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whosonfirst-www – it's a website.

What is going on in here?

This is one of those static website generators, with lowest-common-denominator dependencies. The very short version is that a Makefile turns concatinates many smaller bits of HTML into a site structure that we can upload to the Internet.

  • Makefile - a whole lotta curl and cat and sed that makes it all go.
  • pages/ - each section of the site has its own sub-makefile (e.g.,
  • components/ - things like headers and footers, navs and subnavs, that sandwich the content.
  • content/ - what it sounds like, these HTML files define what you see in the main part of the page.
  • www/ - where everything gets built to.

Editing the site

  • Some files are downloaded from GitHub, so you should edit them there.
  • You can build all the pages with make build-pages or a section with make [section] or a specific page make [section]-[page].
  • All the site content, including GitHub-derived pages, is stored in content/.
  • The navigation and other template HTML lives in components/.
  • Nothing is automatic, you have to edit the navigation files yourself.

You may notice the Makefile is full of @ symbols. This hides the command from the output, which makes it easier to observe the site-build progress. Feel free to un-@ a specific line if you want to see more details.

Example: editing a page from GitHub

Let's say you want to edit the Known Knowns page. This is one of the pages pulled down from GitHub. You can tell because content/data/knownknowns.html has an HTML comment that links to the Markdown document it's built from.

<!-- -->
<h1 id="there-are-known-knowns">There are known knowns...</h1>

You'll notice that GitHub-derived pages are modified so that all the HTML is on a single line, so editing them directly would be a pain anyway.

  1. Edit on GitHub using the pencil button (you could also clone/commit/push your edits, it's up to you).
  2. Download the updated content HTML: make data-download-knownknowns
  3. Build the page: make data-knownknowns

Example: editing a page that lives in whosonfirst-www

Most of that same process applies for pages that don't originate from GitHub. For example, to update the main docs page:

  1. Edit content/docs/docs.html directly, then save your file.
  2. Build the page: make docs-home

Adding a new page

Look in the pages folder and open the .mk file for the section where your new page will live. In this example we'll create a new page "foo" in the "docs" section.

Downloading HTML from GitHub

Note: If your page doesn't "live" on GitHub, you can skip this part.

Open pages/ and add an additional line to the docs-download-content target:

docs-download-content: \
	docs-download-properties \
	docs-download-brooklynintegers \

Define your new download target, using a variable for the repo base URL, defined at the top of pages/



	@make URL=$(SOME_REPO)pages/ \
	      OUT=docs/foo.html \

This will download HTML from and save it to content/docs/foo.html.

Test it out by running your new target at the command line:

make docs-download-foo

Building the www page HTML

There are different page "levels" that determine how the templates work.

  • build-page-level0 - everything in, no top nav section
  • build-page-level1 - section home pages (e.g., docs)
  • build-page-level2 - sub-pages inside a section (e.g., properties)
  • build-page-level3 - sub-sub-pages (e.g., wof properties)

Each section has its own set of [section]-build-page-level[n] targets that define common section-wide values.

In the case of our example, content/docs/foo.html, we will use docs-build-page-level2 since it's a sub-page inside docs.

	@make CONTENT=docs/foo.html \
	      OUT=docs/foo/index.html \
	      PAGE_TITLE='foo page title' \
	      SUBNAV_LINK=foo \

The variables getting passed are:

  • CONTENT - path to the file to use inside the content/ dir.
  • OUT - path to the www/ output file (use the [page]/index.html convention).
  • PAGE_TITLE - ends up in the page <title>
  • SUBNAV_LINK - the link to highlight in the sidebar subnav
  • SUBSUBNAV - optional, for linking to level 3 pages (e.g., set to properties in the properties pages)

Test it out at the command line, and see if you can load up your new page:

make docs-foo

You should see your new page here: www/docs/foo/index.html

Adding a blog post

To add a blog post:

  1. Open content/blog/blog.html file.

  2. Scroll to the bottom of that file.

  3. If it is a new year, add a h6 element with updated content and id.

    <h6 id="2017" class="whosonfirst-deemphasized-subpageheader">2017</h6>
  4. If you added a h6 element, also add a new unordered list.

