Rebuilding my blog with Eleventy and TailwindCSS

I've been wanting to get back into writing for some time now. But I was not satisfied with my existing blog built using Hugo and basic CSS. So I decided to rebuild my blog using Eleventy and TailwindCSS and write about it.

There were three primary problems I wanted to address:

  1. I wanted a simpler setup than I had with Hugo in terms of configuration and folder structure.
  2. I wanted a setup that I could easily extend to eventually show off my photos and music in a nice way. While Hugo has a decent ecosystem, I found it lacking for my needs.
  3. I wanted to change parts of the design but dreaded using CSS, especially extending my old CSS.

Let's look at the tools I decided to use to solve these problems.


Let's start with the first problem. I stumbled upon Eleventy and was immediately intrigued by its simplicity. One of my favourite design principles is that simple things should be simple, and complex things should only be as complex as they are themselves. In other words, we want to avoid accidental complexity.

Eleventy hits the mark by its tweetable setup:

npm install -g @11ty/eleventy
echo '# Page header' >

In comparison, the basic setup for Hugo involves multiple folders and files which confused me every time I would come back after a long hiatus. With Eleventy, the structure is only as complex as you need it to be.

Let's address the second problem. Eleventy is built in Javascript and thereby comes with a large ecosystem targeted for the web. While I haven't started experimenting with the relevant plugins, it seems like there are ample options to choose from.

Tailwind CSS

The third and final problem relates to CSS. I had written the CSS for the previous iteration of my blog myself, but I did not particularly like the process. The traditional approach to CSS quickly becomes an intertangled mess unless you really know what you are doing. With the reuse of complex classes and cascading effects, it reminds of writing effectful object-oriented code with inheritance hierarchies. Something which I've left behind a long time ago (and for good reason) now that I mostly work in Haskell and Rust.

Since creating the last iteration of my blog, I've been introduced to utility-first CSS "frameworks" such as Tachyons and TailwindCSS, and I found them to be quite intriguing (I decided to go with Tailwind as it is more polished, but Tachyons has some unique ideas on its own). The basic idea with these frameworks is that each class has a single function or utility, which you combine to get the desired styling by adding them to an HTML element. The way I see it is that you move the composition of design elements from CSS to HTML. So instead of:

.btn {
background-color: black;
color: white;
padding: 0.5rem;
/* <button class="btn">Click me!</button> */

You do:

<!-- Tailwind CSS -->
<button class="bg-black text-white p-2">Click me!</button>

So why is this preferable?

Context switching

Since you only work in HTML, you have fewer context switches, each of which is detrimental to your productivity. Every time you switch from HTML to CSS or back your brain has to adjust, which uses up its scarce resources.

Double compositioning / composition confusion

With traditional CSS I often find myself thinking:

The primary problem is that there are two places in which design elements can be composed: in CSS and HTML.

With utility-based CSS frameworks, the decision between composing in CSS and HTML disappears and so does the naming problem. Again, this helps with your productivity by reducing the noise of unnecessary decisions.

Sane defaults and plugins

There are a lot of different ways to achieve the same things in CSS. Choosing the "best" approach requires some research. For example, should I use px, em, rem? Tailwind comes with sane defaults to most of these questions. This frees up your mind to simply think about how it looks.

And if Tailwind doesn't offer a solution, there are lots of plugins you can reach for, which might.

Dark mode

With Tailwind, having a dark and light mode of your website is a breeze. You simply add a dark: prefix to classes you want to be applied in dark mode. For example, this button is black with white text in light mode, and white with black text in dark mode. Easy.

<button class="bg-black dark:bg-white
text-white dark:text-black

Click me!

Workflow improvements with Eleventy

What follows is a bag of tips and tricks that I found or created for this website. Feel free to be inspired (or tell me why my solution sucks ;D).

Reloading page on PostCSS compilations

Tailwind recommends the use of PostCSS. I added default classes for the HTML elements generated from the post files written in markdown. While developing the design, I wanted changes to the PostCSS file to cause the page in the browser to reload, so that I could see the effect. You can get Eleventy to watch for file changes and automatically rebuild your site, but watching the PostCSS file did not work. The reason was that Eleventy would reload the site before the PostCSS compiler could finish generating the new CSS.

My solution was to make Eleventy watch for changes in generated CSS:

Step 1: To run PostCSS along with Eleventy, with both of them watching and rebuilding your site automatically, add this start script to your package.json:

"scripts": {
"start": "eleventy --serve & postcss pcss/tailwind.pcss --o generated_css/style.css --watch --verbose"

This puts the generated CSS into generated_css/style.css.

Step 2: We don't want to include generated content in our git repository, so add the folder to your .gitignore:

# PostCSS output

Step 3: By default, Eleventy does not watch files listed in your .gitignore, but we can disable that behavior in .eleventy.js. While we're at it, we will also tell Eleventy to copy the generated CSS folder into our site:

module.exports = function (eleventyConfig) {
eleventyConfig.addPassThroughCopy({ "generated_css": "css" });

Step 4: With the change in the ignore behaviour, Eleventy will suddenly start compiling any markdown files it finds. Including the ones from node_modules/. Luckily, Eleventy also ignores files listed in .eleventyignore. Create the file and add the following:

And that's it!


I wanted to have a draft feature similar to the one in Hugo, where you can add draft: true to the front matter of posts to mark them as drafts. Drafts are then excluded when building the site unless you add a special flag. Inspired by this blog post, I created my solution, but with one extra feature: a toggle for including/excluding the drafts.

In your .eleventy.js file add the following (assuming your posts are located in posts/):

const includeDrafts = true; // Toggle this to include/exclude drafts in development mode.
const isDevelopment = !process.env.ELEVENTY_PRODUCTION;
const postsToShow = (post) => isDevelopment && includeDrafts || !;

eleventyConfig.addCollection("posts", function(collectionApi) {
return collectionApi.getFilteredByGlob("posts/*.md")

By toggling the includeDrafts variable, you decide whether drafts, i.e. posts with draft: true, should be included when in development mode.


I've been quite satisfied with my choice of stack and I am looking forward to making tweaks and improvements as I go.

Feel free to take a look at the source code for my website on GitHub.

Or look at the resources I used:

Until next time,

— Kasper