Customizing Wowchemy

Table of Contents

  1. Site 2.0
    1. Goals
  2. Customizing a block
  3. Concluding statements

Having a web-pressence is excellent for you to create a portfolio, for people to get in contact with your, or share some randoms thoughts on your favorite topic. Years ago I was on the journey to create a webpage, but was quickly sucked into the endless possibilities of web design. Should I go for Vue.js, REACT, or maybe a different web programming language such as svelte or supersets of javascript such as typescipt. Possibilities are endless, but for those starting out it is a daunting undertaking.

Enter website generators that take away the initial pain of designing layouts for websites. These generators provide a batteries included approach to the web, offering you a landing page with some optional widgets that gets you started on creating a personalized corner of the web. I too started out in this manner. Years ago, I wanted a web page that would help reflect my academic endeavors. The portfolio would need to consist of talks, links to slides and or papers. Hugo academic was the generator I used for web design. For years Hugo academic work perfectly well. However, as time passed my page began to feel stale and I wanted to display something more exciting on my page. Websites become more capable of running full fledged apps and more and more standalone software was pushed to have a web component. I felt like I was left behind. You see, using a generator kicks off the process of getting a website. However, it did not gave me insights in how the website was generated. I still felt like I was stuck at square one. As such I slowly began to interface with the code that was generated. I started first with customization and later on created a site navigator with networks in javascript. I was starting to web design!

All things changed, however, when Hugo Academic was re-branded to Wowchemy. The change in name was reflected with a change in design. Every now and again when I wanted to write a new post, my website would be faced with upgrading issues. Especially since my code base originated from Hugo Academic. My need for customization grew and grew, but my frustration with the process of wowchemy did too. I am currently faced with a dilemma; I either decide to leave the framework behind, and create something from scratch or I figure out how to effectively interface with wowchemy such that I can work with it more pleasently.

Site 2.0

Enter site 2.0; on the surface I does not look any different from my old website except some rounded corners here and there. Under the hood, however, I am able to more deeply change the feel of the webpages.


First, I wanted to change the look and feel of some widgets on the web page. Wowchemy calls these nowadays “blocks”. The process of changing these pages is a bit ill-documented so I am here to outline what my current understanding is of how wowchemy blocks can be modified to your hearts desire. I started out by just plain googling and found a post by A.J. Campell which was greatly helpful and I copied his landing design (here). But let’s first decide on some goals.

  1. I want to understand how I can modify the look and feel of my website
  2. I want to be able to control and extend the look and feel of my website

Note 2 is implied by 1 but is not necessary a consequence of 1.

Customizing a block

A web page consists of different elements that can be blocked by `divs`. Wowchemy organizes a webpage with widgets called blocks. The blocks are pre-defined views of content such as a portfolio, landing page, how posts are viewed (you get the drift). To customize a block we need to create a new directory from the root folder of our site as

mkdir -p layouts/partials/blocks/v1

I don’t know why they called it v1, but it implies that they are going to change this in the future again (and I will probably write a post about it again). Now the reasoning is as follows, when you build your site, wowchemy pulls default templates from repos and puts them in the public folder which constitutes your website. If a local path if present, the local edit will take precedence over the default template. You will override the template. In past iterations of wowchemy this process was under `./layouts/partials/widgets/`, and the structure of the go code inside these folders was also different. At the time over writing for version v5.7, the blocks structure is what should be aimed for. One can take the default templates, and edit the html files to change the look and feel of the website, and one can also create new blocks to extend your website: mission accomplished.

Concluding statements

This is a pretty short post with a seemingly simple statement. However, from the user perspective it was a little tricky figuring this out. My website was working before with edits using and older version of wowchemy. Every X updates it seems like the updates break things that need not have fixing. It would be nice if their documentation is edited to walk somebody through building as simple block from scratch. I am not too familiar with the go environment and therefore reading statements such as `{{ .page.Params.Author }}` intermixed with traditional HTML was a bit confusing in how these magic lines were interfacing with the website (a veteran in GO is probably laughing hysterically right now). This post is more written for future me;

  • In the future take your time to read your error statements
  • Take care of the low hanging fruit first, before tackling the more difficult problem
  • Always use simple test files to test hypotheses why something is not working.
Casper van Elteren
Casper van Elteren
Computational scientist | Data scientist | Tinkerer

I am a computational scientist interested in data analysis, visualization and software engineering.