Meet Jack McDade – The man behind the new Laravel site design
The Artisan Files / February 06, 2015

Meet Jack McDade – The man behind the new Laravel site design

Jack McDade

With every major Laravel release so far, the Laravel.com site gets a facelift. This year was no different and the design is brilliant. I was impressed from the first time I seen it and my favorite part is the code blocks. They are so well done they look like images.

This new design was made possible by Jack McDade. Jack has been using Laravel for over a year now and happily stepped up to build the new site and give it back to the framework.

Jack also owns the popular flat-file CMS system Statamic, the interactive studio Wilderborn, and co-runs BuildGuild.

This week I’m happy that Jack let us interview him in the Artisan Files series to give us a little back story on this new design, his products, and what he enjoys about Laravel.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How’d you get into web development?

I started off wanted to go to film school. I had been accepted to Full Sail down in Orlando, but then met this girl. You know how it goes. So I decided to stick around for college and the closest degree program I could find to cinematography was marketing. Yeah. In my head it went Film > Commercials > Advertising > Marketing. So I was in the chain, and maybe I’d get there the long way.

Nope. Marketing is something else entirely. No one told me. But all was not lost. I realized what I loved even more than film (and inevitable harsh realities that lived in that track as well) was simply creating things. I dabbled with building websites with whatever tools I could get my hands on (probably Macromedia Dreamweaver at the time) and was hooked. I finished college, kept teaching myself how to code and design things, and eventually found my way into a Marketing Strategist / Interactive Developer hybrid role at an agency.

It wasn’t long before I managed the shirk the marketing side completely and just keep creating things. A number of jobs and 4 years of self-employment later, I’m still doing it, and enjoy it more than ever.

You created Statamic, what was the driving force behind wanting to build it?

I really wanted a solution to building and maintaining a site that let me version control everything. The configuration, the content, the templates, all of it. I was tired of playing the database up/down game trying to sync dev with production, clicking a thousand checkboxes and dealing with all the un-automatable configuration every site needed.

So I designed Statamic to solve those problems without sacrificing all the flexibility I loved in the CMSes I used at the time. A Static and Dynamic CMS (hence the name).

I really like Statamic and recommend it. To those not familiar with it why should they check it out?

Statamic really just gets out of your way. You can build a site with blogs, news, events, or whatever dynamic content you want, version control the whole thing, push to deploy on production, all without touching a control panel. But for when you need a non-technical person to make updates, it’s there waiting for you. Assuming you hooked it up, of course.

I keep saying and people keep telling me, building sites with Statamic is just really kinda fun. Like when you were first learning how to build the web and you tried stuff and it worked, and it just made you happy. Plus we use some of the same PHP components as Laravel, so there you go. A bonus.

You’ve been using Laravel on some of your internal infrastructure. What’s your favorite Laravel feature?

I love events. We built a custom forum-like solution that integrates with our user accounts and an upcoming marketplace, and it’s just amazing how clean and organized your code can be when you listen for events rather than just hanging piles of code off lists of conditions. Also, who doesn’t love Eloquent? I mean, come on.

Can you tell us about the new Laravel site?

Laravel 5 Site
New Laravel 5 Site

Taylor and I chatted about his vision for the site and he really wanted to convey the idea that Laravel is a lightweight framework. I think some people assume because it does so much that it must have a huge footprint, but it really doesn’t. You can use as much or as little of it as you want.

So the design is as open and light and white as possible to give you that feeling. The code samples are light instead of dark, the homepage opens with a 100% height panel and a lot of whitespace. There are even clouds in that little 10x bar at the top. Yeah it’s all subtle, but I think it all works together to give you the right feeling about Laravel. Which is, you should totally use it for your next project. Unless you need a CMS, in which case you should totally use Statamic. ;)

What are your must have desktop and mobile apps?

Jack's Desktop
Jack’s Desktop

I couldn’t survive without Slack for team communication. It’s the best. Beyond that I’m pretty flexible, but I use:

  • Sublime Text 3 for coding
  • Photoshop for design work
  • Airmail 2 for email
  • Rdio for my music
  • Twitter for Mac
  • Chrome
  • F.lux to color balance my monitors based on the time of day (seriously, if you don’t use F.lux you need to)
  • Size Up to quickly position my app windows
  • JiTouch + Magic Pad for gestures and whatnot

For mobile, I don’t really use anything interesting. Tweetbot.

Finally being in the CMS industry, how do you see it changing over the next 5 years?

I think we’re going to see more niche platforms to solve common sets of problems. Like Koken for photography or Cinematico for video. I also think the control panels are going to need to keep improving to keep with end-user hosted systems like Squarespace. It’ll definitely be interesting to see where we take the ship, don’t you think?

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