This site is no longer hosted on Squarespace. Finally. I've been wanting to do this for quite some time, and as of December 17th, I have moved on.
Squarespace is fine. Their sites are all very pretty by default. They integrate with many top services. They sponsor a lot of really great podcasts. They're a good solution for anyone who needs an all-in-one solution. One could do worse.
However, my frustration with their products keeps growing, driving me to make a change.
First and foremost, I wanted to move away from a centralized service. I worry about hosting my content and data exclusively on someone else's servers. These concerns are obviously not specific to Squarespace. In fact, Squarespace seems to be a thriving and profitable company. I'm sure they are not going away any time soon. That being said, people have been getting burned by companies or applications they trust being acquired, pivoted or sunset, usually resulting in a negative impact to users. Longevity and stability are becoming a very rare qualities in web services or products. For these reasons, future portability and control of my work are primary concerns.
Secondly, for my purposes, the platform is too big, too complex. With each release made or feature added this becomes more evident. I don't require much for this simple, mostly-text site and I spend a lot of time disabling many of the options they offer. And because they are trying to offer such a breadth of services, the specific features that I do use are substandard.
Their web text editor leaves much to be desired.
They cannot seem to get markdown support quite right.
I'm probably an edge case because I work mostly from mobile devices, but support for their editor and their Layout Engine on mobile browsers is atrocious. Completely unusable.
Historically, their mobile applications have been terrible. I understand this suite of apps has recently been updated and is vastly improved, and I sincerely hope that is the case. The previous iterations, however, have left me skeptical and jaded.
They have an award-winning support team and most of the time my concerns were answered promptly and efficiently. In a few instances, though, I was less than satisfied with Tier One support, both in terms of response time and resolution given. I understand these problems; I've worked support for a tech company for the last six years. I really should give them a pass here. I guess I've just had enough.
Maybe I should have given their developer platform a chance. Maybe with a little more control I could have made it work. Maybe I could have put in more effort. I don't know. I think I waited too long, let it go too far. My frustration eventually drove me to look at other options.
My requirements for a Squarespace replacement were pretty simple. Quick, light, readable. Easy to upload or pull content from Dropbox (rewards link), or similar, so that I could maintain control of the content. Preferably hosted on a small Virtual Private Server (VPS).
The current nerd-trend appears to be database-free, static site platforms. These seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, so I started testing out a few. As a result, I went through quite a few iterations of this site before I settled on its current configuration.
I went back and forth a couple of times between python-based Pelican and ruby-based Jekyll. I thought briefly about a purchasing a personal site license for Statamic or Kirby. I tried out different VPS platforms and multiple Linux OS options, finally settling on a Digital Ocean (rewards link) VPS running Arch Linux. If you are looking to make a change in your site’s platform, there are certainly NO shortage of options with varying levels of difficulty to setup and maintain.
After reading Deploy Node by Ev Bogue, I decided to give Node.js a try. I followed his excellent guide and set up a couple of Node apps to test and learn the basics. I then deployed the Bitters blogging platform he built with Gwen Bell. This was what I finally settled on.
It isn't easy to use. Posting a new piece isn't as simple as I'd like. However, having a deeper understanding of how it is built gives me the control I was looking for. Knowing the few places I could have made an error gives me the ability to troubleshoot and resolve issues on my own, rather than needing to open a support ticket.
The out-of-the-box design isn't what I was after, so I had to make some changes myself. Responsiveness and base styles for Bitters are provided by Skeleton. Building on top of that base, I've tried my best to match the look and feel of my previous site. The design was the one thing that I really loved about Squarespace, so I wanted to replicate it here as well as I could. Keep in mind, though, that I am no designer.
Design-wise, I'm not 100% sold on the typeface. Open Sans is not my favourite, but it's good enough for now. There's also something with the vertical rhythm of the site that is bugging me. I'm going to have to spend some more time with that when I can.
I anticipate that both the design and content here will evolve over time. I like the idea that this place will be organic and change as I do.
I hope you follow along. If you want to be updated when I publish here, (or if you just want to let me know what you think about the changes) subscribe to the list.
Paper and I have not always been on the best terms. Then I found the Bullet Journal, and started tweaking it to fit my analogue and digital needs. Now it's the cornerstone of my productivity system, and I'm not looking back. Hybrid Journal →