Categories
General

How to start blogging? Start with a platform you enjoy.

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To some, this may seem obvious. Others may be writing on a platform they don’t enjoy. Some will also still be looking for a platform they enjoy writing on.

Why am I saying this now?

I say this now because it’s the mistake I made, and I didn’t even realise I made it in the first place. Sometime last year, something went wrong with my WordPress blog. Restoring from a previous version didn’t seem to fix it. This made me think it was time to ditch WordPress and go elsewhere.

It was at that moment when I started looking at static site generators such as VuePress, Gatsby etc. In the end, I chose VuePress because it was using VueJS. A language I was using alongside Laravel, and I thought it would be a great experience. At first, things went well, and I managed to export and re-import all my current blog posts. They were converted from HTML into Markdown.

The site was then hosted with Netlify, which is an awesome free static website hosting company. During this time, my writing started to slow down, but I didn’t notice. After a while, I thought my site looked too much like a documentation website which is understandable because that’s what VuePress is primarily built for.

Gaining some inspiration and motivation

A graphic designer on Twitter inspired me with his amazing website designs. Someone on Slack also spoke about a new static site generator called GridSome. GridSome looked better for creating blogs, and so I went to use it for the next iteration of my blog. Inspired, I created a really nice design and moved everything to GridSome.

It was still on Netlify, and I used Forestry to create my blog posts. It felt slick, and I was happy with the results. At least, I was at first. After spending some time writing, I found I couldn’t fully manage my posts. I couldn’t create drafts, and I couldn’t schedule them for later.

It still wasn’t enough to keep me going

This really slowed my writing process down, and I found I was no longer enjoying the writing experience. I was trying other tools and apps such as Notion, Bear and Evernote. None of these was as enjoyable as using WordPress.

Finally realising something was amiss

However, I still didn’t realise this until today. Even though I purchased a WordPress hosting subscription a couple of weeks ago. I only did it because I thought it was something I needed to do, but I wasn’t sure why. Now it’s as clear as daylight. The reason I chose to go back to WordPress is that I truly enjoy the experience.

They have everything you need to make a start. You can write drafts, schedule posts and connect to a huge community. Unfortunately, I lost my community the day I left and moved to static websites. However, I really hope that now I know this is where I want my content to stay, I can rebuild my community.

Please don’t make the same mistake I did

If you’re not enjoying your writing process, maybe it’s time to find another platform that can help make it more enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be WordPress. It can be Notion, Medium, Facebook, Twitter etc. The possibilities are endless, and it’s completely up to you. Find your platform, and find your community. Spread your wings and fly, but also enjoy the process and feel the wind through your fingertips.

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Categories
Wordpress

Top 5 plugins for WordPress

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These are my top 5 plugins which I think most people should have, especially if you’re a blogger looking to make connections and/or your site as fast as possible.

5. Smush

Smush is a fantastic plugin which can help speed up your website by compressing images. You can bulk ‘Smush’ as they say which will compress images with a single click. If you’re on the free version, you can Smush up to 50 images at a time. However, if you pay to upgrade, then you can Smush as many images you like. Both versions will allow you to auto-Smush any future uploaded images.

People say you should install this asap to avoid tons of images needing to be compressed. This way, all images are compressed the minute you decide to upload them.

4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Project)

AMP is so good, WordPress themselves decided to help maintain and support it. Google asks that any news site uses AMP, this way your site won’t load any unneeded CSS and/or JavaScript when showing in Google search. Google may also give you a slightly higher ranking because AMP shows your site is faster than those that aren’t using it.

3. Super Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps (or PWA for short) allows users to install your blog onto their desktop/tablet/mobile devices. This gives them easier access to your website and it’s much better than bookmarks which are never to be seen again. Users will even be able to see your blog offline due to caching, just like a native app on your phone. And best of all, you don’t need to submit your blog to any app store, it works straight from any browser which supports PWA. – Download plugin

2. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is another great package, even if you don’t use it for the SEO part. Then the readability section is great for general blogging. I love getting a little green smile telling me posts are readable. The SEO section is also a very good indicator if you have keywords you would like to hit.

1. JetPack by WordPress.com

Finally, JetPack by WordPress.com is my most important plugin for bloggers. Especially if you’re looking to connect with a much wider audience. Think about how Medium connects all their readers to a Medium Blog. Now think about hosting that one your own site while still having that audience, and then you have the JetPack plugin.

There are of course many other benefits, such as lazy loading images for faster pages. Automatically share your posts across all your different social networks. If you wanted to, you could also pay extra to enable backups, advanced built-in search and malware protection.

The easiest way to install any of these plugins is through your site’s admin panel. You can copy and paste any of the above plugins to find what you need.

Have you got any other plugins you could recommend?

Sound of in the comments below…

Categories
General

A Netlify Test

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Last week I signed into my WordPress blog and found I had errors. These errors seemed to have occurred through my Neve theme which may have been caused by an upgrade somewhere along the lines. I tried to trace the errors back through my daily backups, but it seemed no matter what I did, I still had errors.

