Build your own home on the web
02 Nov 2019
In the age of social media, why should you bother with a website? And in the age of website builders and content management systems, such as Squarespace, Wix or Wordpress, why should you bother with coding your site yourself?
The answer to the first question is simple: you don’t actually own anything you upload to social media. You basically give it all up for the price of maybe being noticed. Social media should be used to broadcast your stuff, but the things you make should be somewhere that’s yours. Get your own domain and build a website.
The answer to the second question is a bit harder. These days, you don’t need to know anything about HTML and CSS to build a website that you own. Or rather, you own the content. The templates being used (and the underlying code) is only on loan. That’s not good enough for me. I want to possess it all, and thus be in total control.
When GDPR went into effect in May 2018, it became obvious to me that I really didn’t know if and how Squarespace (that I was with at the time) complied with the new rules. What information did it collect from visitors? What cookies did it set? Did it set them before asking? Matters became clearer after a while but I still felt uneasy. It was then and there I decided to ditch Squarespace and build my own online home from scratch. I now know my sites don’t set any cookies, because I wrote all the code. As an added bonus, I also save some money since Squarespace isn’t cheap and I now pay nothing for website hosting and content delivery network services. Well, I pay in time (the time I spent learning to code this stuff), but I also happen to enjoy learning to build things like this.
So, this website is built with Jekyll (a free static site generator, that automates the creation of individual HTML pages with templates and scripting) and is hosted by Github pages. My photography site, hertze.com, is also built with Jekyll, but I host it on Netlify and use Cloudinary for media storage and dynamic image delivery. Is writing my content in Markdown flavoured text files and manually uploading photos to a content delivery network as convenient as logging on to a web based control panel? Definitely not, but it’s beautifully lean, like Hemingway’s prose.