Building My Site Part II: Setup

In the first part of this series I talked about the decisions that led to using the likes of Craft and Laravel Mix. So now it’s time to get it all up and running.

# Craft

At the moment, while Craft is in it’s release candidate stage, it’s only available as a Composer package. This is set to change once it’s ready for a wider release.

I’m using Valet for local development, but you can use whatever suits your workflow provided it meets the requirements, with the main ones being PHP >;= 7 and either MySQL 5.5+ or PostgreSQL 9.5+. It’s worth looking at the full list of requirements to see what PHP extensions are required as well.

To get a starter project installed, you can run:

composer create-project -s RC craftcms/craft PATH_TO_YOUR_PROJECT

And within your new project you’ll find the file .env.example which you can rename to .env. This is where you’ll fill in your database details, along with any other secrets you want to keep from prying eyes. (If this is going in a git repo, make sure you add .env to your .gitignore.)

Finally, then, visiting your new site will prompt the installation wizard to begin which you can follow through to install Craft.

# Plugins

Already, Craft 3 has quite a collection of great plugins and I wasted no time in going through them. To be honest, I only had a few ideas of the things I needed, the rest fell into my life as I figured they’d be nice to have.

  • Contact Form - "Add a simple contact form to your Craft CMS site"
  • HTTP2 Server Push - "Automatically add HTTP2 Link headers for CSS, JS and image assets."
  • Typogrify - "Typogrify prettifies your web typography by preventing ugly quotes and ‘widows’ and more"
  • Mix - "Helper plugin for Laravel Mix in Craft CMS templates."
  • Doxter - "Markdown Editor & Parser for Craft 3."
  • Redirect Manager - "Manage 301 and 302 redirects with an easy to use user interface."
  • Mailgun - "Mailgun integration for Craft CMS."
  • Pic Puller - "Integrate Instagram into Craft CMS."
  • Scout - "Craft Scout provides a simple solution for adding full-text search to your entries. Scout will automatically keep your search indexes in sync with your entries."

# Entries and Templates

For the most basic setup, I needed a way to create and display posts. To get started, I went to Settings >; Sections and created a new section called Posts. The section type was left as Channel and I updated the Entry URI Format to {slug} and the template to posts/_entry.

Next, I needed to create a field for this section to store my post content. Back we go to settings and then Fields to click New Field. I gave it the name of Post Content which generated the handle postContent which I’ll use in the templates to get the content. After this, I set the field type as Doxster to use Markdown.

Finally, I go back to `Settings >; Sections` and add an entry type to Posts. From here I used the drag and drop editor to assign my `postContent` field to the section.

After adding some posts from my old setup, it was then time to dig into the template. Remember when I added the `posts/_entry` information to the template field for the section? Craft maps this to your templates directory, so creating the folder `posts` and the template `_entry.twig` inside it will work to display a single post. At it's most basic, it looks like this:

{% extends 'layouts/default' %}

{% block content %}
    <h1>{{ entry.title | typogrify }}</h1>

    <time datetime="{{ }}">{{ entry.postDate | date('d M Y') }}</time>

      {{ entry.postContent | typogrify }}
{% endblock %}

The layouts/default file is essentially our html, head and body tags which surround our post template. Within the body, you’ll have `` which will signal to Twig to drop the above in that spot.

Next up, I needed to create a listing of those posts on my homepage, so I created the file index.twig in the root of the templates folder and added the following:

{% extends 'layouts/default' %}

{% block content %}

  {% paginate craft.entries.section('posts').limit(6) as pageInfo, pageEntries %}

  {% for entry in pageEntries %}
            <a href="/{{ post.slug }}">{{ post.title | typogrify }}</a>
          <time datetime="{{ }}">{{ post.postDate | date('d M Y') }}</time>

                {{ post.postContent | striptags | slice(0, 360) | raw }}&amphellip

  {% endfor %}

  {% if pageInfo.prevUrl %}
        <a href="{{ pageInfo.prevUrl }}">Previous Page</a>
  {% endif %}

  {% if pageInfo.nextUrl %}
        <a href="{{ pageInfo.nextUrl }}">Next Page</a>
  {% endif %}

{% endblock %}

I added in some filters like striptags, slice and raw for the post preview to display a little excerpt from the post content. With that, the basic site was up and running.

# Laravel Mix

Alright, the data is flowing through the templates like the life-blood that it is. Next I needed to inject some styling into the site, peppered with some JavaScript for a few cool interactive features.

You could argue that for something simple, webpack just isn’t needed, and you’d be absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with a single CSS file and a few script tags since that’s what it all boils down to anyway. I wanted to use some features of JavaScript that needed something extra for them to work across multiple browsers. I felt it would be conducive to a more scalable codebase when things get tacked-on down the line. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to give it a go.

Laravel Mix makes it easy to get started in any web project, as seen in the installation docs it’s not just for Laravel.

For example, if I want to have my JavaScript & Less transpiled I can do the following in my webpack.mix.js file:

const mix = require('laravel-mix')

    .js('web/src/js/main.js', 'assets/js')
    .less('web/src/less/app.less', 'assets/css')

It kinda reminds me of Gulp a little bit, and you can always extend it further with plugins or other configuration options.

With that, I can run npm run watch to watch my files for changes. In my deployment script I have npm run production for an optimised build.

# Just Keep Swimming

So with that, I had a Craft installation set up with my posts, templates were set up to display them, and I had a build process for my assets.

There’s still more to do, such as fine-tuning for performance, which I’ll cover in a later article. For now though, we have a pretty good start!

Read Part III: Fine Tuning

cms craft twig