Why I nearly ditched WordPress for good

… and why I decided to continue.

business coffee composition computer

For the past 15 years or so, I have hosted and maintained a WordPress website. Why? That’s an excellent question, and the answer is… I’m not entirely sure.

I’ve had a few half-decent posts, which is debatable considering I’m probably averaging one post per year. I’ve also maintained a portfolio under the same site, and posted multiple videos and quotes that I find inspirational. So, not too much to brag about! However, during this time I’ve also created around 8 different bespoke WordPress themes, experimented with multiple premium themes (previously Divi), designed multiple logos, and re-organised content a million times over. Lets just say I’ve learned a lot by experimenting with the code/scripting behind the platform to create something rather than use the platform for what it is intended.

As you can imagine, I haven’t received too many subscribers due to the lack of activity, but at present this doesn’t concern me. Right now, I’m concentrating on creating a workflow which encourages me to write and practice the art of writing, exposure is not a big deal.

So, why not WordPress anymore?

Well, WordPress after 15 years is… still very WordPress. By this I mean, it’s still all based on the same fundamental principles as it was over a decade ago. This isn’t a massive issue, I mean it’s served the platform well and it’s still the most used CMS on the web, not to mention it’s open source, which I’m a personal fan of.

Assessing cost

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Firstly, cost. Running a website can be costly, I originally paid for web hosting and downloaded a copy of WordPress so I could tailor it to my needs. This was fun in the beginning and I learned a lot, but as mentioned I never really focused on content creation. The web hosting was originally cheap, but performance was slow. Eventually I wanted to host more than one website, so I moved to a better hosting company which was more reliable and allowed me to host unlimited websites, but ultimately this cost more. I was ready to downsize and save some pennies, so now seemed like a good time to look outside if WordPress and see what I was missing.

Becoming bloated and uninspiring

WordPress can feel… heavy. Simply moving between posts and pages was starting to feel sluggish most of the time. This could be due to the web hosting performance, size of resources being loaded, but to be honest it just feels like old tech.

I also need to be inspired to use the tool. This is a big one for me, and these days I’m finding WordPress fairly underwhelming and uninspiring. My seemingly inability to stop dabbling in design and layout demands something where I can write and publish with ease and without distraction – so less will definitely be more for me.

I’ve changed

Over time I’ve changed, both personally and professionally. My passion for dabbling with code has lessened, it’s not completely gone but it’s definitely faded. Partly due to my career which is now more managerial and leadership based. Also, personally I find staying on top of the latest coding languages tough in todays fast-paced technological world, and in all honesty, it frustrates me that I’m unable to stay on top of it. My interests have changed, I’m clearer in my mind as to what I want to do or in this case not do. I’m looking for a less is more approach to blogging.

What were my options?

Well… I’ve been trialling and experimenting with a few things.

Firstly, I was drawn to Ghost, a super quick and simple website for creators. I tried this for a month or so and the speed of the site was incredible which really impressed me. I thought this was going to be the clear winner for me, but I soon found there were little things that I couldn’t do and the lack of features in the site started to annoy me, plus the search was far from great IMO. The USP of this platform and pricing model is based around subscribers, and there was a real emphasis on subscribing to posts. For me I didn’t feel this was necessary, so this start to feel like the platform wasn’t for me. The speed though, wow, it was quick and it felt so great to use.

I also looked at Substack, which I’ve seen others use in the Higher Education Edtech game, but similar to Ghost it seemed to be geared around subscriptions, which wasn’t a main driver for me. If I had to choose between these two, it would be Ghost.

Going a little left field, I then experimented with Notion, a tool I’ve been using for work and transforming a set of pages into my website using Super.so. This seemed like a great idea and utilised a tool I’m already using, and the simplicity was a joy. Super.so was great to making the set of pages into a native website but again I soon became frustrated with trying to create a blog site using these services.

Ultimately, all the options I assessed so far were going to cost more and provide me with less. So finally, to remove some chaos I nearly reverted back to WordPress but this time hosting on their SASS .com solution but… URLs… U-R-L’s. I’m super picky with my URLs, I want them short and straight to the point, wordpress.com insisted on URLs with the publish date in them, whereas host WordPress yourself offered more freedom unless I was willing to pay more. So, while this sense-check was valuable I gained more knowledge of what’s on the market, I was being led back to my current set up but forcing me to think about making some tweaks to improve the situation.

Doing a complete 360

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Feeling a little like Liz Truss and mini-budgets, I have done a compete U-turn on all my research. My search for the holy grail was ultimately going to give me some of what I wanted but cost me more. The likes of Ghost, Substack, Notion coupled with Super.so, and hosting with WordPress were all more costly options, but I would have felt too restricted.

Rethinking what I need

I have decided to streamline and go back to basics. Previously, with a blog, landing page, portfolio and capturing CPD activities I was massively overcomplicating the structure of the site. Now, I’ve moved to a new .blog domain, I’m embracing the blog element and I’ve removed all other content so I can focus what matters to me, a focus on writing and a space to practice.

I’ve moved to a cheaper but what appears to be faster web host, and reduced the number of plugins, which has definitely improved performance.

I’ve also taken inspiration from my research into Ghost and dabbled with the WordPress theme (without too much code) to meet my simpler UI aspirations. I’ve moved away from the Divi WordPress builder, which was overkill for my needs and started using WordPress’ new template editor, which albeit is fairly restrictive, it does stop me dabbling too much in the areas other aren’t concerned with.

To conclude, although this was originally an exercise to move platforms (which has obviously failed), it has met the objective which was to create a space for me write and practice the art of writing. There is nothing against any of the platforms I’ve mentioned here, they all have their merits, but for now, for me, WordPress will do just fine.