Join me as I share my WordPress journey from 2009's traditional blogs to today's dynamic platform. Learn about my innovative blend of micro-posts and genuine storytelling, while diving into the challenges and rewards of this holistic approach to content creation.
Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me today.
My name is Alex,
and I'm here to talk about how I transformed my website from being a static
digital portfolio into a dynamic hub, ingrained with my social presence
containing the most authentic version of me online.
We're going to look at the journey of this transformation,
how I approached the design, as well as how I changed my approach
to publishing content on my site as a result.
What I'm about to share not only changed how I look at my website,
but my entire online presence and how I present myself online as well.
But before we get into that, I'd like to introduce myself first.
My name is Alex Standiford.
I am a web developer.
I'm originally from a little town in Ohio called Dover.
I've been fascinated with web technology pretty much my entire life.
I was on the web design team in high school.
I took every keyboarding class I had available to me.
This is back in the mid-2000s, and was really into Zynga, Myspace,
building my own NeoPet store and all those things even as a kid.
However, whenever I went into high school,
I had a 10-year stint as a mechanical engineer.
I ended up choosing CAD instead of web development.
Eventually, I ended up transitioning into web development in 2015.
But in that interim time as an engineer,
I was still tinkering a little bit with HTML, CSS, and WordPress.
I was still ingrained and involved in continuing that education.
But I really got into it in 2015.
I switched careers officially.
After that, I basically just started building WordPress plugins and themes.
Since then, I've built literally hundreds of plugins, dozens of websites,
and at least a dozen web applications using React and things like that.
I'm also an active contributor in the WordPress community.
I tend to go to a lot of the conferences.
You'll find me in a lot of podcasts.
I publish content about WordPress.
I do some courses.
I'm also a core contributor.
As for my personal lifestyle, I guess you could say I'm a digital nomad.
My family and I,
we've been living in a camper and traveling for just over three years.
I've embraced the remote work lifestyle for most of the last five years,
and I'm never going to return to a traditional office again.
Well, it's because I get to spend more time with my family.
Honestly, there's just so much to do out there.
The entire reason why I switched into web
development in the first place was because I wanted to work from home.
I put my home on wheels, and now we go all over the place.
Whenever I'm not buried in code,
you can usually find me playing video games, chankering with personal design
projects, playing disc golf, hanging out with my family, cooking, or camping.
Where I happen to be doing that varies all
the time, but that's the magic of the RV life.
I'm passionate about balance between
my work and my personal life, and I find that web development
in my career and where I'm at now has really enabled me to do that.
This design journey starts in 2015,
right around the time where I first started my web development career.
This was the first website that I had built for myself,
my first alexstandiford.com website that was dedicated solely to me.
At the time, I was really hungry for work.
I was really looking for opportunities
to be able to actually pursue and continue my career.
I think that really shows through
in my original design, because if you look at it, you'll see
a lot of the language and a lot of the way that the entire design was approached was
treating myself like a brand instead of a person.
To me, I think the old version of my site was like an over-eager salesman that jumps
right into selling you immediately after saying hello.
It had a lot of details on what services I
offer, but it didn't really convey who I am or why I do what I do.
There was just this big why that was just missing.
It just was like, Hey, my name's Alex.
I help companies generate quality leads faster.
I had a multi-point process to be able to talk about how I was
going to build websites for people and how I was going to do all this stuff.
It was just full of all this jargon, like scalable, effective, polished.
While it was really great for me at the time, I was really proud of it.
I was proud of what I created because it
was my first personal attempt to build my site.
When I look at it now, I just see a lot of this almost desperate overtone.
There was just this emphasis on things
like training and generating quality leads faster.
I just used a lot of jargon that to me
conveyed this sense of urgency that sounded more desperate than authentic.
It's like I was shouting, Hey, hire me.
I can do all these things for you,
instead of just calmly stating my expertise and letting that resonate.
Overall, the old site was more of a place
where you'd come to get a service, not really to build a relationship.
It was designed like a brand, like a business.
But I wasn't inviting people to get
to know the real me or understand why I'm passionate about what I do.
