Moving this site back to WordPress.com

TL;DR – I am resurrecting my WordPress website, in fact if you are reading this, then good, you are seeing the correct website!

If you care for an explanation, here goes… If not then by all means have a read of my regular posts about more interesting things 😉

I started nicklewis.net about ten years ago and it has charted my progress through life as a contractor, freelancer, photographer, developer and as a kidney transplantee. Quite a lot happens in a decade!

So for the majority of this time the site was powered by the highly popular WordPress which I do love. However I switched to a different system, which is powered not by a database (like WordPress is) but static files and/or APIs. That system being Gatsby – it is brilliant no doubt but still quite young with many challenges to face before “coming of age”.

So what I did was to push back this site over to nicklewisweb.wordpress.com and to switch the domain of nicklewis.net to the Gatsby site hosted on Netlify. However I felt like it was missing some elemental things.

The question you may be asking, if you are still following me and haven’t nodded off yet…

Why?

Rubbish reason:

It seemed like a good idea? Everyone else has been doing it, which is partly true many people have.

Slightly better reason;

Better security, there is no database to worry about, since all content is produced in markdown format and then deployed to a CDN. Hackers, sorry, you are out of luck, there is nothing for you to get into.

A better reason:

Gatsby is based around ReactJS, which is fabulous and I’ve been using it a great deal for building front-ends. It is fast, lightning fast and when coupled with files served up by a CDN, the performance is Ferrari fast. It opens up a lot of possibilities not to mention, I am no fan of WordPress templates (prefer Drupal 8’s use of twig).

The problem:

This is a complex scenario to be honest and I hope to express my feelings of concern over the new approach we are taking and the rationale behind it all. The truth is that all of these new technologies are very new and they are far from perfect. What is after all? However there are many things that you can’t do with a static website, well not easily at least.

So here is a brief bullet-list overview of some of them:

  • Search doesn’t come out of the box as it does with WordPress or Drupal. Sure Algolia is great but let’s not forget you need to pay for that eventually. Ok for me if I have the spare funds but explain this to a client, especially a savvy client and you’ll have trouble justifying it. Some shrewd people may ask, well, this is a security hole is it not because this is database powered! Fair point and brownie points to you for spotting that one!
  • Maybe the first thing I should have mentioned is that editing content is not customer friendly, supposing you are a freelancer building sites for folk, either they will need to know how to create markdown files or you’ll need to resort to using Contentful (or similar). Guess what? Contentful costs money too and that would need to be factored into any quote. What was wrong with a simple $n per month per site all inclusive? Nope nothing at all, no nasty surprises and easier to quote for!
  • Keeping core software up-to-date hasn’t gone away either and different versions may require quite a lot of changes to get things to work because JS projects are notorious for over-innovating.

Let’s wrap this up here because I could go into more detail but I won’t.

GatsbyJS and other static engines such as Phenomic, Jekyll, Hugo and so on are all brilliant and work well for a lot of projects. However I do worry about the way people snap new ideas up these days without really thinking things through. It seems reckless to abandon the tools that have worked well for us for so long. Especially important when working with clients, you can sleep at night if you know the products you sell are pretty damn reliable and well tested.

I’m a fine one to talk but I’ve learnt a lesson here. I am not ruling static site generators out because CMS systems such as WordPress and Drupal will move more towards being “Headless” in the future and will utilise these tools…. that will be much better because we will then be seeing the emergence of hybrid systems that serve both our clients well and will open up a whole new realm of possibilities for developers the world over.

Finally I was missing the WordPress community tools and the joy that they bring in helping bring the bloggers together!

 

 

8 Comments

    1. I can and having written the article last night I’m painfully aware there is a lot of detail I didn’t go into. However I’m more than happy to run a series of articles on this.

      In short headless is a funny term much like many others these days i.e serverless – it’s all about the separation of an applications layers or should I say in some cases there are a lack of such.

      In the case of WordPress and Drupal, the former being more so, template code is combined with business logic and other such components. It’s hard to work out what is what and there is a danger of it all becoming too entwined, like the boxes of cables in my loft. I’ve no idea what they are for now. I could work it out but that takes time and is a pain point.

      So Headless sets out to cure this by scrapping the WordPress templates but keeping the back-end so that editors can carry on doing their job. It opens the doors for front end specialists to come on board and write the code using any method they are familiar with. So Gatsby would fit in well but it needn’t be just that one. There are challenges though because there are now more cloud services to consider and as I say certain features may become inaccessible which is why a more in depth article must be written! So the gains in terms of software engineering are huge but some user experience issues may be a problem for the back office people who you will leave to run the whole thing once your final invoice has been settled.

      Reply

      1. When you say WordPress templates, do you mean things like header.php – and if those are done away with, what remains that is ‘WordPress’? Actually, when you said headless, I thought you might mean the way that WP is ‘loosely decoupled’ with an API – although I have only the vaguest idea what that actually means. What does it mean and how do headless and decoupled relate? And how does Gutenberg and its JavaScript/React base tie in to all of this?

    1. All great questions David and I need to break it down more to make it clearer. You’ve perhaps identified a flaw in my own description earlier by referring to headless as being loosely coupled, APIs etc, yes that is indeed part of it…. full article is in order, in fact a series would be better. I shall try and find the time for that and I will at some point. I must catch up on this. I’m probably going to break my sites up a bit and introduce a nicklewis.tech and nicklewis.photo, keeping this one as a general chatty journal… if only I could employ a small team of junior developers to help me delegate the work!!

      Reply

Leave a Reply