Dries Buytaert

The Watchmaker's Approach to Web Development

Finding peace and satisfaction in building and maintaining a personal website through many small, meticulous tweaks.

A skilled craftsperson works on the intricate mechanism of a droplet-shaped vintage watch.

Since 1999, I've been consistently working on this website, making it one of my longest-standing projects. Even after all these years, the satisfaction of working on my website remains strong. Remarkable, indeed.

During rare moments of calm — be it a slow holiday afternoon, a long flight home, or the early morning stillness — I'm often drawn to tinkering with my website.

When working on my website, I often make small tweaks and improvements. Much like a watchmaker meticulously fine-tuning the gears of an antique clock, I pay close attention to details.

This holiday, I improved the lazy loading of images in my blog posts, leading to a perfect Lighthouse score. A perfect score isn't necessary, but it shows the effort and care I put into my website.

A screenshot of dri.es' Lighthouse scores showing 100% scores in performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO.
Screenshot of Lighthouse scores via https://pagespeed.web.dev/.

I also validated my RSS feeds, uncovering a few opportunities for improvement. Like a good Belgian school boy, I promptly implemented these improvements, added new PHPUnit tests and integrated these into my CI/CD pipeline. Some might consider this overkill for a personal site, but for me, it's about mastering the craft, adhering to high standards, and building something that is durable.

Last year, I added 135 new photos to my website, a way for me to document my adventures and family moments. As the year drew to a close, I made sure all new photos have descriptive alt-texts, ensuring they're accessible to all. Writing alt-texts can be tedious, yet it's these small but important details that give me satisfaction.

Just like the watchmaker working on an antique watch, it's not just about keeping time better; it's about cherishing the process and craft. There is something uniquely calming about slowly iterating on the details of a website. I call it the The Watchmaker's Approach to Web Development, where the process holds as much value as the result.

I'm thankful for my website as it provides me a space where I can create, share, and unwind. Why share all this? Perhaps to encourage more people to dive into the world of website creation and maintenance.

— Dries Buytaert