Redesign and New Host

Long dormant due to family, work, and other important things, this blog (and accompanying website) seemed to be a little undernourished. What better way to pretend like you’re writing some valuable content than to redesign your website! Actually, it’s not just procrastination; there are good reasons for this:

  1. I was getting tired of the slow load-times of my Wordpress installation on Dreamhost. It wasn’t worth what I was paying for hosting every year.1 And I had botched ftp upgrades to various WP updates, plugins, etc. too many times. I think part of the problem was I used the “One Click Installation” at the beginning and didn’t do it by hand. Somehow it never worked quite right.
  2. I tried out Squarespace on their 14-day trial and really liked the user interface, particularly the unusual combination of ease-of-use and transparency with regard to html stuff, like fonts, padding, margins, etc. (You can use the slider or insert a number of pixels directly, and the WYSIWYG editor is cleaner and more true to the code than WP in my experience.)
  3. Right now you can get a 10% discount on a pro account if you use the coupon code “twit” upon checkout. This is because they’re a sponsor of the podcast This Week in Tech, of which I’ve been an listener on-and-off for a while.

I also like the extensibility of Squarespace. WP is obviously extensible too, but you have to find the right plugins, and not all templates support individual plugins (some don’t support plugins at all). With Squarespace, they’ve achieved extensibility without plugins. They offer containers, “sections”, which you can fill with a number of different elements, “widgets”: from a search bar, to a blog archive, or even a contact form. And you can move the sections and widgets around at will. Further, these widgets only show up on the pages you tell them to. So, on the blog page I have an archive, but on the front page I don’t; I have a contact form instead. On the other hand, on the front page I have a Twitter feed — through html injection (though Squarespace says integration with social networks is coming soon) — but I removed the feed for all the other pages, since I thought it was distracting. For the CV and Colophon pages, I don’t have anything beyond the “Pages” section.

So far things I like are: the elegance of the interface (albeit a bit AJAX-y); the granularity of the setup and design options; the system for uploading files and images is much more transparent than WP; and, of course, the price, which is salutary both in dollars spent and in the opportunity cost of time invested fiddling with ftp, plugins, and slow load-times.

I’ll try to update my experiences with Squarespace in future posts. And, as always, I hope to have more regular posts on this blog in general. My imminent sabbatical should help with that somewhat (on which more later).

1 To be fair, I have had lengthy email discussions with Dreamhost’s customer support, and they’ve been unflaggingly helpful — though they haven’t been able to solve the problem. I’m sticking with Dreamhost as my domain registrar.