New realities for making websites

Back in 2004, I started a blog on Livejoural. Yes, yes, I know Livejournal is kind of laughable but give me a break, it was 2004 and I was new to the whole blogging thing. I eventually made my first website in 2005 because I wanted to show some of my pictures, writings, etc. in addition to my blog. At the time, the best integration I could manage with LJ was to have it in a frame or direct to another webpage. 

I didn’t like either option, it was always ugly and awkward. Not that I was any great shakes when it came to web design, but even I couldn’t help but notice how bad that was. I decided to host my blog on my website. The software I was using (more on that later) made it pretty easy to do. While I was in Yemen I switched over the Google’s Blogger for hosting my blog. If I remember correctly, the idea was that I had more access to Blogger over there. When I was hosting my own blog, I had to write it in the software on my computer but I had some serious problems getting my computer to work in the internet cafes at first. With Blogger I could email a post or use the web portal to make new posts. A plug in on the the website software allowed me to host my info on Blogger and still have it show up on my site styled like the rest of it. Later on I downloaded Mars Edit software to make it easier to post to multiple blogs. My workflow has remained the same for quite a few years now.

Even though I haven’t really changed much when it comes to how I make the website, there are ongoing costs. I have updated the website software twice, I also have to pay to register the domains I own as well as a fee for hosting the content. I’ve been using Dreamhost for domain registration and hosting and I don’t really have any complaints. Well, not about them.See, the thing is, there is a lot of fiddly things that make me a little crazy. I have changed the look of my website twice and both times it was a total pain in the neck. 

I have been using Rapidweaver software. It isn’t as powerful as Dream Weaver, but I’m not sure anything is. Ease of use is the calling card of Rapidweaver. I really didn’t want to learn to code just for a website, I don’t have to with Rapidweaver. You pick a theme, you pick what kind of page you want, then you drop the content into the pages. Violá, you have a website! Well, a basic website. It looks much better with third party themes, and you get more control (while still laying off the code) buy buying plugins for the pages. Of course then you have to figure out which plugins will work with things like iPads, you have to keep the main software, the themes, and the plugins up to date. You have to keep track of FTP settings and go back and forth between the “auto” loading of the website onto the host and doing manually. In short, even though the software made things a lot easier, it was still a lot of detail and fiddling around that I really didn’t want to bother with.

Still, I’ve put up with it because… well, what else could I do? Turns out things have changed quite a bit over the years. The emergence of Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) has finally given us a viable option. Essentially, instead of having software on my machine, I log into a service on the web and do all the website work there. What would I gain by doing that? It’s true that there would still be the fiddling with design. I’ve always found that annoying and I’m not very good at it (those two things are probably related). It does look like it is both simpler and better looking than the defaults on Rapidweaver though. Think it will be an easier setup overall. The updates come automatically, there are no FTP issues to deal with, they do the hosting and domain registration. It will replace the website software, the hosting company, and the hassle of making all the moving parts working together. Basically, it will make my life simpler when it comes to my website.

True, I give up some freedom in design, but that’s fine by me since I don’t want to deal with it anyway. The bigger issue is what happens if that company goes away? It’s one thing for your software company to go away, you still have the site on your computer. Ditto for the hosting company. If one company is doing it all, you could be setting yourself up for trouble if there’s problems with that company. I do think a lot of that can be mitigated by picking a good company to begin with. If the company goes under, I will still have all of my content. Between regular exports of the site and the duplication of the blog posts in Mars Edit, I don’t have any worry about losing my blog. The same goes for anything else that I put up there. True, it would be a royal pain to recreate everything, but I could do it. RIght now I have everything being exported by Rapidweaver and I have all of the content, HTML, CSS, etc in a folder but realistically I couldn’t do anything with that stuff if Rapidweaver went away. Seems to me that I am in the same boat in either case.

I’m looking at Squarespace as a possible place to move the website. It’s $8 a month for what I want to do. I’d have to do the math but if I include the price of software updates, domain registration, and web hosting… well, it’s close enough that I’d have to do the math. I feel like I would get a much simpler way to maintain my website and have a lot better support. I still have a little while to go on my hosting plan so I won’t be switching soon, but I’m glad that there are now options,

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