How I Built and Manage My Blog

After the last redesign I started getting questions about how I built my blog and the tools I use to manage it.

I like to keep everything simple.

It guides whatever design choices I make.

Simple also means minimal. I don’t want to waste time or money with complicated solutions that only add more work, and I’ve kept the number of resources I use to run my blog to an absolute minimum.

Let’s take a look:

Platform: WordPress

Like most bloggers, I run WordPress on a self-hosted install.

I did consider a few other platforms such as Tumblr, Jekyll, and Ghost, but in the end WordPress offers the most flexibility, the ability to host anywhere, and the widest integration.

Hosting: SiteGround

I wanted solid hosting, so I started with an upgraded, three-year plan from SiteGround for $217.

Monthly plans are as low as $3.95, but I like paying in advance whenever possible because I hate monthly bills.

SiteGround hosting includes built-in CloudFlare CDN integration with Railgun (alone worth more than the cost of the monthly hosting plan) and I’m averaging load times of about 1 second or less—impressive performance for a WordPress install.

As my blog continues to grow I’ll likely move to Kinsta, but for most small to medium sized websites SiteGround is the perfect place to start.

Theme: GeneratePress

I wanted a clean look with a focus on typography and easy reading, so I built a custom design with GeneratePress.

There’s not much you can’t do with this theme. It’s easy to adjust fonts, typography, layout, and spacing from the WordPress dashboard. With a little custom CSS you can make it sing.

It’s fast, flexible, and I use it on all of my websites.

Newsletter: MailChimp

True to my minimalist ideals, I don’t use any popups or slide-ins.

Instead, I embed a simple subscribe form at the bottom of each post and style it with basic CSS in WordPress. It submits directly to MailChimp’s hosted form and doesn’t load any additional scripts on the page.

Images: Canva For Work

I’m still using PhotoShop and InDesign for all of my book design work, but Canva’s stock photo library and the ability to edit images quickly from my web browser have made adding the perfect image to any post a simple task.

Plugins

Finally, I use just a handful of select plugins to manage my website:

  • Yoast SEO: One of the first plugins to optimize WordPress for SEO and still the best; the free version works great for a single-author blog.
  • Clearfy: This nifty plugin allows you to speed up your website by disabling things you don’t use, like WordPress emojis and certain widgets that load a script on every page. You can also strip comments from code, combine and cache javascript, and improve security for an all-around cleaner WordPress install.
  • Google Analytics Germanized: Drop in your Google Analytic’s Property ID and this plugin is pre-configured to respect EU/GDPR privacy laws.
  • Akismet Anti-Spam: Comment spam is a real problem. Before installing this official WordPress plugin, I was getting dozens of spam comments a day. Now it’s less than one a week.
  • Redirection: A tiny plugin for monitoring 404 errors and creating 301 redirects.
  • SG Optimizer: This is the official SiteGround caching and optimization plugin that makes your pages load faster (requires SiteGround hosting).

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