashboard of your basic stats, an option to view your posts, tags, a media manager, settings, and manage a few other users.

The whole interface on the backend is very clean and well organized. It pays homage to Wordpress in its layout, but also gives a feeling of responsivness and modern development as well. It utilizes a Material Design theme throughout, and feels snappy and responsive.

Not only is it pretty to look at, but it shows me what I want to see. My main concern is a good interface to write and edit posts, and Canvas delivers on that. The editor is based on Markdown, but with lots of extra goodies built in. I love writing in markdown, once you learn how to use it, it is easy to write without needing to constantly move your hands off the keyboard to use the mouse for visual editing. It is rich text editing using plain text.

The Canvas markdown editor shows your markup in real time. As you add double-asterix around your words, it shows them bolding. As you add several hashtags in a row you see the headings change live. I love the feeling of seeing this as I type. The editor also goes fullscreen, for a distraction-free experience and it has buttons along the top of the editor just in case you don't know, or forget a markdown command for a certain feature.

This allows me to type in peace and not get distracted by editing my content to look nice.

It also has support for images and tags, and some basic SEO functions. All in all, I find that Canvas gives me all the stuff I need in a post editor, and none of the stuff I don't.

Side Note: I have to mention that developers will love Canvas' editor because you can always write raw HTML right inside the editor to add special functionality.


Now I can easily build out the blog I want, using the power and organization of Laravel to customize it, while having the clean and delightful experience of a polished blogging platform. It was a match made in heaven for me.

Other Technologies

So, we know I am using Canvas, that means I am also running Laravel. Laravel is my preferred framework right now, winning my heart away from Ruby on Rails.

I have hosted the site on Digital Ocean, on a simple $5 a month server (for now, that might change). I really enjoy digital ocean. It is a great company to host a site on. They have nearly 100% uptime, and the speeds are just insane. It is great. I am happy to bid Wordpress and the damn cPanel farewell. While cPanel, used to be awesome, it really limits what you can do. With Digital Ocean, I can do anything.

Alex Curtis