Jeremy Smith on September 05, 2014

A Tumblr Theme Development Workflow

This site has been running on Tumblr for a while now and, while I love using Tumblr for posting content, I’ve found theme development to be frustrating and tedious, particularly with trying to manage asset files.

I’m used to single-command site deployment, so going back to copy-and-paste and manual file uploads is painful.

I thought there must be a better way, so I Googled around and came across Tumblargh, a Ruby gem that works on top of Middleman and simplifies theme development by parsing Tumblr themes and pulling in your own site’s content via Tumblr’s API.

Tumblargh makes it much easier to test a template before releasing it, but it’s still very tedious to update the HTML template and then re-upload all your stylesheet, javascript and image assets.

This is where I took a different route. Rather than rely on Tumblr to handle all my stylesheet, javascript and image assets, I decided it would be better if I just hosted those myself under a separate domain:

Using the middleman-deploy gem, I am able to run a single-command deploy of my Tumblargh/Middleman site to and then I only have to copy and paste the index.html from /build to my Tumblr HTML template.

Here’s my deploy config:

activate :deploy do |deploy|
  deploy.build_before = true
  deploy.method = :rsync
  deploy.user   = "deploy"   = ""
  deploy.path   = "/var/www/assets.bentoncreation"
  deploy.clean = true

I hit one snag with this strategy. My Middleman HTML template and stylesheets are referencing relative paths, rather than the host. So I added an asset_host variable with my host to the build config and overrode the asset_path method to include the full URL of my asset_host:

set :asset_host, ''
helpers do
  def asset_path(kind, source)

Now, as I’m making site changes, I can simply run bundle update middleman deploy and then copy and paste the contents of /build/index.html to my Tumblr HTML template.

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