Published on

Website Migration from WordPress to Next.js & Tailwind CSS

Overview

In this blog post, I describe my experience moving justingosses.com from WordPress to Next.js & TailwindCSS.

History

I originally got the domain for justingosses.com and set up a website in early 2015. At the time, I wanted a place to establish a bit of online identity additional to my resume.

I picked WordPress as my front-end web development skills were still developing, and I was worried I'd hit a point where I'd be stuck with a static site generator or HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In retospect, I probably would have been fine with a static site generator and a little bit of JavaScript & CSS.

Over the next several years, the site never evolved into something super complicated. It's just a blog, side projects, contact page, etc. I've added some custom JavaScript for interactive bits, hacked on an existing theme, and changed small amounts of the server side PHP code, but nothing extensive.

Reasons to Change

The big drivers for me to finally move away from WordPress were:

  • Cost Annoyances
  • Don't Really Need a Server
  • Easier to try new things if content is in markdown

Cost Annoyances

I originally bought the domain and set up the website through a company that specializes in hosting WordPress pages. Like many similar services, they're very cheap the first year and then raise the price going forward. The cost raises were annoying, which eventually led to me to migrate the WordPress site to AWS and their EC2 service. Unfortunately, after several months on there, I figured out the cost savings weren't as much as I had hoped. It was still less, but not meeting my expectations.

Don't Really Need a Server

Additionally, it had long been apparent that the site didn't really need a backend. It could be 100% front-end. Having a server was just an extra cost.

The only backend services I was really using were the email associated with the domain and the comments section below blog posts. Both were nice but I could live without.

Easier to Move if Content is Markdown

Another reason to finally migrate away from WordPress is that once your blog content is in markdown, its easier to jump static site generators as they almost all use markdown. This lets me use my website to try out next website technology.

Why this Tech stack?

A static site generator approach only requires a front-end, so hosting is often either free or nearly free. Both GitHub Pages and Azure Static Web App are free services that build your webpage directly from your source code in a GitHub repository.

I have experience deploying several websites with custom domains to GitHub Pages, but I had just heard a great story about Azure Static Web Apps, so I wanted to try it out.

During Microsoft onboarding, I had been told about how Azure's 'static web app' service came about because interns pushed Microsoft exectives to add a 'static web app' service that was separate to the existing and more complicated 'Azure web app' service. Apparently, they were given permission to prototype something and now it's an actual service.

Next.js was picked as I had see a bunch of people mention it on Twitter, and I was curious about how it worked being a web development framework built on top of React.

Likewise, Tailwind CSS was picked as the CSS framework as some people really liked it and some people strongly did not. This was a good excuse as any to find out why by building something small.

After looking at several other blogs and blog templates from https://jamstackthemes.dev/ that use that combination, I decied to start from tailwind-nextjs-starter-blog by (Timothy Lin](https://github.com/timlrx) and change as needed.

How Much of a Pain Was Moving It?

Moving the Content

Honestly, the most painful part was just copy and pasting all the content from WordPress to the markdown files.

While the SimplyStatic WordPress extension does an AMAZING job at exporting WordPress sites into static HTML, it doesn't export to markdown. I probably could have found something to programmatically convert the content to markdown, but I ended up just starting copy and pasting and got too far in.

You can see exports of the previous WordPress site exported to HTML in this repository with the live site as a GitHubPages page here: https://justingosses.github.io/ . If you're every shutting down a WordPress site, the plugin is a great option for creating an archive version that can be stood up at well. There will still be 5-10% functionality that won't work, but its amazing how much it does get right.

Next.js

The learning curve on Next.js was pretty minimal as I was starting with a blog template that is already working. I did change a little bit of the JavaScript from the original theme but most of the changes were duplications, small deletions, etc. I didn't add any radical new functionality as I had no reason to do so.

TailwindCSS

Tailwind was a little bit of a pain to use at first as I initially tried to use it like traditional CSS. Others can describe it better than me, but tailwind CSS minimizes some of the cognitive load of establishing and changing a theme by leverarging intuitively named pre-made classes.

This means that at least initially, you'll sometimes not know how to phrase what you want to do in Tailwind speak and looking it up will take a bit of time. It also means if you want to do really complicated things with CSS, its probably not the best tool. However, if you only know a small to moderate amount of CSS, and find what you do know to have been incredibly frustrating to learn, it might be a tool for you. At least that was my impression after using it a tiny bit on a single project, so take that with a huge grain of salt.

Azure Static Web Apps

Azure Static Web Apps was a great experience. The initial form-based experience was intuitive. It then pre-populated the necessary GitHub Actions in my GitHub repository and everything deployment-wise and https certificate-wise wise just works. Easy.

DNS form Confusion

The only problem I had on the Azure side was a slight bit of confusion with Azure DNS. My domain name was registered with AWS and stayed there. After doing what I thought was following the directions to set up a custome domain on the Azure side, I shifted the name servers under the domain from AWS to Azure name servers.

My site went down immeidately.

It took me a while to find the problem, but it turned out I had misunderstood on input cell. I had written justingosses.com instead of nothing and as a result the Azure name servers were trying to talk to justingosses.comjustingosses.com. Obviously, didn't work as no one has that domain.

Where to File Bugs

If you find any bugs on this site, please file an issue on https://github.com/JustinGOSSES/justingosses-website and I'll add it to the backlog.

Thank you!