It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. I’ve been super busy trying to figure out a way to host my personal website and blog in a way that was cheap and easy to maintain.
Originally, I hosted my front-end on GitHub Pages and stored all of my blog posts on Google Sheets. Using Google’s API, I made a web GUI that allowed me to add new posts and edit them on the fly. To display my posts, I pulled them from Google Sheets and rendered them on my blog posts page.
This was cool at first. I was able to make a blog application from scratch (and for free) using a fairly unconventional method. Then, I quickly learned why this method is unconventional. I accidentally posted a blank article with no fields (even though I thought I caught that case in my code) and almost deleted all of my blogs in the process of trying to resolve the issue.
I also started thinking of adding pagination to my site and a comment section. However, a comment section means a way to manage users, creating new API routes, finding a way to store and manage all of this data…you get the idea.
I could waste my time trying implement all of this on my own, but I wanted to have my own blog now.
So, I switched to WordPress!
At first, I was ashamed at myself for using something so simple. I mean, people who have never written a line of code in their lives could spin up a website in a day. Could I even call myself a web developer if I used something so simple?
Soon enough, I got over myself and gave it a try. Now, I feel stupid for never having used it in the first place. My life has gotten so much easier. I quickly fell in love with WordPress!
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. There’s a template hierarchy I had to wrestle with that caused me some issues. Plus, different post types, plugins, and ways to add your own code. I quickly overwhelmed myself by diving in. So, I took a step back to learn more about WordPress — and I’m glad I did! It’s a skill I feel is necessary for modern developers.
Using WordPress has been a game-changer
Switching from a DUI approach quickly turned my life around. Instead spending days remaking common functionally from scratch — and most of the functionality I need is built-in! Here are some of the key advantages of using WordPress I’ve found over my DUI site:
1. I can save my drafts!
My Web GUI for interacting with my sheets database had no way of saving drafts mainly because I would have to create another sheets database and API for that functionality. I used to store all of my blog posts in a GitHub repo written in MarkDown. When it was time to post, I’d copy paste them and ship them off.
With WordPress, I can save my drafts and go back to them from anywhere! I get my work auto-rendered as I type (so I get a preview on the fly), there’s MarkDown support natively in the editor, and auto-save — what more could I possibly want!?
2. Designing is so much easier
I had the perspective that every website I made had to be beautifully designed and a standout against other competitors. Obviously, this is not a very sustainable approach to design.
Let’s face it, most modern websites have a more or less similar design. That not only makes it easier on designers but users are able to have a common experience across most sites, which makes their experience easier. Imagine if every website had their own special location for their navigation menu or search bars — it would be a nightmare!
With WordPress, I’m able to start off with a theme that is much easier starting point than a blank canvas. This adds constraint to my thinking, which I’ve found boosts my creativity rather than limiting it. Instead of running all over the place figuring out where to start, my brain has a path to follow. Plus, the themes can be as detailed or minimal as I want.
On top of that, WordPress supplies layout patterns, which makes designing layouts a piece of cake.
3. I can add my own code
This is huge for me. Not only can I come up with designs quickly and easily but I can fully customize their appearance and functionality to perfectly suite my needs.
When I turned to WordPress, I thought I would have to suffer a ton of customizability. I thought that creating everything from scratch was the only way to make something that was truly my own. This was definitely a misconception.
Due to WordPress being open source, I’m able to edit every file it’s built off of. I have a feeling that most of the time though, I’ll be building small plugins and overriding simple styles. I’m amazed at how much I’m able to customize just from the GUI! I can control everything from fonts, colors, and even control margin and padding!
4. I can add media
Although my Google Sheets blog was fun, it had numerous shortcomings — including not being able to add images or videos to my posts. This is crucial, especially if I want to add more clarity to steps in upcoming tutorials. WordPress makes organizing and adding media a snap.
WordPress is awesome at doing everything I could ask for in creating a personal blog. I’m ashamed at myself for looking down upon it because it really is a great tool to add to any web developer’s tool belt.
The most important thing I’ve learned in this journey of creating a personal web site for myself is to work smarter, not harder when it comes to development. There’s a plethora of software out there that can be used to build the web more efficiently and with less headache.
Granted, I don’t regret starting out trying to build my website from scratch. I learned a ton about responsive design. It’s also important to have at least a basic understanding of core web languages because developers don’t only use tools — they customize and sometimes even build them themselves.
Anyways, that’s it! Can’t wait to post more, so stay tuned and sorry it took so long!