Because of this, and because it’s seemingly not my fault, I decided to move away from WordPress. I’m now using VuePress which is based on VueJS and generates markdown files into the correct HTML format. It’s not initially meant for blogging, which meant I had to tweak it a little, but I’m liking the change.

I hooked VuePress up to NetlifyCMS which gives me a nice editor. It will then create new branches on GitHub whenever I save an article, and once I hit publish, it will merge the PR into my master branch.

This is powerful and it means there will be less errors because of how static it is. I can update the packages myself and rollback to any previous changes if need be. Netlify also allows you to preview any branches which can be very powerful, especially if you made some huge changes and you’re not sure if they’ll deploy the way you’d like.

You can also A/B test your branches and see what UI changes work best for you. It’s an incredibly powerful system and I highly recommend it to anyone who thinking going to headless or static sites.

Categories
General

Creating events calendar and updating status page

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I have now created an events page. You will be able to keep up to date with all of my events, and talks. My plan is to do at least 3 fundraising events this year, and with social media hiding lots of content, I thought it would be easier to add it here. You can head on over to Events, as well as look at the sidebar. Some events will be TBC until more details are confirmed, and others will be there straight away.

If you would like to join me in any of these events, then you can comment on the event, DM me on Twitter or message me on Facebook. I will try to get back to you as soon as I am free, but please be patient.

If you have any events you would like to share, then please comment below. I can even add them if others can take part as well.

Finally, I have also updated my status page. Consider it a little bit of social networking, but more static and less hidden.

Categories
General

Migrating this website to SiteGround

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Affiliate links:

Please be aware that the links in this article are affiliate links. If you click on them, I will gain some sort of commission. All money gained will help future blog posts.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about SiteGround, you can see it here if you haven’t already read it. In that blog post, I stated that my wife’s website, Brooks Pet Sitters was hosted with them. However, the website you were reading from was hosted with Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean is great if you have complicated sites or programs, but this is a simple WordPress site. All shared hosting will work with WordPress, so why did I go with SiteGround?

SiteGround is incredibly affordable, yet they don’t sacrifice the quality. They have 24/7 support and will tackle any problem that may arise. The speed is amazing, I tried to optimise my VPS website as much as I could, and SiteGround’s speed is just better. I could have probably done more to optimise, but why should I when a company can do it for me at a cheaper price?

The migration was simple even going from a VPS to SG, rather than using the migrator tool they offer, I instead went through a manual process. This did take slightly longer, but it ensured that everything would run smoother. Within half an hour, my site was uploaded to my new hosting and my domain name pointed over. SSL is offered with the click of a button and once it’s processed, you can force your website to https.

If I’ve convinced you to use SG, then please help support me by signing up with my affiliate banner below. Can’t see the banner? Click here.

Categories
Hosting SiteGround

Thinking of self-hosting your Blog?

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Affiliate links:

Please be aware that the links in this article are affiliate links. If you click on them, I will gain some sort of commission. All money gained will help future blog posts.

I’ve self-hosted my blog for a long time now and I’ve just migrated my wife’s website from Weebly to self-hosted. For general purpose WordPress websites, I’ve found the best hosting is through SiteGround. They offer great solutions for exactly what you need. E.g. they have optimised hosting for WordPress, WooCommerce or general cloud hosting. You can go from hosting one site or upgrade to host multiple sites.

Their support is 24/7 and you can contact them using phone, chat or email, and you can choose what works for you. WordPress websites come pre-installed with plugins that speed up your blog and get you started with themes. If you would like to see my wife’s website, then you can take a look at Brooks Pet Sitters to get a feel.

They offer a no-risk 30-day money-back guarantee which means you can’t lose.

Categories
Wordpress

Turn your WordPress Website into a Progressive Web App (PWA)

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What is a Progressive Web App?

Some of you may be wondering what a Progressive Web App actually is, allow me to explain. It’s a JavaScript file that uses Web Sockets that performs various tasks. Tasks such as caching your files for faster page loads. Caching also allows a user to view your website even when the user is offline. This means they can still view all of your wonderful content in mobile or broadband blackspots. This does however mean that it won’t be up to date until they have an internet connection, but at least they can still view something.

Another thing it does is allow your users to install your website to their phone. This then acts as an app that has a splash screen and loads very quickly.

All of this makes it really easy for your users to view your site time and time again and keeps them engaged for longer. It’s a huge win, and the way to get it is super simple…

As easy as 1, 2, 3!

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of turning my websites into PWAs, it turns out, it is actually fairly straightforward. WordPress has been the most straight forward so far. Simply install Super PWA and update the settings of the app.

You can then test this works by using Chrome, pressing F12 on your keyboard clicking “audits” and then performing an audit on your website.

Congratulations, your website is now a PWA and you should give yourself a pat on the back for all that hard work. Now go tell your users about how great your website is now it’s a PWA.