The consequence of this business-based approach from my personal website
was that all of my blog content was put on a pedestal.
I felt like I had to create perfect content.
It had to be polished, it had to be SEO-friendly.
It had to have a minimum number of words.
It had to have headings and images and all
of the things that come with publishing good content.
The problem with that is that by putting
that content on a pedestal and hyper-focusing on the goal
of that content, I was always second-guessing what I should
publish, fearing that it wouldn't be professional enough or valuable enough.
And as a result, my site was rarely updated and became quite sterile.
It would be once every six months or so,
a post would finally get published, and it would be just as salesy and full
of as much jargon and feel like a sales pitch as the rest of my site was.
If nothing else, I guess I was consistent, but it was still pretty ineffective.
It wasn't attracting people to work with me.
It wasn't attracting the people I was looking to work with.
Meanwhile, Twitter was at its height at the time.
As a result, I was actually portraying my most authentic self on Twitter.
I felt that I was able to express myself through Twitter.
I share my thoughts,
share my family's nomadic adventures, discuss my personal interests,
share a photo of something that I deemed unimportant or not important or related
to my business well enough to be justified in putting it on my site.
In doing so, my Twitter account actually
became the authentic space where I could freely share, connect, and engage.
It actually got to the point to where I started directing people directly
to my Twitter account instead of my own website.
I felt more like myself on somebody else's
platform than my own personal and professional home on the internet.
That's the ultimate irony here, is that my website was supposed to be this
home of my professional identity, but it didn't feel like a home at all.
Instead, it just became this place where
I'd hesitate to even invite people into it.
My site was there, stagnant.
I had traffic and I had statistics and things
that suggested that people were seeing my content and things like that.
But meanwhile, all of those meaningful
connections and all of those business interactions and opportunities
were actually coming through my Twitter account where I was just being myself,
being authentic and talking about my interests.
This made me realize that the most valuable thing I could share on my website
wasn't a service listing, but it was that authentic experience
that I was creating on Twitter and all of those things that make me who I am.
I really needed to start doing that on my own platform from a business perspective.
I think the most painful thing about this is that I was a WordPress developer.
I was claiming to be this person who owned my content,
who believed in publishing content on my own site and using this platform
that I'm literally being paid by other people to implement and set up for them.
I'm teaching these people these lessons
while I'm simultaneously not doing it on my own platform.
I was vaguely aware of this for several years as I was developing my career,
but I never was really able to understand or articulate how to solve this problem.
Wordpress as a blogging platform after all.
It's not a micro blogging platform.
It's not really a place to post tweets.
It's a place to post blog posts.
I couldn't figure out how to reconcile this chasm between my website
and this personal expression of myself through Twitter.
Because again, in my head at the time,
all of the stuff I was tweeting wasn't important.
It wasn't valuable.
It wasn't what was fundamentally why people hired me.
People don't hire me because I live in a camper.
They don't hire me because I like this specific food that I shared a photo of.
They hire me because I'm a web developer.
And to me, that was the entire purpose of my website.
Honestly, the fact that I view
that content as unimportant was the fundamental flaw here.
I never thought about my tweets as being
important until a few years ago, whenever I decided to switch from Twitter
to Mastodon, I decided to actually delete all of my tweets from my Twitter profile.
It was a heart-stopping moment for me whenever I faced that reality.
When I was staring at this and I was going, Okay, I'm going to delete this
stuff, I realized that there was a lot of tweets.
There was a lot of content there that I actually cared about.
Sure, a lot of it wasn't that important, but there were also several tweets
that were the only form of that content that existed.
I'll give you a quick example.
There was a trip I had in Tals New Mexico,
whenever we were traveling together, and we lived there for a summer.
I had these donkeys show up at my camp or at 3:00
in the morning, and it scared the crap out of me and Kate, my wife.
I had a video of the donkeys being
at my door in my camper at 3:00 in the morning, and we were laughing.
I shared the details of this story as a tweet because it wasn't important enough
and it wasn't related to my web development stuff.
It ended up going as a tweet.
I didn't want to lose that.
I still wanted to have that content, but I didn't want it on Twitter anymore.
