Firebase! - T.U.S.T.A.C.R. Part 2

Written by Pete Corey on Oct 1, 2014.

After building out the frontend for thisurlshortenertotallyandcompletely.rocks, I was in need of a backend. I recently heard about Firebase, and figured it would be a perfect fit for this project. Check out a quick video overview and my rundown below:

Up And Running

I was blown away at how quickly I could get up and running with Firebase. With two lines of Javascript, I was persisting data to a server. I can’t find the words to describe how awesome this felt.

var ref = new Firebase("<endpoint>");
ref.set({hello: 'world'});

De-normalizing my Data

Most of my experience is with relational databases, not MongoDB style document stores or “NoSQL” databases. Because of that, my initial reaction is to see denormalized schemas as “wrong”. It took a good amount of time to convince myself that mirroring my data in two separate collections was the right way to go about things.

I played with the idea of somehow using Firebase priorities to get around this, but in the end I realized I couldn’t lookup data by URL and key without two separate collections. This is definitely just a mental shift that I need to get over when working with this style of database.

WebSockets!

One of the coolest things I found while playing with Firebase was the use of WebSockets to push events down to the client. I can see this being a huge deal when combined with something like AngularJS (AngularFire). Three way binding from the DOM all the way up to the database? Yes please!

I’ve been imagining something like a CQRS style system where commands are implemented as explicit calls (maybe even traditional REST PUT/POST/DELETE requests?) to the server, but all of the querying is done using Firebase style WebSocket endpoints that can automatically listen for data changes. I’m still fleshing these ideas out, but I’ll definitely be thinking more about this kind of thing in the future.

T.U.S.T.A.C.R

So that’s it! thisurlshortenertotallyandcompletely.rocks is finished and live. Watch out bitly, there’s a new sheriff in town!

Check out the project on github!

Frontend Workflow - T.U.S.T.A.C.R. Part 1

Written by Pete Corey on Sep 24, 2014.

I recently discovered Firebase, and I’m pumped about it. I wanted to make a small project to try it out, so I figured I’d make a URL shortener. Now, I’m pretty confident that this URL shortener is going to totally and completely rock, so I decided to name it thisurlshortenertotallyandcompletely.rocks. So, with a new small project in the works, I figured that this would be a great time to document my usual front-end workflow. You can see an overdubbed timelapse of the process and read through some of my thoughts about it below.

Sketch In the Browser

I’m a big fan of “sketching” in the browser. My usual workflow involves laying out my base DOM elements and applying some rough styles to get them behaving how I want. After that’s done, I like to open the page in Chrome and start playing with the styles using the Chrome Dev Tools. The immediate feedback is invaluable. Once I land on styles that I like, I’ll clean them up and organize them into my CSS/LESS/SASS files.

CSS Generators

When I’m in a hurry, or want to mock something up quickly, I tend to use online CSS generators (css3factory, css3gen). The visual feedback they give me is pretty useful when I’m designing-as-I-go. I used a few during the couple hours I spent on this project.

Responsiveness

On this project, I built the desktop version of the site first and added smaller viewport style changes at the end of the build. After the desktop layout was finished, I simply resized the browser until I found points where the content no longer worked. By “no longer worked”, I mean things like the header looked too large in proportion to the rest of the page, or where text was wrapping or overflowing, or where an element was pushed off of the screen, etc… When I found these places, I added media queries targeting that resolution to fix the issue.

Cross Browser Testing

I’m a huge fan of BrowserStack and I use it for all of my browser and device testing. Unless I am working on a potentially hairy feature, this is usually the last step in my process. I’ll run the site through each of the browsers I’m building for, look for issues, fix, rinse and repeat.

How to Improve

Looking back, there are lots of places where I can improve this workflow. First thing’s first, I should really ditch sketching in the browser in favor of some kind of LiveReload setup. This would eliminate the need to copy styles out of the browser and back into my codebase, and it would totally eliminate the mental context switching I have to do jumping from my browser to my editor.

I should also take more advantage of LESS mixin libraries. I tend to use online generators because of the visual interaction, but a LiveReload setup combined with a nice mixin library might make up for the lack of visual feedback. At the very least, I should transform the CSS I get from generators back into a LESS mixin for readability and maintainability.

Check out the final UI here. I’m planning on building out the Firebase/AngularJS/AngularFire “backend” next week. Stay tuned for another video and a blog post.

Namecheap + Amazon S3

Written by Pete Corey on Sep 23, 2014.

I recently wanted to point a domain I had registered on Namecheap (www.thisurlshortenertotallyandcompletely.rocks) to a static site I was hosting on Amazon S3. The whole process was fairly painless. Check it out:

  1. Create a new S3 bucket.
  2. Upload your content to the bucket.
  3. Add a bucket policy to allow anonymous read access to all objects in the bucket:
{
    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
        {
            "Sid": "AddPerm",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Principal": "*",
            "Action": "s3:GetObject",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::www.thisurlshortenertotallyandcompletely.rocks/*"
        }
    ]
}
  1. Enable website hosting on the bucket. Save the endpoint generated for you. You’ll need this to set up your Namecheap CNAME alias.
  2. Browse to the alias and make sure that your site is working as expected.
  3. Now on Namecheap, select the domain you want to link to your S3 bucket.
  4. Go into “All Host Records”.
  5. Add a CNAME alias to the endpoint of your bucket.
  6. Have a beer.

I hope that helps.