Interlocked pieces of a completed jigsaw puzzle

The full .11ty.js monty

Going all-JavaScript with my Eleventy site

published:  April 15, 2020

Image: Hebi B.; Pixabay

Well, wouldn’t you know it? My recent post notwithstanding, this Eleventy-/webpack-based site is now using nothing but JavaScript-only templating. That means .11ty.js template files rather than .njk (Nunjucks) files.

Curious about the code itself? Check out this site’s public repository for the .11ty.js templating. If you want to see the previous Nunjucks stuff, feel free to nose around inside some of the repo’s public branches. And, if you’re of a mildly sadistic bent, the nunjucks-to-11ty-js, another-to-11ty-js, and wm-11ty-js branches in particular might amuse you as you watch me huff and puff my way through the conversion process.

For that matter: the wm-11ty-js branch actually is how I got to the point which allowed me to pull the Nunjucks-to-JavaScript switch on this here real site, rather than just futzing around with code on the local Mac. As I noted previously:

. . . it didn’t take me long to realize that I simply don’t know enough JavaScript to implement a full switchover. . . . in the end, I still was left with multiple key templates in .njk. It wasn’t so terrible, but, well, the intent had been to switch, completely. And I couldn’t.

That was what I wrote a few weeks ago. But, as my past posts have shown, your friendly post boy, here, takes his lumps from a first-time-around learning experience, nurses his wounds, and then keeps coming back until he gets it right—or, at least, as right as he can. So it was with CSS Grid, my “dance” with multiple SSGs in general and Gatsby in particular (before I wised up and came back to Eleventy, of course), and PostCSS.

And, yea verily, so it was with JavaScript-only templating.

Sticking points

That first time through the mill last month, I got the vast majority of the site on .11ty.js templating. There were specific items which prompted my comment above about the “multiple key templates” I’d failed to convert.

The paginated posts list

With this site now in the fifty-plus range where number of posts is concerned, I can’t just put up one page that lists them all, even if I made it tiny type or something like that. That just wouldn’t do. The posts list has to be a paginated list, auto-generating pages and auto-ordering listings as I add new posts.

I had carefully followed the Eleventy site’s great explanation on making such a paginated list. Only problem: it’s based on doing so in Nunjucks. And, since it’s still unusual for an Eleventy site to be all-.11ty.js (and even those which are tend not to have paginated lists in their public repos), I couldn’t find any good ways of doing it. I would have to figure it out.

And, oddly enough: I was able to do so chiefly because of my experience with Gatsby—especially my recently making public both Gatsby- and Hugo-based repos of this site. While the all-JavaScript1 code for the Gatsby version of the paginated posts list wasn’t directly transferrable, chiefly because of Gatsby’s reliance on GraphQL, there were enough similarities that I could find my way.


During the first run with mostly .11ty.js templating, I replaced webmentions by going back to Talkyard-based commenting but, on returning (briefly) to all-Nunjucks templating, I just went without any comments-displaying method whatsoever.

To be sure, it’s not like this is a widely read site on which vast hordes of visitors breathlessly await comments. (For the sake of a suffering humanity, I’d hope there is no such site, for that matter.) Still, if you search the web for any kind words about not providing some commenting in a blog or similar, personal site, you won’t find many. So I decided any all-.11ty.js approach would have to allow for webmentions, too. Unfortunately, again: I could find no code in that respect.2

Because my Nunjucks-based templates and files for webmentions had been based on very specific examples—more on that near the end—this conversion process proved to be one of the more aggravating, especially when it came to filtering the webmention dates so they wouldn’t look something like 2019-12-23T15:42:32-0600.3 When I got this part done, I knew I was nearly home.

One more thing about webmentions

Just as I previously noted, I don’t promise to keep the Gatsby- and Hugo-based repos up to date with this one. While that originally referred only to my keeping the posts up to date, which actually isn’t that hard, the re-addition of webmentions to this site now is another item which I’ll make part of those repos when (and if) I can.

The amazingly capable Chris Biscardi has come up with a Gatsby plugin for this. It’s not (yet?) listed in the official Gatsby plugins section, which gives me some pause, but I’ll probably check it out. If it’s not the answer, I’ll probably just try to adapt this site’s .11ty.js webmentions-related code for use in that repo.4

As for the Hugo repo, adding webmentions will probably be a little more hinky for two reasons:

  • First, it’s not a JavaScript-based repo, of course, so I doubt more than a tiny bit of what I’ve done will translate to it that well. Going from Nunjucks to “vanilla” JavaScript is one thing. Going from “vanilla” JavaScript to Go—ah, that’s a totally different clambake, folks.

  • Second, there’s no baked-in Hugo solution for it as there is for, say, PostCSS or syntax highlighting. However, the Hugo community is nothing if not resourceful, so there is the occasional article and forum post about incorporating webmentions in a Hugo site. I hope to find their information enough to guide me through the wilderness.


