Today, someone I know on Twitter asked what the 2015 way to start a blog was. I have opinions on this, and they’re just opinions, but these are mine. they’re not crazy or contrarian, it’s just easier to type this out here than Twitter.
The really obvious suggestion is WordPress. It’s good, open source, hugely popular, and has tons and tons of plug-ins and themes available. I like that the new built-in themes with every installation are pretty good and usable. I’ve used WP a lot, and it seems a bit much for a lot of my projects, but it’s the default for most people. The best way to launch a new blog with it, in my opinion, is to sign up for a $5 or $10 Digital Ocean server and when it asks you what OS to run, choose the Wordpress droplet option thingy, which makes it very easy. Digital Ocean is huge and popular too and I trust them.
Personally though, I am in love with static site generators. The idea behind them is that you write your posts in text files on your computer, and you keep them in a certain folder, and you stick some other files in there, and then every time you add or edit a new post, you run a special program, on your computer, which assembles all your files and images into a website, which you can just upload to any hosting provider in the world, and which will load very fast for visitors, and will probably never crash, even under really heavy traffic, on even the cheapest web hosting plan.
I have a static site I made using Jekyll (probably the most popular static site generator) which I host on Amazon S3. It’s just a special interest site with no ads or tracking, and minimal images (that I have carefully compressed), and it costs something like literally 3 cents a month to host, but it loads incredibly fast, and I guess I could probably make it even faster by hooking it up to Amazon’s CDN service, and that would also be super cheap, but I haven’t bothered.
So yeah, static site generators are, in my opinion, the greatest thing, although there are some downsides:
- Might be a bit tougher to find a good theme for it, although the default one is okay and you can tweak it. You can buy themes on Themeforest and surely other places I haven’t looked.
- Adding advanced features might be a bit tougher too. You can use a third party service like Disqus for comments if you really want to have comments. If you need to paste in some analytics code or Google ads or whatever, you can just stick those in your theme templates, it’s easy.
Static site generators are more work than Wordpress, but are cool as hell, and everything runs so fast, because your site is assembled once, on your own computer, instead of every single time a visitor hits your site. Here is the big list of most of the options out there. I’ve used Jekyll and Middleman and prefer the former (and it’s the best supported), but look around, they’re all free.
I’m tired and I have more opinions, but these are 2 things I would recommend to the average person asking this. This is not a fancy article.