I’ve spent a lot of time using WordPress. I built CSharpening.net on WordPress. I maintained my own theme and used a large host of plugins. I had plugins for syntax highlighting, spam protection and took advantage of Jetpack. I hosted my site on Arvixe. They also took care of my URL registration. After over 8 years of using that blog, it’s time to move on. My first posts were about Second Life and Visual Studio 2010. A lot has changed since then.

Experimenting with Ghost

Ghost is an open source publication platform. It’s free for self-hosters and is an up-and-coming player in the CMS space. I started Wandering Programmer on Ghost but very quickly saw the limitations of such an early platform. Ghost is so simple it hurts. The editor uses markdown. There is almost no plugin support and the upgrade process is painful. I hosted my Ghost instance on Azure using the Bitnami Ghost stack. I was prompted to immediately upgrade to the latest version. Looking at the instructions to do so made me almost regret my decision but I decided to move forward anyways. Authoring was easy. Sarah and I made numerous posts using the antiquated markdown editor but we found it to be less than adequate. Ghost is evolving and will be a great platform in a year from now but the maturity behind a platform like WordPress was sorely missed.

Coming Full Circle 

Working hourly has made me more cognizant of every hour I spend doing anything. The fact that I had so much experience with WordPress and I was completely unwilling to have to deal with a bleeding edge system led me straight back to the platform I considered abandoning.  Though, this time, I spend much more time planning for some pain points that I had not originally considered when rolling out my WordPress blog in college.

Hosting

Originally, I had used Arvixe as my hosting company. They offered one click install and the standard CPanel support you would expect from any solid hosting provider. Their hosting platform was fast and simple. The primary problem that I encountered was uptime. Several times a week I would receive emails from Jetpack that my site was down. Albeit, I did little alleviate the problem, the fact that my site was down so frequently drove me away from hosting again with Arvixe.

After quite a bit of research I settled on SiteGround. Purchasing hosting and using their UI has been a snap. Installing the most recent version of WordPress was a single click and I enabled backups, SSL and domain configurations without too much fuss.  Their prices are reasonable. Unlike Arvixe, they do not offer unlimited storage with their basic tier but I would rather have the peace of mind of full backups and the uptime I expect rather than a service provider that offers unlimited storage.

Theme

My previous theme was hand designed. This is exactly the type of activity that I realize should be done by someone else. I paid 60 dollars for the Avada theme but it already paid itself back by how easy it was to configure and how beautiful it looks. I am no artist. I can’t come up with something like this. I can’t make it this easy with just a few hours of work.

This is another example of favoring my time over my money.

Publication

On my previous blog, I had Akismet to help prevent comment spam. After doing an inventory on my previous blog, I realized it did not work as well as I had expected. I had over 9,000 subscribers. 99.9% of those subscribers’ names and emails were random characters. This time I’ve taken advantage of Mailchimp to manage my email subscribers. I don’t think this will help will spam but should help me manage my subscriber base with a system that is designed to manage subscribers. WordPress just doesn’t seem like it’s designed to handle that kind of spam.

Plugins

Like I mentioned earlier, I used a huge host of plugins on CSharpening.net. More than 20. They required continuous updates. Many didn’t work with my custom theme. It was a hassle. This time I’m trying to reduce that number.  I currently have 7.

  • Akismet – Install by Default
  • Change Author – I imported a bunch of posts from Ghost and had to change the author from myself to Sarah. I likely could uninstall this.
  • Fusion Builder – Part of the Avada theme
  • Fusion Core – Part of the Avava theme
  • Hello Dolly – This is not just a plugin, it symbolizes the hope and enthusiasm of an entire generation summed up in two words sung most famously by Louis Armstrong: Hello, Dolly. When activated you will randomly see a lyric from Hello, Dolly in the upper right of your admin screen on every page. (probably could delete that….)
  • Jetpack – I brought it in for the analytics but I may remove it. I enabled Google Analytics on this site so I’m not sure if I need it. Would love to hear some feedback.
  • WP Subscribe – It looks pretty. Probably could have used the basic Mailchimp form and customized it but as I mentioned earlier, I’m focusing on my time much more closely.

Conclusion

I’m happy with my decision. Overall, I could focus on what’s important to me rather than fiddling with CSS selectors. I have a solid backup strategy and I have a lot fewer updates to worry about. I look forward to blogging more.

I’d love to hear you suggestions on blog hosting and WordPress configuration in the comments or on Twitter.