The E Club, for the Next Decade

June 08, 2022

The E Club has gone through two transitions since its creation: the move from its original home on the ill-fated Moogo website builder to WebStarts, and the move from WebStarts to website host FastComet. While the first transition was out of necessity - Moogo would have shut The E Club down due to changes to its business model had I not moved the site - the second was due to profound advances in The E Club's technologies that a drag-and-drop website builder could no longer keep up with. A powerful responsive design, greater client-side interactivity, a robust blog backed by WordPress, a more optimal page structure paired with speed and search engine optimizations, and more made The E Club 3.0, launched in 2016, the best version of The E Club yet and provided tighter end-to-end control over the site and the technologies supporting it.

Recently, it started becoming clear that The E Club was in need of a change yet again. The technological landscape has evolved significantly over the past six years, with cloud computing and on-demand, serverless platforms continuing to gain prominence and client-side technologies like JavaScript becoming much more robust and more cross-browser compatible (read: Chrome's browser monopoly continuing to expand), and The E Club 3.0 was not designed for such a new landscape. As a result, today, on The E Club's 13th anniversary and six years after the launch of The E Club 3.0, I am proud to introduce The E Club's biggest overhaul yet: The E Club 4.0, The E Club for the next decade.

100% Static, 100% Serverless

The E Club 3.0 was composed of a combination of server-side technologies like PHP and SQL databases running on its web servers to provide concise markup, dynamic functionality, and blog post storage, and JavaScript/jQuery running in visitors' browsers for client-side interactivity like opening the menu and playing music. Because of those dependencies (mostly the server-side ones), The E Club 3.0 could only run in an environment equipped with those server-side technologies, making its hosting less cost-effective and more centralized than would be optimal.

With The E Club 4.0, The E Club has been completely rewritten using the React JavaScript library and the Gatsby framework, shifting entirely to client-side technologies. Because of this, The E Club 4.0 could run on any static file system, like that of your computer! The E Club 4.0 now lives on Cloudflare Pages, which has proven to be much more cost-effective and decentralized than anything before it. The E Club Family has used Cloudflare as its content delivery network (CDN) for many years, so now The E Club is effectively hosted entirely on the CDN without any need to manually manage servers.

A rethought design, again

Just over a year after The E Club 3.0 launched, the site got a redesign, trading the traditional, large header banner for a sleeker, mobile-inspired menu/utility bar, and the Open Sans and Roboto fonts for solely the Lato font, working to provide one, more unified experience across screen sizes and types.

Today, The E Club 4.0 redesigns that redesign. The first new aspect you may notice is the new font, Rubik, providing a more industrial yet still friendly feel for The E Club's content; the new font will roll out across The E Club Family in the coming weeks. On larger screens, The E Club's menu is no longer hidden behind a mobile menu icon (which has also been redesigned for smaller screens), instead occupying a previously bare portion of the top bar to make navigation more accessible than ever.

The E Club 3.0 (and The E Club+ before it) was a few years ahead of its time when it introduced Dark Mode to be easier on visitors' eyes (especially at night or in a dark room) - these days, most, if not all, popular websites, apps, and operating systems include a dark mode for the same reason. Because of this, Dark Mode on The E Club 4.0 is now fully realized as a first-class citizen of The E Club's design language, matching the dark mode setting of your browser or operating system. Dark Mode has also been greatly optimized so that you no longer get a flash of "light mode" when reloading the page or navigating to another page.

The E Club Family refocuses

The E Club Family has been changing since even before the launch of The E Club 4.0, also to better prepare for the next decade. Most significantly, The E Club+ has been phased out, as the platform it ran on, Oxwall, has not seen an update in nearly six years. The E Club+ was a greatly important part of The E Club Family since 2011, when it was known as The E Club Social Beta, but now The E Club's priorities have shifted, and its technologies have advanced, to the point that social networking is no longer part of The E Club's portfolio; The E Club Social and The E Club's Facebook and Twitter were phased out as well, before The E Club+. Despite these changes, The E Club Family is continuing to evolve and expand - stay tuned for new experiments from The E Club Family.

In 2017, I said that The E Club's reimagining was just beginning, and The E Club 4.0 makes that more apparent than ever. I hope you enjoy the latest The E Club has to offer with The E Club 4.0, the culmination of The E Club's thirteen years of evolution, and look forward to what comes next.