WordPress vs…. well, everything else

I’ve been looking for another content management system for my site, but I was hoping to find something I would feel comfortable recommending to friends and family who want to self-host but don’t want anything labor-intensive.

There’s a reason WordPress is powering a third of all websites: it’s easy to get started, it’s easy to maintain, and it’s well-documented. There’s certainly a learning curve (sometimes a steep one) if you’re looking to really dig in and customize the look of your site or add unique features or apps, but if you want to use one of the countless beautiful pre-made themes and plug-ins already available, WordPress is probably going to serve you well.

My site is powered by WordPress, using a highly-tweaked version of the GeneratePress theme, which I’ve been using in its vanilla flavor on my Faer Forensic Investigations site for about 5 years now. It’s lightweight for a theme and loads quickly. They’ve also got top-notch support.

However, I was hoping for something even lighter, faster, and free of JavaScript. I love JS– it’s powerful, fun, and you can make cool stuff with it. I’d love to get paid to play with it someday, too. But why does a site like this need JS? It’s just words. I want to return to HTML’s simple roots. Let’s stop wasting data and bandwidth, and let’s remember that not everyone is accessing your website from a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro with a Google Fiber connection. Pretty web apps are awesome. But just because we can do something, that doesn’t mean we should.

It’s about using the right tool for the job.

So I looked at Hugo, which is quite nice. You can run it locally and see changes in real time, and then if you’re looking for “just get it online right quick,” just dump the contents of the /public folder into your host’s public_html (or whatever) folder. Easy peasy, and there’s GitHub Pages integration, too. Complexity goes up from there. Sites also load super fast. But the easy version still requires you to work with a good text editor and know how to upload files somewhere. It’s no example.com/wp-admin UI.

I also looked into Grav, which is pretty great. I had a beautiful Grav version of this site running locally within a couple hours. But I still felt like I was over-complicating things, and I didn’t feel confident about the process of making a local site and taking it online. I believe this is a common theme in CMS options, and one reason WordPress has done so well– there’s a built-in UI, and its target audience is not developers who already have a ton of experience and skills under their belts.

I will continue playing with Hugo and Grav, and there are a few others I’d like to explore, too. But my quest to use something I’d feel comfortable recommending to someone who isn’t a techie continues.

In the meantime, I’m back to using this lightweight theme with pure JS (no jQuery) and remembering why I liked GeneratePress in the first place.

By the way, a lot of these CMS tools use Markdown. I’m a big fan of Markdown, and I find myself using Markdown before I use a standard word processor (like Word or Libre Office). By the way, if you’re interested in learning Markdown, this Markdown Tutorial might be up your alley.