And that's when I realized that everything
I post is important, if to nobody else, to myself.
I'm publishing this content because I think it's important enough to say,
and I'm doing it a disservice by not putting it on my own platform.
As I started realizing this and I started
thinking about this, I got a little bit nostalgic.
I was thinking about how when I was a kid,
I used to love the idea of having my own website.
And even whatever I built my own, I was like, Yeah, this is so cool.
I've got my own dot com, a site that's just dedicated to me.
When I was a kid, I remember having frostfire sites and those even
a My Space page that was customized heavily or whatever.
I was always so proud of those.
They were mine.
The content on those belonged to me.
I was expressing myself on the web through my own personal website.
And somehow along the way, I lost touch with that.
I lost that personal touch that was so apparent whenever I was a kid.
And it made me realize that honestly, if teenage me looked at my website
at that time, I would have kicked myself in the butt.
This is this amazing opportunity that I
have given myself through hard work and learning these skills and doing all
this stuff that I've always wanted to have,
and I'm squandering it for some salesy jargon and a pitch.
I guess once I realized all of those facts and all those details that my content is
important if I decide to publish it, and that I deeply wanted to be able
to express myself in an authentic way on my own platform,
it became really apparent that I needed to just completely start over
on my website, and I needed to completely shift how I looked
at publishing content not only on my site, but on social media as well.
I needed to revisit how I engage with the internet entirely.
When I started thinking about how I was
going to design this new version of my site,
I knew that I wanted it to be a place where my business and personal lives could
co-exist, much like how they naturally exist on Twitter.
I wanted my site to be a digital extension of myself, and that needed to exude
my personality, my quirks, my values, my history.
In a lot of ways, this site can represent my legacy in some
fashion, and that is so much more than just a design portfolio.
As for the user design aspect of this, my users are a mix of potential business
clients as well as people who just want to get to know me as a person.
That could be anything from a family
member to a person I met at a conference to myself referencing my own content,
checking back to remember a story to share with somebody else.
Maybe even someday my kids will reference
this content and be able to look at this and see some of the stories and some
of the things that I went through in my life.
Or maybe they share a memory with me and they'd like to see it through my lens.
This site needed to serve all of those people.
The hierarchy of my content was also a very big focus.
Like I said before, my site felt like a business pitch.
Instead, I wanted it to showcase a variety
of content that resonates with me and the people who visit my site.
I believe that my knowledge
and my expertise should shine naturally just from the content that I'm publishing
because that's exactly what was happening on Twitter.
And of course, ownership was a key value of all of this.
My website needs to be the primary home for all of the content I create.
Everything that I considered unimportant before, every tweet, every video,
every photo, every podcast interview needs to be reflected on this site.
It needs to be truly a central hub.
If I posted it, it should be visible there.
If I'm featured on another website,
you should be able to find that on my website.
If I did a project, it should be there.
If I did a GitHub pull request for an open
source project, you should be able to see that.
All of these things should be visible from my site.
Visual aesthetics were also a need for a bit of an upgrade.
My site has historically been really
minimalist in its design, but the lack of personality
from the content made this seem really devoid of character.
I still wanted to have a minimalistic site,
but I needed it to be transformed into something that was a little more inviting
but still really functional at the same time.
Finally, and this is really special to me,
I wanted this site to be a website that a teenage me would find awesome.
I wanted to create something that resonates with me on that deep
of a level where all versions of myself and all points of my life where I'm
capable of comprehending this concept would look at this and go, Yeah,
that seems about right, or, Yeah, I can see that.
That could include some things that are impractical, like maybe a playlist
from Spotify that is showing music that I'm listening to right now.
Maybe it shows some of the music I used to listen to, things like that.
The result of that would be design choices
that could potentially contradict a business based approach.
In short, all of the stuff that I
designed, at some point, I looked at through the lens of myself
and I asked, Would teenage me think this site is cool?
And if the answer wasn't a resounding yes, I would question why.
My hope is that this is a space
that honors both my past enthusiasm for web design and my present expertise.
However, in this case, the web design itself was only half of the equation.
In fact, I would argue that the web design was the easy part of this equation.
