Let's get started

Let's get started. As with all projects, there'll be a little bit of setup up front. As well as a major decision to make: which static site generator to pick. And there are many to pick from. There is even a whole website dedicated to listing them.

Going tool-picking

For this rebuild, I have a couple of criteria that will shorten the list:

With all that in mind, I settled for Metalsmith. Not the newest shiny tool in the list, but it had the main advantage of a process I easily wrapped my head around:

  1. Read all the content files in a source folder
  2. Pass them through a series of plugins that extract data and transform it
  3. Write the resulting files in the destination folder.

This simplicity means a lot of flexibility. The cost will be to pick/build the necessary plugins, I'm happy with that trade-off.

Rise, project!

Around the code of the projects themselves, there's always a series of things to set up: create a Git repository, an NPM package, linting, testing, CI... Setting them all in turn takes precious time. Having a template project handy with all these pre-set is a massive time saver, allowing to focus on what actually matters (unless the project is about tweaking those presets... but this one is not).

My favourite way of scaffolding a project lately is by having a template repository at the ready and using degit (discovered in the SvelteJS tutorials) to bring its content in, edit a few files and be ready to go:

npx degit https://github.com/rhumaric/project-template-node

A very basic setup

With all the boring set up out of the way, it's time to actually set up the static site generator.

npm i metalsmith

Now let's set it up to compile files from the content folder into the site folder. Metalsmith CLI relies on a JSON configuration file. This will pose severe limitations in terms of commenting or providing functions as plugin options. Instead let's use the module in an src/index.js file that will run to build the site.

const metalsmith = require('metalsmith');

  .build(function(err) {
    if (err) throw err;

Tada! Now running node src/index.js should copy any file from the content folder to the site one. That means Metalsmith is set up OK... though we haven't gained much yet, we might as well have written the files in the site folder directly. Next step will be to get something out of all that installation and actually transform some files. But that'll be for the next article.