Setting up my development environment

Setting up my development environment

How I learned to stop worrying and love the command prompt.

Bulent Yusuf · 3 minute read

The brief was simple: to build a website from modular components. I wanted to bring together standalone elements like a Content Management System, a Static Site Generator and hosting provider through the magic of APIs. The grand result would be a site that was performant and secure.

But there was another element to this challenge I set myself, which was to embrace my limitations. I’m not a a web developer by any stretch of the imagination. I know my way around HTML and CSS, and have dabbled a bit in JavaScript, but this knowledge is more than a decade behind current best practices and methodology.

Rather I would approach this challenge as an editor, which is what I am by profession. That meant exploring the low code options available, a.k.a. simple push button deployments using the traditional graphical user interface.

I know what you’re thinking. What about a “no code” option? I couldn’t find one (though I’m still looking). So that meant following the low code path as far as it would take me, then diving into scary bits of code when it was completely unavoidable.

And wouldn’t you know it, I pretty much had to do this from the outset! Staring at shimmering green digits hovering above the inky black depths of a terminal window… Ugh.

The basis of this irrational fear is what I was taught in the earliest days of IT classes at school. The wrong command in a terminal could literally DESTROY your computer system. These warnings are still in circulation today.

But today there are guardrails around a terminal to make that less of a possibility. And the available documentation for my chosen project is pretty decent, so much so that it takes the anxiety out of stepping into the unknown.

Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash.

Digging into the docs

This guide from Gatsby is what I would recommend to absolute beginners. Why? Because it takes a step back from your immediate goal (to build a website), and tells you the fundamental tools you first need to achieve it.

And like every good piece of technical documentation, it has you covered regardless of whether you’re using a PC, Mac, or Linux OS. It’s important to note the differences; the command line terminal in a Mac doesn’t behave the same as one on a PC, and vice versa.

My development setup hews very closely to what’s outlined in the guide:

The non-mandatory guidance to install a package manager called Brew is a top tip, by the way. My addendums to the above:

And that’s it! Once you’ve run through the docs and installed the above tools to your local machine, you’re ready to get going with your site building in earnest.

There are some extra CLI tools available for hosting providers, but their standard web interfaces are sophisticated enough that you probably won’t need them.

If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s that you shouldn’t be wary of the command line. It’s good to venture outside of your comfort zone every now and then.