SHPE San Francisco site makeover

12 December 2014

I’m happy to announce that R3DM’s first project is done! It’s live at

La versión Español de este post esta aqui.


For this project we originally went with GhostJS. We ran into issues in two main ways. When we first asked the developers about how to get ghost going on heroku we didn’t get much help. There are many blog posts floating around the blogosphere regarding how to accomplish this but it didn’t seem like GhostJS was interested in this usecase.

Secondly, once we got past the cosmetic stage - implementing our design as a ghost theme - we found that adding custom server side code fell under App territory. And that ghost’s App API was still under heavy development. Since then it seems like they’ve made more progress on that front Ghost App.

When we ran into these roadblocks we explored KeystoneJS. Keystone is a fairly new project as well but we were happy to see that it was built using Node.js, Mongoose, Mongodb and Express - technologies we were already familiar with.

The first step was to recompile our ghost theme from Handlebars to Jade. Keystone uses Jade. After we did that we cleaned up the generated files and started familiarizing ourselves with Keystone’s project structure.

Our first major server side functionality was importing Events data from Facebook’s Graph API. We originally attempted to build a Facebook app so we could manage SHPE’s events through our website. But we had difficulty getting Facebook to understand exactly what it was we wanted to do (they rejected our application twice). So we went with plan B and built our functionality using the parts of the api that don’t require elevated privileges. The result being that an administrator would first have to create the facebook event (as normal) then grab the event_id from the url and paste it into our site. No additional work for the group administrator.

For our build strategy we use Gulp and Bower.

The images are stored using Cloudinary. Which was surprisingly nice. They have a freemium model and perform image manipulations on the fly by simply modifying the URL you use to request images.

For analytics we use Google Analytics. A must to measure web traffic, SEO and demographics.


This is the first project where I used Stylus. Coming from a rails background I was already familiar with Sass and found Stylus very interesting. The features are mached almost one-to-one with subtle differences. I find it hilarious when I asked a peer why stylus is better than sass - we both shrugged. It just feels better and more inline with the Javascript way of doing things. It may only be due to the fact that it’s an NPM module instead of a gem.

I really enjoy the conditional assignment operator. I was first exposed to it while evaluating Kuoto-Swiss a Compass-like response for Stylus. We used Kuoto-Swiss to handle css vendor prefixing for styling our form’s placeholder text.

styling placeholder text
Italicized placeholder text

I’m really looking forward to learning more about stylus’s advanced features in the future.

We also originally built our frontend using Pure.css. At the time it seemed like a good framework. Small and simple. We quickly switched over to Bootstrap due to it’s responsive navigation bar. I’m all for learning a lot but it seemed silly to rebuild a responsive navbar when Bootstrap’s is already so great.

Other things we used:


One of the single most attractive features of Keystonejs is it’s AdminUI.

Keystone's admin ui
Keystonejs's adminUI

Keystone bills itself as a Content Management System. If it achieves even a fraction of how big Wordpress is, that would be amazing. Delivering a site with a CMS is amazing for client work. You’re basically delivering a piece of software - a website or mobile app - that can be used by a nontechnical person. This keeps costs low for the client. And the developers aren’t bogged down by small changes desired by the clients. It empowers the customer!


If you’re interested in a custom built site - perhaps you have an idea for a cool new phone app or would like to automate some task so your employees can do real work - get in touch. R3DM is always looking for new and interesting work.

If you need help solving your business problems with software read how to hire me.

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