How To Build the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation Refugee Olympic Team Web Site with Wowchemy, Hugo, and Netlify
Overview of Major Components, followed by Step By Step Guide
How the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation website was rebuilt in February, 2021
Table of Contents
graph TD; Local-Computer -->Github; Github-->Netlify; LocalAtomEditor-->GithubEditor; GithubEditor-->LocalAtomEditor; GithubEditor-->NetlifyCMS; NetlifyCMS-->GithubEditor; All-Content-On-Local-Computer-->Mediated-and-Synchronized-By-Git; Mediated-and-Synchronized-By-Git-->All-Content-on-Github; All-Content-on-Github-->Rendered-Into-Final-HTML-Sent-To-Netlify;
The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation website is now built with content created with Hugo components, brought together in Wowchemy templates. All content is stored on Github. This content is published by Netlify. Netlify uses, or will soon use, the teglapeace.org domain name purchased from Cheapnames.
Day-to-day content is edited using a cloud editor named NetlifyCMS, with a nice “WYSIWYG” or “what you see is what you get” interface. Just log in to NetlifyCMS, and the web interface shows all the content. As you edit, it synchronizes with the content repository at Github.
For an overview of all of this, see Learn Enough Custom Domains To Be Dangerous. In the example, it uses Cloudflare rather than Netlify; we may move to Cloudflare in the future.
Wowchemy is a set of software programs or templates for creating and publishing a static website specialized for research groups and teams. Static just means that the complete website is rebuilt each time you finish editing it; all your changes are turned into new HTML, and all the website pages, now in their final HTML form, are published on the Internet immediately.
Here is a description by George Cushen of his Wowchemy project to build a framework for creating a static web site in a short outline published in December, 2020.
Here’s his promise: In this guide, you’ll learn how to create a free website for your online portfolio, resumé, or your team/organization using just your web browser.
Read his outline. In what follows, I will describe how we use his Wowchemy elements, how they fit together, what works, what is still under development, and what requires a deeper understanding of how the components are built and interact. I will link to online tutorials on software development and developer tools.
A static website doesn’t need any backend data base, or complicated backend programs to run, as Wordpress, or Wix, or other costly services require. There’s no back-and-forth conversation across the Internet. It’s just instantly accessible. And more secure, since there aren’t any programs interacting with the user.
Interaction with these directory structures, templates, and software components can be very high-level, dealing only with editing text and uploading images, or can go deeper, allowing the fine-tuning of individual components.
This discussion begins at the high level, allowing immediate editing of an existing web site, and explores the expansion and modification of the web site (and troubleshooting any errors) by a series of examples.
I have used his set of tools to recreate the teglapeacefoundation.org website as it existed in mid-2019, using snapshots taken by the Webarchive Foundation.
Overall structure of the TLPF website
Where is the content?
The master copy of the content is held in the cloud, in a massive site called Github. Millions of developers keep their code and their content in repositories in Github. Microsoft purchased Github in 2018, as a service to software developers. There are several rivals, but all use the same basic tools, named Git, to keep track of changing content. These tools are called Version Control tools. They allow software developers to keep track of every change in the text of what they write, with the power to revert to older versions if newer versions prove to contain mistakes. These Git tools allow teams of writers to work on a common text, editing together, discussing changes, and deciding what final text to adopt.
Repositories for personal use at Github are free, and for the moment, TLPF files are in a repository owned by me. I will create a TLPF repository owned by TLPF.
How can I edit the content?
Editing with the Netlify Content Management System: NetlifyCMS Editor
The content is pulled from Github by the web publishing site named Netlify. Netlify has an on-line editor, named Netlify Content Management System, or NetlifyCMS, which allows you to edit all the text, upload images, change details of what is published for biographies, or posts, or blog entries, or events, and, generally, manage all of the site content. This is where most of the day-to-day work will take place. As you change the content on NetlifyCMS, it automatically updates the main repository at Github, so everything remains synchronized.
Editing in NetlifyCMS is simple—what you see is what you get. There are a few simple visual commands, almost exactly like editors used for email. The text files are called “markdown”, and their names end in “.md”. NetlifyCMS stores them as “.md”, but shows you what looks like rich text, like Microsoft Word.
Occasionally, you will want to modify something that Netlify CMS does not let you change. There is a separate editor at Github that allows you to change almost everything. Editing is more complicated on Github, but all edits automatically synchronize with NetlifyCMS.
Editing at Github with the Github Editor
First, you need to understand the arrangement of directories at Github that contain the content. Most content is in the directory content. Text files for posts or news entries are in the directory content/posts. Text files for biographies of people are in the directory content/authors. Text files for events are in content/events.
Everything is arranged in directory and file hierarchies, as in any Unix system. You must be familiar with how that works. There are two areas to be comfortable with: the Command LIne, and the Development Environment. For an overview, see Learn Enough Command Line To Be Dangerous. And the Learn Enough Dev Environment to Be Dangerous tutorial, but skip building the Amazon Cloud and the Ruby stuff. The full courses–and all of them are great—cost money–but you can read enough of each of them to get what you need. The editing course–*Learn Enough Text Editor To Be Dangerous–*teaches how to use an extremely powerful editor, Atom, which is integrated with the fundamental Version Control tool, Git, covered in the course, Learn Enough Git To Be Dangerous.
Editing locally, with Atom and Git
Which brings us to the third way to edit all content: using the Atom editor on your local computer.
I use Macintosh, which is a Unix computer. I open Atom in the directory in my Unix file system that holds all of the sub-directories of my web site. Atom calls this directory the “Project”. When you open the Project, you see all the subdirectories, and all their contents, all the files inside them. They are exactly the same as the directories on the Github site, with exactly the same contents. What keeps them exactly the same is the Git Version Control software, that tracks every change to every file, assembles them into a “stage”, then commits the changes to a master version, and pushes them across the network to update the Github version.
After I make a change to the local content file on my local computer, using Atom, I save it. Atom keeps track of the change, and asks me to “stage” it, or put it in a ready state to be saved across the network to its Github twin. After I save, and stage, any other changes I want, I “commit” all to the final set of changed files, locally, with a message documenting what I’ve done. Now, with my local changes all assembled, I “push” all the changes across the network to Github.
If I make changes across the network in the editor at Github, to the files at Github, then I need to bring the new versions from Github to my local machine, to update the local files. I tell Atom, locally, to “pull” any changes from Github. Atom compares the timestamp of the local files to the timestamp of the remote files, and if the remote file version is newer, it pulls the remote version to the local computer, and makes all the necessary changes to ensure that the files are identical.
Git always checks for the newest version, and won’t allow an older version to overwrite a newer version. It will tell you if you can or cannot “push” or “pull”.
For greatest control of file names, directory names, and file content, Atom is easiest. You can change file names, move files around, see the content of image files, and have a complete view of your entire site. In particular, you use Atom to edit the specialized “configuration” files that describe to Hugo and Wowchemy how to make all the different components work with each other. With some effort, you can do most of that in the Github editor, except edit the “configuration” files. In NetlifyCMS, you can’t change file names or move files around, or even see the “configuration” files, but you do have the “what you see is what you get” interface. Most content editing should take place in NetlifyCMS.
Overall Site Maintenance
How can I edit the configuration files that control the overall look? TOML and YAML?
What to do with the Hugo software that converts markdown files to HTML?
When you commit a change to Github, Hugo goes to work, updating everything, changing all the files from Markdown to HTML, inserting headers and links, and finally writing all the finished HTML pages to a directory you don’t see, named “public”, which is sent to Netlify to publish.
Making sense of how a Hugo template works