The CSS and other tech behind The Food Rush

I’m building a new online magazine to showcase food innovation, food startups, food entrepreneurs and food events. Yesterday I wrote about what we’re doing and some of the lessons learned from doing this kind of thing in the past (spoiler alert: they didn’t work so well last time).

My background is web development so I thought I might as well go into detail about the tech side of the product we’re building. Since this is a personal project with no client restrictions, no NDAs and no stakeholders to please (other than myself and my partner) we’re building the whole thing in the open and blogging, photographing and videoing the process to help and inspire others and to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow.

But enough of the why and the what, let’s talk tech.

The Stack

The site is build on WordPress on top of a starter theme that I’ve developed for my digital agency, Sapling Digital. This boilerplate is still very much a work in progress but I’m planning to keep it open source for anyone who cares to use it.

We’re using Timber and Twig for templating. This provides a kind of model + view architecture for WordPress in a similar vein to frameworks like Ruby on Rails or Laravel. Similar but different. This is a plugin I’m experimenting with for the first time and it’s absolutely fantastic. More write-ups to come. Additional plugins in use are the awesome Advanced Custom Fields plugin and Yoast’s SEO plugin to help with search optimization and og: meta tags for Facebook, Twitter etc..

We’re using Sass for CSS pre-processing. We’re using a BEM-like naming convention to keep the styles as modular as possible.

We’re using Gulp for task automation (our exact Gulpfile can be found here). I used to use Grunt but having seen the blazing fast awesomeness of Gulp on a recent client project, I’m totally sold and have switched everything over.

The site is hosted on a Digital Ocean droplet running Ubuntu 14.04, PHP FPM, Nginx and MySQL.

Server provisioning is done with Ansible and deployment is managed through Jenkins.

Although this sounds like a lot of stuff to set up in just a couple of days (which is how long I spent building the first version of the site), this is something we do a lot at Sapling so we’ve honed the process somewhat and most of it is automated.


The site is somewhat in its infancy but there’s a couple of interesting visual features we’re experimenting with. As the content of this site is all about innovation and cutting edge stuff, we wanted the design of the site to be something more than the standard grid of off-white grey boxes.

Overlapping Content

One of the ways we’re achieving this look is to have lots of overlapping content, especially text boxes that cut into images.

To do this, I’ve created a simple “overlap” module. It uses a pseudo :after element, negative z-index box-sizing: content-box and some positioning to add a solid box behind the text content.

$overlap: 3rem;
.overlap {
	z-index: 100;

	&:after {

		top:$overlap * -1;
		left:$overlap * -1;


		z-index: -1;
.overlap__title {

To ensure that any titles in the overlap box aren’t overlapped by the pseudo element, they’re given a higher z-index than the content box.

Filtered Polaroids

Another style of images used throughout the site are more rough and ready - the kind of thing you might snap on Instagram, Twitter, (or, god forbid) Snapchat.

This effect has been somewhat overdone so I wanted to try a new spin on it and have the images look intentionally more unpolished and grainy.

I definitely don’t want to have to put all these images through a Photoshop process so wanted to come up with a CSS only solution.

Making the polaroid effect was very simple and just uses a white border around a figure tag (with an optional image caption provided by a figcaption). A solid box-shadow provides a bit of depth whist still keeping the design fairly flat and blocky.

.polaroid {
	border:1rem solid #fff;
	box-shadow:0.5rem 0.5rem 0 #eee;

The interesting bit comes with the filters and the noise effect. The noise is added via a pseudo :after element which is spread across the whole width and height of the image. A data-uri image of a noise texture is used as a background image and repeated across the element.

.polaroid:after {

	background: url(data:image/png;base64,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);

To complete the effect, CSS filters are applied to boost the contrast and reduce the saturation - both on the noise texture and the image itself.

.polaroid {
	&:after {

	img {
		filter:contrast(1.25) saturate(0.5);

Pretty nifty and no Photoshop required!

Even though this uses CSS filters which aren’t that widely supported, because this is purely a visual enhancement that doesn’t bother me at all. Users with older browsers will still see an image - and will even see one with a noise texture - they just won’t have the added contrast and desaturation. No worries.

More to come

This is just day 2 of our 10-day journey to build an MVP of an online magazine and I hope there will be many more opportunities to write about the tech behind the experiment.

If you’d like to keep in touch with what we’re up to, please follow @thefoodrush and sign up to the mailing list to be notified of when our first issue is ready for your viewing pleasure.

If you hate email but still want to keep in touch, follow me on Twitter.

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