Extracurricular Project: MackenzieHorras.com


About a month or so ago, my old friend Mackenzie, an actress and comedienne, put out a call on Twitter for some website help. She had a professional website at some point, but it disappeared in a tragic gardening accident — kidding, I have no idea what happened to it — and she’s been sending users to her Tumblr ever since.

So I put my hand up and said, “Hey, we live in the same city and I know my way around a text editor, let’s do this!”

The first thing we agreed on was that it needed to be clean, bold and classy. The second was that the navigation needed to be dead simple. The rest mostly fell into place from there.

I used Bootstrap mostly for its scaffolding system and built-in responsiveness, but also because its default typography settings are pretty great, even though we ultimately used a different font and I added a couple hundred extra lines of CSS. But it removed most of the tedious decisions, which makes it highly recommendable for a lot of projects.

The only real challenge was that we wanted some dynamic content for show dates and to pull in her recent Tumblr updates, and I didn’t want to be editing HTML very often or devising a database/admin interface to do the very simple things we wanted. So I ended up using Tumblr and Google services as our CMS.

Pulling in the Tumblr posts was the most simple. I used jfeed to simply pull in her RSS feed and display parts of it. But tour dates needed their own system, and they’re updated pretty frequently. For that, I set up a Google Calendar and used its API to pull in the data, sort it and display it. Lastly, she wanted a spot where she could put some simple recent updates on stuff she’s been working on. I wasn’t sure what to do about that because it’s barely structured data, but ultimately I came up with the simple solution of a two-column Google spreadsheet and using the spreadsheets API to pull in the content, which was surprisingly simple. And voila! Dynamic content on static pages.

The whole thing ending up being the most elegant site I’ve ever put together, both in design and code. And if it helps my friend book a few gigs or find some new fans, that’d be even more awesome.