Named After Women, pt. 1

Over the past year I've been working on a few side projects, with the intention of doing some write-ups here.

One of these is Named After Women, a digital humanities project that I built with Django REST Framework, React, and Leaflet.js (for the map). I won't spend too much time explaining the actual concept behind the website; you can read about that here, and if you still have questions, here.

The aim was to create my first proper full-stack app. In the past, I'd basically stuck to a reliable formula of a Django backend with a HTML/CSS template and even a bit of jQuery. While this project started out as a monorepo, it's now spread across two separate repositories: one for the backend and one for the frontend. I basically had two reasons for doing this:

  1. I rarely needed to work on both parts at once, and my poor lil MacBook Air can only handle so much at a time
  2. Given the particular hosting solutions I chose, separate deployments were the only way to make it work

All in all, it has been a lot of work, and I'm not just talking about the actual development.

For one, there was the UI design aspect, which doesn't come that easily to me. I wasn't particularly attached to a certain idea about what I wanted it to look like, and admittedly, I kind of went with the flow. But luckily there are a few good libraries out there offering pre-built components and styling, and they gave me a bit of inspiration. In this case, I went for TailwindCSS. I was surprised how much fun I've had discovering it!

The other thing — and probably the bulk of it all, to be honest — is content design and content strategy. Unlike with a blog, where you can write free-form about whatever you want, whenever you like, I realised that I'd set myself up for a massive task.

A large part of my work takes place outdoors (taking photos of street signs), and while this has the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and exploring new areas of Berlin, it is physically taxing. Then there was the research about each person, and the actual writing, then there was deciding how much information to expose, and how to organise and present it... to name just a couple of things. In the end, I got overwhelmed, and realised that unless I relaxed my expectations, this project was never going to be fulfilled in the way I wanted it to be, so I reassessed things.

It's not that I'm shying away from this; I've worked as a content manager before, and no matter how far I get in my career as a developer, I'll always consider myself a writer and translator. It's precisely because I take that sort of work so seriously that it's such a grind!

I'll probably write some dedicated posts on the technical aspects soon, but wanted to first at least introduce the project.