"Maybe I should create a website?"
This thought came up in my mind irregularly in the past. Usually when I thought about which creative outlet I should use. One option, the creation of videos, I did pick up but it did not feel like the right means for many things that I feel I want to say.
Blogging came to mind next since it focuses on the content and less about the delivery. It is content distilled down to the essence, so to speak. Yet, whenever I gave that option some thought my perfectionism countered with many questions, like "Which platform to use for blogging?" or "Use a paid variant or a free for the beginning?" and the most important question: "Which domain should I register?".
Feeling overwhelmed by this barrage of questions I usually decided to stop thinking about it.
This week something was different. I stumbled over a video of NetworkChuck where he was telling his viewers that they need to create their on website ... like right now. Seeing this video was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.
In the past weeks I have become more "productive" in my free time. Finally, I started to do some programming projects that had been on my mind for quite some time. The more I programmed the more I wished to write about it. So NetworkChuck's message came at the perfect time.
The birth of a new site
Are you aware how easy it is to create a new site? The term child's play comes to mind. It takes less than 5 minutes and can even be for free.
To me it was immediately clear that I would choose a paid version. The prime reason being a simple one ... control. Another reason being that a paid site looks more professional. "topjer.host-your-site-for-free.com" simply does not have the same ring to it as "topjer.net" does. Lastly, the lack of ads also helps to give the site a clean look.
I briefly swayed from NetworkChuck's recommendation to check out other web hosting options only to quickly return to the one he mentions, hostinger.com.
It seemed like all hoster would basically give you the same service with minor differences. I feared that going into the details this early in my "career" would make it crash before it could even lift off.
Here is now the first thing I learned in the process:
Prices for web hosting are somewhat non-transparent.
Hostinger advertised a web server for 2,39€ a month. You even get a free domain on top. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it kinda isn't. See, you get the price of 2,39€ a month only if you agree to rent the server for 48 months. And afterwards you have to pay 4,99€ a month.
If you don't want to be bound to Hostinger and want to be able to cancel the subscription on a monthly basis you have to pay 7,99€.
Remember the free domain I was also talking about? Well, it is free for a year and than you have to start paying. Depending on the suffix you choose the price can vary greatly. I went with a '.net' which will be 12€ annually starting from the second year. Initially, I had my eye on '.tech' until I found out that this would cost a whopping 45€ a year.
If you break it down to a month this is still less than 4€ but since I had no idea how good blogging works for me, I went for the cheaper alternative.
As a side note I want to mention that I had to pay up front. At least I did not see the option to pay monthly. So expect to pay a bigger amount initially when getting your own site.
In all fairness, I want to say that Hostinger is by no means "the black sheep" in the herd of web hoster. On the contrary, it seems like most providers of web hosting services use similar tactics.
In the limited selection of hoster I checked out, Hostinger seemed to be one of the less non-transparent.
Did anyone say child's play?
After I have stomached the final price and decided on the domain - a process that took surprisingly long for the fact that I went with such a simple address in the end - I was finally able to start my blog.
As the foundation of my site I wanted to use WordPress which apparently is used by the majority of websites in the world wide web. We are talking about 60% of the software built sites.
Surely it will be easier this way than to code the site by hand. Well, I guess this is true. Especially since I know very little about front end development. Next to nothing to be honest. But it is by no means "easy".
Since WordPress is powerful tool I was faced with a plethora of options right from the start. Use WordPress to customize the outline of site. Elementor can be used for parts of the content. Interested in analytics? Simply make a Google analytics account and start with OptinMonster. Forms. Plugins. Search Engine optimization.
Right from the get go I made a grave mistake. I decided to create my side according to a template. This filled the side with some example content. My pride forbids me to tell you how long it took me to remove said content. Too long! Don't get me started on the endeavor of adding my socials to the side. There were many ways to present them on the site. Each working a bit differently.
So here is my next lesson
Tool assisted website creation is complex. So keep it simple in the beginning!
A door opened
There is one aspect which I completely neglected until now.
The initial goal was to find an outlet, to give me a medium to communicate my thoughts. To document my journey. Yet, I have attained so much more.
Having a whole web server for yourself creates possibilities that every developer can appreciate. The plan I choose did not only give me a hosted WordPress. No! It gave me a whole web server to play around with.
I can simply ssh onto the server and snoop around. Create cronjobs. Run my own scripts on it 24/7. Create databases and connect my scripts to it.
Do you remember me talking about professionalism in the beginning? What is more professional than having a mail address like email@example.com?
Of course, compared to dedicated solutions the server I now have is lacking and probably laughable. But do not forget: I got all of that on top! I did not know that I would need all of that. Now that I have it, I am excited to play around with it. I can still switch to a more powerful dedicated server should I outgrow my current solution. After all it has gotten nearly as easy to get your own virtual machine in the cloud nowadays.
With renting this server I have embarked on a journey. The surprise about the prices and the almost overwhelming number of options aside the start of this journey has been mostly positive. Most importantly it has made me excited for what is about to come...