Tools, sources, and all that magic behind the Kyma website

Maciej Urbańczyk and Karolina Zydek on May 19, 2020

Our website has many "fathers" who have maintained it ever since it was born out of the burning need for a homepage for our soon-to-be-open-sourced Kyma. It has evolved in time, in an agile spirit, extended with new views and features that were added whenever the need arose or an idea for improvement popped into our heads. As much as we love it, we realize it might seem a bit complex, especially for those who contribute to it for the first time. That is why we wrote this post to explain which tools we decided to use, how the website is built, and where all the sources sit — all this aiming to "tame the beast" and bring it a bit closer to you.

When it comes to the tool we wanted to build our website with, we decided to choose a static site generator (SSG) over a single-page application (SPA) to:

  • Make the development process easier by providing a set of ready-to-use plugins and templates.
  • Provide support for search engine optimization (SEO), increasing our website's visibility in search results.
  • Ensure a quick load time.

Our choice fell on Gatsby, partly because it is based on React that our frontend developers were used to and particularly fond of. Gatsby also uses GraphQL to query and pull source data, and we already used it for our Console Backend Service in Kyma to allow communication between Console UI views and Kubernetes resources.

In its initial version, the website was quite simple and almost solely based on the logic provided by Gatsby. Basically, we defined React components for particular views following Gatsby's tutorials and templates. We then used the available plugins to extend the data and content. This allowed Gatsby to pull all the data from specified Markdown sources, build, and render the content on GitHub Pages.

Although initially we used GitHub Pages to deploy and host our website, we turned to Netlify that offers a favorable policy plan for open-source projects.

As the website expanded, we simply needed a platform that would help us to tackle the challenges ahead of us. Netlify managed to do so by offering:

  • Continuous deployment thanks to which the website is built automatically every time you commit changes to the main branch. With GitHub Pages, we used Prow CI that we had to maintain ourselves, so we gladly moved to the one offered by Netlify.

  • Deploy Previews built on pull requests (PRs), allowing you to detect any rendering issues before PRs are merged to the main branch.

  • AWS functions for running on-demand code triggered by events coming from the GitHub API. In Kyma, we use them as a trigger for running the build and deployment of specific website views. Such a function is triggered whenever you:

    • Merge content to the docs folder in the kyma repository and to the community repository.

    • Create a release in the kyma repository. This triggers the full website rebuild and adds a new release switcher to the Docs view.

    Release switcher

    • Modify issues with the Epic label. For example, when you add or remove capability labels or the release for which the epic is planned.

    Issue labels

    • Change the .yaml files that provide the structure for the left-side navigation in Docs and Community. You can read more about them in the ClusterAssetGroups section.

    Left-side navigation in docs

To customize content rendering in some of the views, we put our own twists on the standard logic provided by Gatsby.

In Kyma, we render the documentation sources both on the website under the Docs view and as built-in documentation in the UI on every Kyma cluster. To unify the way in which it is displayed in both places, we created our own React documentation component to render Markdown formats and specifications such as OpenAPI, AsyncAPI, and OData. We use this component on the website to render Markdown formats and OpenAPI specifications with custom styles applied in the chosen views. The documentation component also provides tabs, copy buttons next to code snippets, and scrollspy in the Docs and Community views:

Features provided by the documentation component

We also wanted to customize the way we render some Markdown elements. Since Gatsby could not cater for all our needs, and we did not find any other suitable tool, we created one on our own. We needed a unified library that we could use for both the website and the cluster documentation. We came up with the react-markdown library as a wrapper for react-markdown. We used it in the Docs, Blog, and Community views to customize such Markdown elements as panels and icons that appear next to external links.

Features provided by the react-markdown library

We even found a place for a chunk of Kubernetes implementation in our frontend. In Kyma, we use our in-house Kubernetes-based component Rafter as a backend mechanism for uploading data for documentation topics. Rafter provides ClusterAssetGroup custom resources (CRs) that group assets, and we decided to use their structure on the website to configure the left-side navigation for documentation topics in the Docs and Community views. We did it simply by fetching the content from these .yaml files. Each ClusterAssetGroup is a separate node in the navigation. The content loader uploads the source documentation for a given topic from the path specified in the ClusterAssetGroup CR under the filter path. It then renders the sources in the order and under the name specified in the CR ( "2" and displayName: "Service Catalog" respectively). Similarly to the documentation component and the react-markdown library, we use ClusterAssetGroup CRs both on the website and for the documentation on Kyma clusters.

