This is my new personal site. It has significant changes under the hood, but you’d never know it from the drab design. That will change over time.
The important thing is that I have 20+ years of content under one domain (some not visible yet), and a process to add to it daily.
I tried this new site out on many platforms, and to simplify the 6-or-so months of trial and error, I’ll sum up the hosted CMSs I tried:
Pros: perfect for self-contained, single, paid publications and membership brands
Cons: not great at much else yet, not great for freely distributed publications, and expensive
Wordpress (multiple hosts)
Pros: industry standard, lots of options to expand, lots of options for design
Cons: can be expensive with a good host, and fiddly with a bad host, plus it’s increasingly complex for just posting something daily
Pros: I love almost everything about this.
Cons: Not great at integrating with your decades of previous work (if you want that all in one place and under your control), not great at adapting individual pieces to the habits of your specific audience (and that’s not the focus anyway)
Pros: Version 7.1 has introduced an entirely new philosophy for experimenting with content and products — it’s virtually limitless and damn near effortless. I’ve been with them since version 4 (well over a decade ago), while also using about 10 other personal and enterprise CMSs in my writing.
Cons: Transitioning to 7.1 from previous versions is notoriously difficult, expensive since it’s not fully supported yet, and the company seems hostile to writers at times. I can’t really blame them when you consider how much money can be made from a 5-page small business site (that doesn’t change over the course of years but may upsell into marketing and ecommerce services) versus a writer’s site (which for the same price could have 1000+ multimedia posts and may never need the upsells, just more and more storage for posts at the same unlimited fee).
I ended up on Squarespace 7.1, because my top priority right now is experimentation. I need create and fail more. On 7.1, it’s comically trivial to set up a podcast, landing page, newsletter, downloadable or physical product for sale…it’s endless. It takes minutes to try something new and see if it sticks with anyone.
If I have 20+ years of content with only a few (publicly available) products to show for it, I’m probably doing something wrong. I wanted simpler, clearer ways to communicate through books, videos, audio, guides, directories, etc.
Creating something daily in public is also big for me right now. I’ve journaled daily for 10 years, so it’s time to practice that a bit more in public. It’s a different muscle.
Personal sites should be more about the practice of creating than selling the reader on an idea or product. It’s the place where the reader gets to tell the creator which ideas resonate, so that more focused sites, newsletters, podcasts, or books can form naturally with the support of the audience.
And, yes, the site not very pretty right now, but there are a lot of great designers out there who could help where I struggle. It’s a lesser concern (but I must admit the Ghost version of this site was gorgeous right out of the box).
It took a lot of time and money to get this site up and running on 7.1, but I’m hoping the payoff will show in the experiments I have queued up.
If it doesn’t work, that’s fine too. The hosting element was an experiment as well, and you can’t correct course if you don’t set sail.