Getting started blogging in 2023
I’ve been getting asked a lot about my blog lately, mainly along the lines of how did I build it and would I recommend it. I’ve been through quite a few different blog frameworks and tools, and have some thoughts on the many different approaches you can take. Like with most things in life, it depends on you and what your use case is.
In this article, we’ll look how this blog currently works and at some of the different ways you can start a blog.
How brockherion.dev currently works
Building a blog was something that I had wanted to do for a very long time. In 2020, I got started writing articles on Medium. I then tried building a site in WordPress, then Ghost, and finally just building my own platform.
The site you’re viewing now was built by me in a framework called Astro. I’m hosting the site on Cloudflare pages, bought my domain on Google Domains, and write all my articles in plain markdown. I also cross-post my articles on Medium and Hashnode to get a bit more exposure. All the sites styling was done using TailwindCSS. I’m hosting my code on GitHub and in a public repository, which I’ll have linked at the end in case you’re interested in viewing it.
I went with the self-built approach because I felt limited by all-in-one solutions like Medium and by full blogging frameworks like WordPress. I wanted my blog to look and feel a certain way, and those tools either wouldn’t let me, or took a lot more time than I was willing to put in. I also wanted to keep things as simple and cheap as possible, which lead me to the current stack. And while it works really well right now, I have some concerns with this setup about longevity and scalability as time goes on.
Starting a new blog
With that out of the way, let’s look at some of the different approaches you can take to starting a blog. As I mentioned previously, there’s a few different ways you can approach this. Each way has it’s own pros and cons depending on what you want your use case.
It’s important to keep this in mind as I share the different ways you can get started blogging. While one approach may have not worked for me, it may be a perfect fit for you. I’ve used a lot of these tools and what I wanted my blog to be may not be what you have in mind for yours.
Pre-built blogging sites
This is by far the easiest way to start a blog and start getting traction. Pre-built blogging sites are sites like Medium and Hashnode, where you sign up for an account and can start publishing articles. There are quite a few reasons you would want to go with one of these, or at least start with one.
- Very littler barrier to entry for writing
- You get exposure to a community right away
- You don’t need to worry about hosting a site, styling, or coding it
- Potentially faster monetization process
While I really do like these tools for starting, they don’t allow much in the way of customization or control over your content. These sites do a lot for you, but that comes at the cost of being limited in what you can and can’t do.
- Most sites allow limited or no theming
- Your content is tied to the site. If the platform were to shut down for some reason, you could lose all your writing
- If you want/need any more features, you’re at the mercy of the platform to add them
As a whole, these solutions are great to get started on and to start growing a community. They make starting a blog very simple and straightforward.
There are quite a few different frameworks for building a blog out there, but the most popular by far is WordPress. These tools provide a best-of-both-worlds experience between pre-built and custom built solutions, albeit to various degrees.
With something like WordPress, you have the a ton of flexibility in how you set it up. For example, you can quickly deploy an entire WordPress instance on SiteGround from the comfort of your web browser. You can also download the source code and deploy it to your own infrastructure if that’s something you’re into. It’s very quick to get a custom website setup that you have full control over. You can either install plugins and themes to get more functionality, or build it yourself. You get a finer grain of control over your site and content.
This flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can get a site up and running without needing to know how to code and manage infrastructure. There’s tons of plugins and themes available for you to really customize your site. On the other hand, there’s a learning curve for things like SEO, setting up analytics, and all the various plugins you might be installing. Of course, learning all that is a great thing and can be done over time, but can be a little bit overwhelming for non-technical people.
For developers, you can build your own themes and plugins. This is a great way to make your site unique and add more functionality. You can even sell them to make a little bit money on the side! You do, however, need to learn how these frameworks work in order to develop for them. Knowing PHP and CSS is not enough to start developing a WordPress theme. You need to know how WordPress organizes it’s layout and style files in order to start developing for it.
So for most people who are getting serious about blogging, using something WordPress or Ghost is a great option. These solutions do a ton out of the box to get you started quickly and are flexible enough to let you customize to your hearts content. You will need to put effort into learning more technical things, but these are things that you’ll need to learn anyway if you’re serious about growing as a blogger.
Building your own blog from scratch
Finally, we have building your own blog. This is what I settled on for myself and there’s a few reasons why. Building my blog from scratch in technology I know and am comfortable with allowed me to build out exactly the features I wanted and style it exactly to my liking. It was also cheaper for me to build and host it than setting it up on a tool like SiteGround or Blue Host.
The pros of building your own blog are you get complete control of the technology and deployment of your site. You can build your site exactly how you want to with tech that you know and love. Or maybe you’ve been wanting to try out a new frontend or backend. Building your blog in that is a fantastic way to learn and grow your programming skills.
On the other hand, this can become really tedious to maintain. This site is running Astro and all my posts are written in raw markdown. While I don’t make changes to the actual site that often, the site is still completely rebuilt and deployed every time I write a post. And any new features and functionality I want I have to build myself. Again, I view this as a learning experience, but you might find it something that gets in the way of your writing.
There’s a lot of things to consider when starting a blog, and each solution we’ve looked at fills a specific need. If you want to get blogging fast or don’t want to deal with any sort of site setup or configuration, pre-built solutions like Medium are for you. They can also be a great springboard into our other options as well. If you’re a serious blogger who wants to get setup fast and have more control over your site, frameworks like WordPress and Ghost will fit your needs very well. And if you want complete control over every aspect of your site or want an excuse to try out some new tech, building your own solution can be a great fit for you.