ClusterAssetGroups for the left-side navigation

Views on the website

Each view on the website takes its sources from a different repository.

  • Docs — the docs folder in the kyma repository
  • Blog — the content/blog-post folder in the website repository
  • Community — the community repository
  • Landing page — the content folder in the website repository, including the banner, and the Used by section with Kyma adopters

Before the website is built, all this content is copied to the website repository by the content loader — our own TypeScript tool we use for fetching content from various repositories and getting issue details from ZenHub and GitHub APIs.

Now that you know all the pieces of our puzzle, let's have a look at how they fit together. The diagram and description below show the whole website build and deployment process, triggered after merging a PR to one of the repositories.

Website building flow

  1. Merge your PR to either the kyma (docs folder) or community repository.

  2. The GitHub API sends an event to the Netlify function that triggers the main build.

NOTE: The Netlify function is not triggered for the website repository since any changes you introduce there automatically trigger the main build.

  1. The build triggers the content loader to fetch the given repository content, along with related ClusterAssetGroups, and perform initial data serialization and filtering.

  2. The content loader copies the fetched content to the content folder in the website repository.

  3. Gatsby reads this content through the connected plugins and retrieves selected data, such as metadata in docs. It later transforms the data into a GraphQL schema which can be pulled by React components.

  4. Gatsby uses the Node API to build particular static HTML sites from React components that use the generated GraphQL schema. Gatsby then optimizes these static sites to increase their performance.

  5. Finally, Netlify deploys the static sites.

Before your merge a PR and the content gets published on the Kyma website, you can preview your changes. This way you can see if the formatting of the text is correct, images fit well, and links work as expected. That is possible thanks to the preview feature provided by Netlify. It attaches links to autogenerated previews of website views to your PRs.

We enabled this feature for these Kyma repositories:

  • kyma for changes in the docs folder that contains sources of the official Kyma documentation rendered in the Docs view.

  • community for changes rendered in the Community view.

  • website for changes rendered on the landing page and in the Blog view.

Previews are built for PRs containing changes made to any file within these repositories, for both successful and failed builds. The only exception is the kyma repository where Netlify only builds previews for changes in the docs folder and publishes notifications only for successful builds on such PRs.

As for the building process, it looks very similar to the general flow. The only difference is that the Netlify function is not involved. Every commit on a PR triggers the content loader straightaway, generating only the preview of the view you are currently modifying.

Successful preview build on a pull request

When it comes to our future plans concerning the website, we have some ideas on how to improve its overall performance, simplify contribution, and introduce easy feedback options. We are also currently moving from ZenHub to GitHub Projects for issue tracking, and that change will require modifying the website's logic in the nearest future.

We log all our ideas as GitHub issues in the website repository — feel encouraged to do the same if an idea for improvement crosses your mind.

You can also jump straight to action and add your two cents to the look and feel of The contribution flow is quite simple:

  1. Fork a repo.
  2. Create a PR.
  3. Add content and wait for our review and approval.

The fun may begin when you try to figure out where we keep the sources for all the views. However, do not get discouraged. The table below clarifies it all. We hope it will help you to find your way through our repositories and the website structure:

Website viewWhatWhereHow
Landing pageKyma adopterwebsite/content/adopters/adopters.yamlFollow the instruction, or log an issue and we will add it for you.
Landing pageBannerwebsite/content/banner/slides.ymlFollow the instruction.
DocsDocument or topickyma/docsAdd a document that follows one of the templates, or follow the instructions to add a new topic.
BlogsBlog postwebsite/content/blog-postFollow the instruction.
CommunityDocumentcommunityCreate a PR.

Apart from contribution, we also cherish feedback. If you have any thoughts to share or questions to ask, contact us directly on the #kyma-project-io Slack channel.

  • Tags:
  • #graphql
  • #netlify
  • #gatsby
  • #community