Site update for 2024

tags: programming - webdesign

One of my new years resolutions for 2024 was to become more serious about old projects and make sure that they’re kept up to date.

Fortunately, the previous design choices made when initially making this website are still holding up: a lightweight responsive design, written from the ground up on top of a GitHub Pages Jekyll-powered static site.

I did want to bring the site up to date with a couple of small features.

A dark mode

One of Apple’s few good industry pushes, finally a way to keep eyes from burning out at night. I’ve then added a toggle button to switch between a light and dark colourway. The button is powered by a light JS function, which checks the global preferences and sets a class on the page accordingly. It also saves the preference in localStorage for later.

window.matchMedia('(prefers-color-scheme: light')
document.documentElement.setAttribute("color-mode", "light");
localStorage.setItem("color-mode", "light");

The biggest pain was to get the colors right when using SASS. Most of my other code was using SASS variables, and was compiled down at build-time. To get around this had to change all SASS variables to CSS variables. Attribute selectors in the CSS class did the rest.

An automatically generated list of publications

As a researcher, I already showcase my publications on my website, but I didn’t want to manually update the list every time I published something new. My plan was to get a list of publications from an API like ORCID, then parse them into markdown somehow.

I found a couple of plugins for Jekyll which seemed to do what I wanted. First there was jekyll-scholar which would parse bibtex to a nice bibliography based off CSL styles. Then there was jekyll-orcid to generate the list directly from ORCID. This way, I don’t have to worry about updating the list myself, and it always reflects my latest work.

The first big hurdle was that GitHub Pages does not allow you to use any custom plugins that are not on its whitelist. Luckily, for a few years now one could use GitHub Actions to run custom builds. The regular Pages are using Actions under the hood anyway! So after converting the site to use Actions, I set up jekyll-scholar, as helpfully detailed by Gemma.

Now for getting the publication list automatically. Turns out jekyll-orcid is painfully obsolete. ORCID moved to a v3 API, which quadrupled in complexity. It also stopped providing Bibtex output by default. Since I don’t really want to write a parser for XML to Bibtex, I gave up on the automatic scraping idea and will just be maintaining the Bibtex file myself.

Last bits

Finally, I am now serving locally a version of particle.js, which I use for the useless particle animation in the header. I didn’t want to rely on an external CDN, so I downloaded the library and served it locally. This way, I have more control over the performance and customization of the particles.

There’s a case to be made that the Jekyll stack is fairly outdated - Ruby isn’t the popular framework it once was. I am on the other hand trying to lean into another new year resolution - “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I often pick up new things because they’re fun instead of them just working. No longer, at least here.

I hope you like the new look and feel. Thanks for reading!