Beyond those two biggies, there were also the sitemap and the RSS feed.5 Each was handled by Eleventy plugins, and each of those plugins gave only Nunjucks-based code examples. Happily, doing so turned out to be reasonably easy, especially since I saved them for late in the process when I’d already worked through some other kerfuffles.

Credit where it’s due

As I note in my repo’s README:

I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this stuff—as even a casual reading of the site itself, not to mention this repo’s contents, probably will demonstrate pretty quickly . . .

. . . but, that said, I do hope that this post and the repo—and, yes, even those aforementioned branches thereof—will help others with Eleventy-based sites who want to take a shot at all-.11ty.js templating.

I must once again extend my highest thanks and commendations to various folks for their extremely valuable help, online code examples, and/or superb community behavior (or, as some of them might spell it, behaviour). Four stand out in particular.

Reuben Lillie

I already noted Mr. Lillie’s great example in steering us Eleventy advocates toward the path of all-.11ty.js with his own site’s fantastically well-documented repo. Then, in the days after that post, he exceeded even the already optimistic expectations I’d formed after combing that repo for code guidance and exchanging some email and tweets with him.

Not only has he since put up an additional repo, eleventy-dot-js-blog, an all-.11ty.js Eleventy starter site ready for your cloning/forking pleasure; but he also gave me far more help than I deserve last weekend—a holiday weekend—as I tried to incorporate some of that new repo’s code in a branch of this site.

He has rapidly become someone to watch in the Eleventy community, and a nicer and more helpful fellow you couldn’t find. (That mindset seems to be a feature, not a bug, in the Eleventy community, which is yet another reason I enjoy Eleventy so much.)

Max Böck and Sia Karamalegos

Mr. Böck’s “Static IndieWeb pt2: using Webmentions” and Ms. Karamalegos’s “An In-Depth Tutorial of Webmentions + Eleventy,” the latter based on the former, were the original sources of the Nunjucks-based webmentions templates I began using near the end of 2019. Thus, it was only natural that I returned to these amazingly informative posts when I chose to make .11ty.js versions of that code.

(Fortunately, I didn’t have to bug them with questions online this time, as I did the first time around a few months back.)

It was utterly critical for me to understand what key sections of the original Nunjucks code were doing, and Mr. Böck’s and Ms. Karamalegos’s patient and well-worded explanations made that possible.

Believe me, any of you who may be considering webmentions in general and Eleventy-based webmentions in particular: if I could understand what they conveyed and implement it, you can, too.

Zach Leatherman

And, of course, one must always acknowledge the guy who, you know, created Eleventy and works nearly every day on making it better, despite his having just switched Day Jobs, to make it the coolest, friendliest, most easily configured SSG out there. No biggie.

But, seriously: that great Eleventy community I mentioned earlier seems to take its cues from Mr. Leatherman, whose friendly nature and quick wit make adopting Eleventy even more pleasant than it would be anyway. As I wrote last December, Eleventy is “a good product built by a good person.”

Eleventy is by no means the best-known of the SSGs, and it is purposely not based on any framework, so it can claim no built-in base of fanboy developers—as can Gatsby because of its ties to React, or as Gridsome’s creators hope it will because of its ties to Vue. Thus, Mr. Leatherman’s continuing achievement in building and enhancing Eleventy, along with the growth and esprit de corps of the Eleventy community, are even more impressive by comparison.

Next up?

Having put this work to bed, I now will turn my attention to the task I mentioned earlier: making those Gatsby- and Hugo-based repos once again as close to this one as possible in both content and functionality.

The content part is pretty easy. I just add this post, and others as I write them (and adjust each for any tiny issues related to different SSGs’ ways of handling things).

Getting all the functionality working will be the gooey part. However, it’ll also be the fun part.

 . . . I think.

  1. Albeit that it was using React, of course, but that wasn’t the obstacle it would’ve been a few months ago before the “dance” somewhat toughened me to dealing with it. ↩︎

  2. At least, that was the case when I was doing this. I am sure there will be before long, if Reuben Lillie has anything to say about it. ↩︎

  3. If you take a look at the very bottom of this site’s footer and see an extended date there: well, that’s not what I was trying to filter. In fact, according to the webmention specs concerning microformats, that date is supposed to be formatted that way, especially so will allow everything to work as it should. ↩︎

  4. Please don’t cast bets on my ability to do so while I’m still in the room to hear the money being put down against it, OK? Basic courtesy, that’s all I ask. ↩︎

  5. If your site lacks either or both of these, you need to get at least a sitemap. It’s important for both accessibility and SEO. We can all debate how relevant RSS is these days, but the fact is that some people still like to use RSS readers. If we can still support Internet Explorer, we also can support RSS. The former should be dead but isn’t (sadly); the latter isn’t dead and, in my opinion, never should be. ↩︎

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