How to Create a Fast, Secure, and Scalable Open Source Blog with React + Markdown

Dec 7, 2016
Content marketing has been growing in popularity for years, and for good reason, **it works**.

Creating blog content is a proven source of sustainable organic traffic, and a great way to drive qualified leads.

Most companies look to WordPress, SquareSpace, or Medium for their company blogs. While these sites work for hosting blog content, they come with a number of downsides, especially if your target audience is developers.

Problems with the typical company blog setup:

  • Barriers to contribute
  • Speed & security issues (cough cough WordPress)
  • Traffic cannibalization (Medium)
  • Limited ability to customize & reuse product UI
  • Poor authoring experience for developer-focused content

This post talks about a different approach that, in my opinion, is better than the traditional blog setup.

Let's explore the 100% Open Source, Markdown & React-powered blog that you're reading.

The Serverless Blog's blog is 100% open source content driven by a GitHub repo and Markdown files.

Blog content is fed into our site and rendered with our static website generator of choice Phenomic.

Let's explore the benefits of our blog setup and how they address the problems outlined above.

1. Easier to contribute and edit posts

Well for starters, anyone with a GitHub account can submit blog post updates, typo fixes, and new content without needing a user account with our site.

On every post, including this one, users have a one-click 'Edit this post' link that lets anyone submit updates to posts.

This is great for getting streamlined contributions to our blog.

P.S. We're always looking for fresh content. Drop us a line if you're interested in contributing.

2. Better developer-focused posts

If you've ever had to write a code heavy developer-focused blog post in WordPress, it's a rather painful experience. WYSIWYG editors are extremely proficient at mangling code snippets.

On the flip side, writing in GitHub flavored Markdown makes writing and (more importantly) maintaining blog posts about code MUCH easier.

Markdown FTW! 🎉

Side note: If you're stuck with WordPress, I wrote a plugin to allow you to write in GitHub favored Markdown.

3. Unified product experience

We're using React as our frontend framework of choice for creating our serverless applications (like dashboard). This is a no-go with other blogging setups.

If we decided to blog with WordPress, we'd need to maintain 2 separate style/component libraries because WordPress can't render React components server-side. Keeping styles in sync in multiple platforms is painful and will eventually leads to an inconsistent user experience.

Luckily, our site and blog are powered by Phenomic, so we can use all of the same React components we use in our products.

Code reuse and brand consistency FTW! 🎉

4. Scale out of the box

Using a static site gives us raw scale out of the box unlike dynamic blogging platforms like WordPress.

How our static site is built:

  1. npm run build uses React's server-side rendering capabilities to build all the static HTML files for the site
  2. That's it. The site is pre-rendered for all visitors 🔥

If we get featured on the front page of the New York Times or Justin Bieber tweets about Serverless, we're sitting pretty because our site is statically served from the Netlify content delivery network.

5. Speed like Whoa 🔥

Because we're using Phenomic, which uses React + React Router under the hood, page fetching and transitions are lightning fast.

Instead of hard page reloads when navigating around the site, you get a single page app experience when navigating through site links.

Each link clicked only fetches the required data from a .json file, instead of a full HTML page like other static site generators.

Another out-of-the-box benefit with phenomic is optimistic page rendering.

This is an example of how the loading state of a blog post looks while the post's lightweight json data is being fetched.

As you can see, when navigating to any given page, the visitor gets instant feedback, so the perceived site performance feels snappy.

React + Phenomic + Static Websites are the future

Ultra scalable, fast, dynamic static websites are the future of frontend sites and I highly recommend checking out our site repo for how it's all hooked up!

You can run our site locally by:

  1. git clone
  2. npm install
  3. npm start

If I haven't convinced you yet. Tweet at me @DavidWells and I will yell at you.

I'm planning a series of posts illustrating how the site is built.

For now, checkout the github repo.

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