It was at the December 2019 STC India conference that I had enrolled for the Docs as Code workshop. I had never worked with Git and GitHub and was excited to learn something new. Though I was clueless about these new concepts, I managed to grasp what was taught at the session. I loved the way speakers walked us through all the steps. It didn’t matter if the audience knew Git or not. This was the first time I was introduced to Git, GitHub, and Static Site Generators (SSGs).
After attending the workshop, I wanted an opportunity to apply what I have learned. I saw many Help sites that used Git and SSGs but was unaware about how to get started. I started to do some more research into it. That is when I stumbled upon JAMstack sites. I studied more about it to find out that it is similar to what we call Docs as Code. I was determined to learn more about it and create something on my own.
Shortly thereafter, I received an opportunity to use my Docs as Code knowledge. A client wanted to build a Help site from scratch using Git and GitLab. I was grabbed this opportunity to extend my learning. The client wanted us to write the content and also build the site and suggest hosting options.
I had never worked on anything else other than writing content. I had limited knowledge of Git commands from what I learned from the workshop and the subsequent self-learning. This was my opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and do something different. Something I haven’t even tried before.
I started researching GitLab and about building a Help site. There were some very good references on the internet. Finally, we chose to use Docsify as a Site Generator and write our help topics in Markdown using the Atom editor.
It was a challenge compiling the topics and creating a doc site in a manner that we had pictured in our head – so that users could quickly see the list of topics and navigate to each easily. My colleagues, who had some former experience in Git, helped us to initially set things up. We successfully built the site on our local machine.
The next step was to look at hosting options for the Help site. While working on the Help site, I was also working on preparing a Proof of Concept that we can showcase as a help site hosted on the web. That is when I learned about Stackbit, which is a JAMstack site builder. I was building my own website that allowed me to make mistakes, get stuck, learn, and improvise. Just like while playing cricket, it was my net practice to perform better in the actual game.
I used Git, and Jekyll as SSG. I also worked at the code level to make changes in the CSS or create new topics at code level. I played around with as many knobs and dials, trying out different things and learning as each challenge appeared before me.
I chose Netlify as a hosting option. The final result was that I had my own hosted website and a POC that I could show to the client!
In our next meeting with the client, I showed him the content we completed so far and also demoed hosting the Help site using Netlify. I briefed the client about the various tweaks that can be made as required. As a POC, I showed him my final website that I created. It has a paid domain and is hosted using Netlify. He was very impressed and mentioned that his team will explore more about it. I was happy to know that I did go above and beyond his expectations. I proved that Technical Writers are not just content creators but innovators who can never stop learning. We blend writing and technology to provide the best customer experience.
I am very thankful for this opportunity I received during my tenure at Technowrites. I would encourage everyone to do something that you have never done. It will always level-up your experience and add new things in your arsenal.
Keep learning and exploring!