I’ve done it. I’ve migrated my site, or most of it, to a self-hosted WordPress. Previously I’d hosted Dragonami on Squarespace because it’s ridiculously easy to set up and maintain. I didn’t have to worry about anything but my content. Recently, though, I got the itch to try something new. I started dabbling around with HTML & CSS, messing around with a test site on GitHub Pages using Jekyll because it was free and easy.
There came a point where I realized that Jekyll wasn’t going to do it for me. So I bought some hosting and installed WordPress. In my previous attempts to use WordPress, I wasn’t happy with the free theme offerings. Most themes did one or two things I wanted, but none did all of them, and most didn’t handle them the way I wanted. So obviously the way to go is to write your own.
Here is where you stop me and say “Wait a minute Kristian, you know there are some great paid options.” I hear what you’re saying, and I looked. Most of the are super expensive, and this site is really just a hobby at this point. I’m not making any money from it, and I don’t know that I ever will, so it wasn’t worth it to me to spend the money. Additionally, I want to learn to do things myself. I may never be a fully fledged web developer, but I like to have at least a basic understanding of how my blog works.
With that in mind, I set out to something to explain to me what goes into a WordPress theme. After a few Google searches, I came across this excellent series of posts by Tania Rascia. What was great was that they didn’t just ask me to paste code into a file. Sure, you could do that (I chose to type in the code), but she explained to you what it did and how it worked with the greater WordPress system.
Learning ‘PHP’, the language WordPress is coded in, was easy enough. having taken a few programming courses over a few languages in college, once I learned the general syntax, I was off to the races. At this point, I know just enough to be dangerous, and can read and understand basic structures. Anything more complex, and I’m Googling to find out what’s happening. I’m still learning the finer points of organizing my website as far as HTML elements go. CSS is simple enough, though when I’m trying to do something specific, Google is again my go to.
At this point, the overall structure and design of Dragonami is hugely inspired by John Gruber’s ‘Daring Fireball’. Almost to the point of being a clone with a different logo and color scheme (sorry John). But I’m no designer, and I really like that aesthetic. Hopefully, should he ever come across my site, John will be flattered rather than upset. Or even better, maybe my skills will have progressed by then to the point that it’s an original expression of me and not just of something I find inspiring.
Some people use services like Squarespace because they want to just write. I thought that’s what I wanted too. But now I realize that a lot of my enjoyment comes from doing what Squarespace manages for me. So until I get bored, I’ll keep tweaking and adjusting this blog and learning more in the process.