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Wordpress to Markdown and then on to 11ty

This is a continuation of the previous post "In Search of a Better Writing Experience". In this post, I'm going to cover the steps I took to move my existing blog from WordPress to what I have now - a 11ty static blog.

Before I started the conversion process, I'd already looked at a few static site generators and had a shortlist of projects in mind. In the end, it came down to Astro and 11ty. I chose 11ty because it's focused on static site generation and you didn't need much to get going.

Just run the following command and you're off.

npx @11ty/eleventy --serve

The Plan #

The plan was simple. I already had HTML markup stored inside my WordPress blog. I just needed to convert that into markdown and 11ty would take care of the rest. That should be fairly simple. So, here are the steps I had in mind:

  1. Export the WordPress blog, parse the export, and generate markdown

  2. Setup and configure 11ty

  3. Early lunch

    Best laid plans and all that Best laid plans and all that

Exporting & Parsing Wordpress Posts #

Exporting the WordPress content was easy enough. WordPress comes with a handy exporter and it spat out an XML file with all my post content. I used the following PHP script to parse the XML and convert it into usable 11ty templates.

require '../vendor/autoload.php';

use League\HTMLToMarkdown\HtmlConverter;

$converter = new HtmlConverter();
$xml = simplexml_load_file('wordpress-posts.xml');
$posts = [];

// For each post item inside the feed, I create a data array with all the info I need
foreach ($xml->channel->item as $item) {
    $body = (string) $item->children('')->encoded;
    $data = [ // Wordpress uses XML namespaces, so we have to account for that
        'id' => (int) $item->children('')->post_id,
        'title' => "\"$item->title\"",
        'description' => substr(preg_replace('/\s+/', ' ', trim(strip_tags($body))), 0, 100)  . '...',
        'body' => $converter->convert($body),
        'link' => (string) $item->link,
        'created' =>(string) strtotime($item->pubDate),
        'slug' => (string) $item->children('')->post_name,
        'status' => (string) $item->children('')->status,
        'categories' => [],
        'tags' => []

    foreach ($item->category as $metaItem) {
        switch ((string) $metaItem->attributes()['domain']) {
            case 'post_tag' :
                $data['tags'][] = (string) $metaItem->attributes()['nicename'];

            case 'category' :
                $data['categories'][] = (string) $metaItem->attributes()['nicename'];
    $data['categories'] = array_unique($data['categories']);
    $data['tags'] = array_unique($data['tags']);
    $posts[] = $data;

    // Use buffering to capture the output and then create a folder and dump the contents inside it
    require 'post_template.php';
    $output = ob_get_clean();
    $name = date('Y-m-d', $data['created']) . '-' . generateSlug($data['title']);

function generateSlug($string) {
    $string = preg_replace('/[^a-zA-Z0-9\s]/', '', $string);
    $string = preg_replace('/\s+/', '-', $string);
    $string = strtolower($string);
    return trim($string, '-');
function _e($var) {
    echo $var . PHP_EOL;

I used the HTML to Markdown package by the PHP League to convert the HTML inside the XML to markdown.

A quick breakdown of the code:

  1. Loop through each item in the XML as they represent blog posts.
  2. The WordPress exporter uses XML namespaces, so take those into account when reading the XML items.
  3. The $data array contains all the information I need to create a single 11ty template for my blog post.
  4. Use buffering to capture the template content and create a folder to store it.
  5. The file post_template.php contains the 11ty post template (see below for details).

I now had a tree structure like the one shown below:

Tree view of the directory structure Tree view of the directory structure

Setting up 11ty #

I used this super simple starter kit to set up a blog template in 11ty. 11ty supports a bunch of templating languages. To keep things simple, I decided to go with markdown, since I can then easily convert it to HTML.

When you're creating templates, you need to be familiar with 11ty's Front Matter Data concept. Simply put, it's a way of adding metadata to your template that you can use when generating the static file.

