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Discussion on: What tool/framework/cms/etc do you use to build your own personal website?

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Mark Bussell Jr • Edited on

The short answer? It depends on your goals for your site.

Pithy? Yup. Helpful? Probably not... here's my best answer in the context of the struggles mentioned.

It's never good enough

Absolutely. Never will be. Just like a mechanic's car will never be 100%, there's always something ... different ... about doing for yourself the work you normally do for others. Sometimes it helps to try to frame it in the more familiar terms of the client/dev relationship by either getting a friend to stand in for one side or the other, or to do some rubber duck style planning.

I've got a few sites going now, and not a one would I consider "good enough":

  • I've got Wayward Son Developers (GitHub link because it's currently experiencing some really odd problems - but that's a different issue). It was last touched when I'd started going back to school and was designed to fit the class criteria. Is it what I like or want? Nope. Is it good enough for now? Absolutely. (well... when I get the current connection issues fixed. I think something went wrong with the CloudFlare setup.)
  • I've got which I'm currently working on after a very long hiatus. (caused by reasons, not going to distract from this answer with those reasons). I moved it from an ancient Blogger account, and had initially tried to keep the same general design. I'll probably leave the design part alone for a bit to focus on actually posting content instead of endlessly tweaking LESS files. I'm not happy with it - especially the nonexistent mobile responsiveness - but it won't matter how responsive or mobile-friendly it is if the last thing I posted was from 2013.
  • I've got Bible By Example which is an upcoming podcast I'm working on - a bit of stress therapy, and hopefully soon a source of income. I used someone else's theme for this one. While I'd really like to make the design a little more my own and less the stock theme, I noticed that real work has stalled - so the design work is going on the shelf for a bit and the kind of work that moves things forward is going to start again tomorrow.
  • I've got Jesus Joshua 24:15 which is currently on hiatus... because the guys are on hiatus. I think the last re-design was when they released their 3rd album, and that was a while ago. Bob was very happy with it; and I'm both proud of what I did when I built it, and a little embarrassed that it hasn't really moved forward. It is nice to have some of these older projects around to use as a measuring stick, to ask "is what I'm doing now better or the same as what I was doing?"

There are a few others, but these each have unique answers for the next two bits so

I can never pick a framework

Who says you have to pick just one? Each project has it's own requirements, and sometimes any framework at all can be overkill for a project. Most are up on GitHub (some hosted on GitHub pages) if you want to poke around and see what's there. If we go through the list, you'll see:

  • Wayward Son Developers is good ole handcrafted HTML/CSS. In Notepad. Up hill both ways. Seriously though, when I get and done enough I'm going to go back and re-do this with either Pretzel or Jekyll. Probably the latter since it makes it easier to run on GitHub Pages. Work has already started to that end.
  • is built using Pretzel (a .NET based, Jekyll compatible static site generator), and Pure.CSS (fairly light weight CSS library), and everything else was sort of tossed together ad hock while I figured out how Pretzel/Jekyll put things together.
  • Bible By Example came later, and benefited from what I learned with It's built using Jekyll and the Minimal Mistakes theme.
  • was built using a bit more of a heavy CMS. Partly because at the time I was very active in the Snitz Forums community at the time, and I'd used it as a Forum/CMS on a few projects in that same time frame. And partly because what Bob was asking for required something a bit more, and a CMS made more sense.

I've used my personal and side projects as playgrounds for the stuff I've been meaning to try out. I've found that trying something without a specific goal really isn't helpful, so having the project focuses my testing and helps me figure out what is a good fit for certain projects. Case in point - my sister is getting ready to start a blog. As much as I've been playing with static site generators I can tell that it's not a good fit for her. Instead I ended up recommending Square Space. Could I have built her a CMS and hosted it? Sure, but not on the timetable she's looking for.

I don't like updating it

Can't say I blame you on this one, I've got the same problem... Jesus Joshua 24:15 has been on hiatus, Eastover Fire Department shut down their website, I haven't been a part of Hope Fellowship for years - and most of the work I've done lately is stuck behind the corporate firewall.

That was the impetus for a couple of the projects above - I needed some new work to put on Wayward Son Developers, and work that I could showcase without legal issues. :)

I don't have a process either, I'll post something when I come up with one.


So, after looking over 950-ish words I'm not sure I actually answered your question any more helpfully than the pithy initial response. Is there anything I can clarify/expand that would rescue this long ramble?

nayeonkim profile image
Nayeon Kim Author

Haha, thanks for sharing your experiences with clear samples. Glad to know I'm not the only one having these thoughts.