email.subscribeto - a newsletter database

Newsletters are a funny thing, you either love them or hate them. If you love them, you really love them and often want to subscribe to more. I am one of those and I was keen to find more newsletters to subscribe to. It was with that, that I decided I would try having a go at making a directory of email newsletters which is searchable and tagged.

I attempted to do this a couple of year ago. I collated the emails from my list and then the web community. This then went into a Google Sheet and was displayed in a web page using the Google Sheets API and Vue. The code that was rendering it was sloppy and thus quite fragile, but was a proof of concept and the small feedback I got from it was positive.

Enter: email.subscribeto

After 2 years a new version is now live, bigger, better and more user-friendly. Fill your boots with newsletters!

For those interested, I've broken down the tech stack behind the site below. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.


Objective #

With version 2 of the newsletter directory, my aim was to have a fast, light, accessible website which works everywhere and I feel like I have achieved this. I didn't want to have to learn a new framework or language and I definitely didn't want to be relying on JavaScript to render the content. Un-conventionally, the website is powered by PHP. There is JavaScript on the site, but only to progressively enhance the site (auto submission of filters & add a fancier select box).

My aim when building it was not to be bogged down with writing code perfection - there are a lot of enhancements behind the scene that could be done, but as long as the website itself worked well, I wasn't going to get hung up on it.

Framework #

The whole site is run on SlimPHP. This is a great framework for getting a website up and running. I use the Twig extension for my templates and abstracted all of the functionality out into classes, so my index.php is as clean as possible. Using Slim is very similar to Laravel (and Lumen, which I use a lot) and so PHP development was quick.

Data #

For the data I am using a flat file system called Filebase. I discovered this when building this project and it is incredible. Certainly not suitable for big websites but for rapid development & ease of use, this data storage is amazing. I have each email and tag as their own file, located outside of the webroot so no-one can access the raw data without access to the server.

Infrastructure #

The site is running on my bare metal Scaleway server, behind Cloudflare. With all the caching enabled, the site scores top marks on Google Lighthouse - this isn't the holy grail but does add some validation to my objectives.

Future plans #

For now I have paused development on the directory but keeping an eye on my matamo analytics to see what people are searching for and how much traffic the site is receiving. In the mean time, I am working on my Instagram importer over at [https://photos.mikestreety.co.uk/].

Mike Street

Written by Mike Street

Mike is a front-end developer from Brighton, UK. He spends his time writing, cycling and coding. You can find Mike on Twitter.