Remember the template file that I used in the previous script? This is what it looked like:

title: <?=_e($data['title'])?>
description: <?=_e($data['description'])?>
date: <?=_e(date('Y-m-d', $data['created']))?>
<?php foreach ($data['tags'] as $tag) { ?>
    - <?=_e($tag)?>
<?php } ?>
<?php foreach ($data['categories'] as $category) { ?>
    - <?=_e($category)?>
<?php } ?>

As you can see, my conversion script added all the meta data I needed and it created the posts folder which I could simply drop into my blog starter kit.

At this point, I felt like I was on the home stretch. It felt safe enough to think about what I was going to have for lunch.

Early Lunch #

I serve up the site using npx @11ty/eleventy --serve and it's all downhill from there. There were quite a few broken pages and all the images were borked.

Suffice to say, there was no early lunch.

Not a happy camper Not a happy camper

Clean Up Tasks #

Once the initial conversion was done, turned out there was a lot of cleanup still left. I listed the biggest issues I ran into, below.

Bad HTML Blocks #

Problem: The HTML that WordPress generated was fine for the most part. But there were weird-looking blocks anytime I used the blocks feature of the WordPress editor.

Solution: These needed to be manually cleaned out.

Breaking Embeds #

Problem: Some of my blog posts had embeds for things like videos and slides. These don't convert to markdown so they needed to be altered manually.

Solution: Use 11ty shortcodes and Iframely. Once I include the Iframely JS in my layout file, I can have embeds in my templates.

//Create a file _includes/shortcodes/embed.js
module.exports = async function(url) {
    return `
        <div class="iframely-embed">
          <div class="iframely-responsive">
            <a data-iframely-url href="${url}"></a>
    `.replace(/(\r\n|\n|\r)/gm, "");;

// Then add this in your eleventy.config.js file
const shortCodeEmbed = require("./_includes/shortcodes/embed");
eleventyConfig.addShortcode("embed", shortCodeEmbed);

Once that's done, you can use it in your template like so:

{% embed "" %}

Breaking Images #

Problem: ALL the images are broken. All the images point to the WordPress installation, which doesn't exist on that URL.

Solution: Bit of a slog. First I copied all the images to my local drive. Since I don't use that many images in a post, it was a quick manual job to copy them to the appropriate blog post folder. After that, I created a few shortcodes to help me with adding images to my posts.

module.exports = function(author = "Unknown", authorLink = null, source =
null, sourceLink = null) {
    let text = "Photo by ";
    if (authorLink) {
       text = `${text} <a target="_blank"
    } else {
        text = `${text} ${author}`;
    if (sourceLink) {
        text = `${text} on <a target="_blank"
    } else if (source) {
        text = `${text} on ${source}`;
    return text;

const Image = require('@11ty/eleventy-img');
const path = require('path');

module.exports = async function(image) {
    let imagePath = path.join(path.dirname(, image);
    let stats = await Image(imagePath, {
        outputDir: "./_site/img/",
    return stats.webp[0].url;

const attrPhoto = require('./attribute-photo');
const imageUrl = require('./image-url');

module.exports = async function(image, caption, author = null, authorLink = null, source = null, sourceLink = null) {
    const attribution = author === null ? '' : attrPhoto(author, authorLink, source, sourceLink);
    const url = await, image);
    return `
        <div class="captioned-photo">
            <img src="${url}" alt="${caption}">
            <small>${caption} ${attribution}</small>
    `.replace(/(\r\n|\n|\r)/gm, "");;

Once I had these, I manually updated the posts to serve images through the shortcodes.

{% captionedPhoto "./muppet.jpg", "Which Muppet Are You" %}

Almost There #

At this point, lunch was a couple of days ago and some time has passed. But I was close in terms of how I wanted the blog to behave. I was still having issues with unoptimized images, bad canonical links, and AWS Lambda issues but I was Almost Thereā„¢.

In the next post, we'll cover my automation woes. I'll share the 11ty config I use.