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Creating a modern wedding website in 2022 Part 1: Choosing the tools

· 5 min read
Paul Armstrong
Multi-part series

In the introduction to this series, we covered the rationale for building a custom wedding website, as well as the requirements that we laid out for ourselves.

Now that we know what we need, it’s time to choose the right tools for the job. From our previously set requirements, the following items stood out as important for what we choose here:

  • Free or very cheap hosting with a custom domain and SSL
  • Invitees must be able to
    • Sign in with their email address and no password (magic link email)
    • Receive automated emails for their invitation and RSVP confirmation
  • All significant information must come from a protected database

Hosting & backend

Google Firebase

I’ve used Google Firebase before, but never deployed a full web application for it. It has always been a bit more tailored for native mobile apps, but I have seen that they’ve worked really hard in making the web tools top-notch.

Downsides

  • Locking in to Google
  • Worse, Firebase is full lock-in and you can’t just replace the API with a different REST of GraphQL endpoint like you could with Amplify. Maybe you could refactor out to Supabase or another similar alternative, but your options are still very limited.
  • Despite efforts to trim bundle sizes, Firebase JavaScript packages still come in pretty hefty.

Blockers

There are no blockers given the requirements that I initially laid out.

Alternatives considered

Hosting and backend framework evalutation can get long and tiring. I considered a few others otuside of Google Firebase – at least one of them I had initially thought I would end up using before considering Firebase.

Click to expand altneratives considered ↕

AWS Amplify

Initially, I had hoped to be able to try out AWS Amplify. It would be an opportunity to learn something new that I hadn’t worked with before. It has a free tier and I thought it should cover everything that I wanted. Unfortunately there were roadblocks from the start.

Downsides
  • The documentation pushed me through a web wizard. This wizard, while neat and provided a small overview to me of what might be capable, I tend to only really learn by doing and writing code. I did find the docs I needed eventually by searching for "AWS Amplify getting started JavaScript".
  • "To set up the project, we’ll first create a new React app with create-react-app" -- I don’t want create-react-app! Where are the instructions to do this differently?
  • Everything in their documentation kept pushing me at @aws-amplify/ui-react. It seemed basic enough, but wanting to get this together quickly, I didn’t want to also learn another UI component framework.
  • Locking in to Amazon
  • It seemed like Amplify is really just a little piece of the Amazon puzzle and I’d mostly need to string a bunch of services together, eg SES for sending emails.
Blockers

Unfortunately, there were a number of blockers that came up for me during investigation and prototyping:

  • It’s not possible to sign in with just an email address.
  • I really didn’t want to use GraphQL, even if it’s the "new hotness". That’s just overkill for what I was looking to do.
  • REST might have been okay, but also still overkill needing to pick & choose the right tools to fetch data and manage state.

Supabase

I would have liked to have tried Supabase since it's open-source and free. However, I didn't dive too far into it after the two blockers that I found:

  • Cloud functions are only experimental and very limited
  • No automated HTML email sending available

Parse Platform

Parse is another open source platform that I looked at briefly. Unfortunately, it had too many blockers to consider even prototyping.

  • No email sending available
  • It’s not possible to sign in with just an email address.
  • Hosting limitations and potential cost
    • Hosting a Parse Platform application would either require a lot of setup and cost with another provider, or using [Back4App's free plan](https://www.back4app.com/compare-all-plans, which doesn't appear to have SSL.

Application frameworks & tools

Preact

I could have used React, but I initially wanted to see how small I could keep the build size and didn’t think I'd need any of the extra weight from React for such a small site.

Tailwindcss

I have built a few things with Tailwind before and it really makes things simple while keeping the final build sizes small.

Parcel

I have used Parcel before for some really small projects like this and it's pretty dead simple as a bundler to get set up. I also didn't want to spend a week tweaking my compilation process to get things just right like I tend to do with Webpack.

Multi-part series

This is the beginning of a multi-part series. The following other posts are ready now. Check back soon for more!

  1. Introduction
  2. Part 1: Choosing the tools
  3. More coming soon!

Coming soon…

In part 2 of this series, we'll cover setting up the repository, Firebase, Parcel & Tailwindcss.