    <ul class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list whosonfirst-sole-links-container">
  5. If you added a new unordered list, add a list item in that new list.

    <ul class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list whosonfirst-sole-links-container">
        <li class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list-item">

    If you did not add a new unordered list, add the list item after the last list item in the last existing unordered list.

    <ul class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list whosonfirst-sole-links-container">
        <li class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list-item">
            <a href="" class="whosonfirst-sole-link whosonfirst-dynamically-generated-post" data-pubdate="2017-08-01" title="Geotagging WOF venues" data-au="0.44" data-word-count="2392">Geotagging WOF venues</a>
        <li class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list-item">
  6. Add a link to the new list item, be sure sure to include the link url and whosonfirst-sole-link and whosonfirst-dynamically-generated-post as classes.

    <ul class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list whosonfirst-sole-links-container">
        <li class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list-item">
            <a href="" class="whosonfirst-sole-link whosonfirst-dynamically-generated-post" data-pubdate="2017-08-01" title="Geotagging WOF venues" data-au="0.44" data-word-count="2392">Geotagging WOF venues</a>
        <li class="whosonfirst-nonbullet-list-item">
            <a href="" class="whosonfirst-sole-link whosonfirst-dynamically-generated-post" data-pubdate="2017-07-28" title="Redesigning and Rebuilding the Who's On First website" data-au="0.40" data-word-count="2194">Redesigning and Rebuilding the Who's On First website</a>
  7. Run make blog from the command line. The blog page should now be updated with the new blog post.

Updating the subnav

In our last example we created a new page "foo" in the "docs" section. Let's add a link to it in the subnav files.

There are two places we need to add it:

  • components/subnav/docs/subnav-top.html - for desktop/tablet/etc.
  • components/subnav/docs/subnav-bottom.html - for mobile

Edit subnav-top.html and add new <li> and <a> elements:

<li class="whosonfirst-sidenav-list-element">
    <a href="/docs/foo/" class="whosonfirst-nav-link whosonfirst-sidenav-link">foo</a>

Do the same for subnav-bottom.html:

<li class="whosonfirst-navbar-element-collapsed whosonfirst-extrasmall-nav-element">
    <a href="/docs/foo/" class="whosonfirst-nav-link whosonfirst-extrasmall-nav-link-collapsed">foo</a>

Note that because we are using a really dumb sed replacement, the last class value should be the same as all the other links.


You may notice that there are some other component files in the subnav directory. Those are for sub-sections like properties, whose subsubnav is defined by components/subnav/docs/properties-top.html (for desktop/tablet/etc.) and components/subnav/docs/properties-bottom.html (for mobile).

These get included by defining a SUBSUBNAV variable (e.g., SUBSUBNAV=properties) when invoking each page build.

When defined, the subsubnav HTML component gets inserted into the subnav based on an HTML comment <!-- [subsubnav] --> in subnav-top.html and subnav-bottom.html.

For example, here's how the properties subsubnav gets placed within components/subnav/docs/subnav-top.html:

<li class="whosonfirst-sidenav-list-element">
    <a href="/docs/properties/" class="whosonfirst-nav-link whosonfirst-sidenav-link">properties</a>
<!-- properties -->
<li class="whosonfirst-sidenav-list-element">
    <a href="/docs/concordances/" class="whosonfirst-nav-link whosonfirst-sidenav-link">concordances</a>

Building the site

  • make - download and build all the pages
  • make docs - download and build pages in the docs section
  • make download - download all the content
  • make build-pages - build all the pages



make www

Or, if you want to deploy to just dev or prod S3 buckets:

make www-dev
make www-prod

Cloning to S3

We are using a home-grown tool called wof-clone-website which is part of the go-whosonfirst-www repo, mostly so that file permissions are set correctly. There is a binary copy for OS X included in this repo so if you're trying to deploy things from not-a-Mac then you will need to build an OS-specific version of the tool, which is left as an exercise to the reader.


Thanks to 2017 summer intern Scott Dombkowski for designing and building the new site.


See also