New Blog!

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021
by tyler
Making a simple blog in less than 100 lines of express.js code that is lightweight and easy to maintain.

In the past couple weeks I have been working on a new application at my day job where we decided to implement it with server-side rendering using Handlebars, a templating engine, in conjuction with Node.js. I mentioned to my co-worker that I had been looking to make my own site for a blog, but wanted something as simple as possible to not get bogged down by tooling. He showed me a short function used with a Node.js library marked.js which converted markdown to html:

const markdown = (postId) => {
  const file = path.join(process.cwd(), 'posts', `${postId}.md` )
  return marked(readFileSync(file).toString('utf-8'))

And simple to use with handlebars after registering the helper function:

    {{{ markdown postId }}}

To style the pages, I started with marx a classless css reset that I like the look of. A css reset allows me to get a good starting point for a project without having to learn how a particular css framework's classes behave. Markdown outputs all the <h2>, <p>, and <ul> tags (and many more) that I need to get a presentable html5 document. I added a few classes of my own to put everything how I wanted it, and it's ready to be seen.

The hard part

Being a developer, making a decision on how to implement things can be harder than the implementation itself. I was originally thinking about spinning up a database and adding all my posts there, but with my few (1) posts and not being a fervent writer, there are easier ways. I have my post desctiptions and data in a single json file:

    "posts": [{
        "id": "new-blog",
        "title": "New Blog!",
        "author": "tyler",
        "subtitle": "Making a simple blog in less than 100 lines of express.js code that is lightweight and easy to maintain.",
        "summary": "Too many technologies for the simplest concept",
        "tags": ["dev", "express", "web", "js", "blog"],
        "created": "January 20th, 2020",
        "pic": ""
    }, {
        // next post, etc...

and a couple of short functions to query it:

const { posts } = JSON.parse(readFileSync('posts.json'))

const getPost = (postId) => posts.find(post => === postId)

const getPosts = ({ page = 1, tag }) =>
    .filter(post => tag ? post.tags.includes(tag) : true)
    .slice((page - 1) * PAGE_SIZE, page * PAGE_SIZE)

and then I render the markdown file as html and serve it up.


I write each post in Markdown, and use a syntax highlighter (hightlight.js) for all of the code. I just need to add the post's metadata to the json file for every new post. There's no use in going overboard with a CMS or anything of the sort. I just commit, deploy and I'm ready to go!

Full example source code available here.

Note: This was originally written in January of 2020 but I never got around to publishing it.

Tags: dev  express  web  js  blog