Understanding what my website needed to look like wasn't that difficult.
The hard part was figuring out how
in the world I was going to publish the content on this site in a way that's
consistent with how I've historically used Twitter and my blog.
It's a pretty tall order to ask one single CMS to be able to allow you
to upload videos, upload photos, post a tweet, post a blog post,
post an essay, post a short memory, post something in between, who knows?
While still being able to also keep
that content organized, make that content findable,
automatically have that content get published on social media and other
platforms to be able to continue having discussions.
Ingesting content from external sources
and understanding how to be able to properly link to that content while
still maintaining an archive of that for my own sake.
When I was thinking through this problem, I just remembered the pull of Twitter,
the initial draw of what made me publish so authentically on it.
And more than anything, it was just so easy to just pop open the app and dash
off a few lines about my day or my thoughts or share a quick picture.
It was almost as easy as just sending a text message.
That's the experience I had to replicate
on my own site in order to be able to ensure that I would continue to use it.
I didn't want any friction.
I wanted to make it as easy to post a video or a photo as it was to share
a thought, but also still have the ability to publish well-thought, lengthy essays.
Further, I still wanted to be on social media, and I still wanted that social
media content to be displayed on those sites.
There was some back and forth in figuring out how that would work.
What would that look like?
Obviously, it wouldn't be practical
to publish on my personal site and then turn around and publish on Mastodon or
Twitter or whatever else manually every time, that's never going to happen.
This has to be something that's sustainable.
So whatever I did had to make sure that not only was I able to publish
that content, create that content, but it would automatically publish
that in all of the right places automatically for me.
It became apparent to me that the best
tool for this job, based on the fact that I'm building
my site using WordPress, was to use the WordPress mobile app.
The problem is that the WordPress Mobile
app doesn't have the same flexibility as the desktop version.
You really can't customize the app interface at all.
Even if you've registered, say, a custom post type or any customization
to the admin interface whatsoever, none of that is reflected in the app.
Because of that, I had to limit what tools
I used and how I approached the data structure of my site
based entirely on what I can and can't do inside of the WordPress app today.
I really wish I had the ability to modify the app and tailor it to suit my needs.
However, as of right now, that's just not a possibility.
I had to work within the limitations.
In spite of this, WordPress is still a very capable content management system.
I found that I was able to solve all
of my problems and do all of the things I needed to do with my site using
categories, tags, post formats, and the default post type.
Let's first talk about what posting a tweet actually looks like on my site.
To do this, I literally just create a new
post, just like any other blog post through the app.
But there's one key step that I have to do in addition.
I have to set the post format to a side in the app.
Now this is just how I personally implemented this.
You don't have to do it that way.
If you could potentially do this as maybe a top-level category of tweets,
that would allow you to be able to separate these post types.
The key is that my theme is configured to detect when the post is a tweet.
In my case, by checking the post format, if you use the category approach,
you could just check to see if it has that category or not.
And if it does,
inside of the post archive, I call it the feed in my case,
it knows, hey, this is supposed to be displayed like a micro post or a tweet.
So instead of showing just the excerpt of the content and the categories and all
of that stuff, it shows it as if it's a tweet.
So it shows all of the content, it shows the tags at the bottom,
but it reformats those tags to look like hashtags instead.
It shows the date, it shows my name, and it just looks like a tweet in general.
Now, clicking on this would actually take you to the individual post for this.
In that case, it basically looks like what
you see whenever you click on an individual tweet.
The text is a little bit bigger and the content is more prominently
featured on its own, isolated from everything else.
One thing I've noticed about using this is
the Block Editor on the mobile app is actually really good.
You're able to use galleries and images
and all those other features, just like what you use on the desktop version.
I found that the default Block Editor
itself has been more than sufficient to be able to handle capturing content in all
of the different ways that I traditionally do them on Twitter.
In fact, it's actually capable of doing a lot more than that.
But remember, you're still limited to what the app can do.
One of the things that you can't do is use custom blocks.
For now, you've still got to stick to the default blocks.
Once I publish something on my site,
once I publish one of these tweets on my site, I'm actually just using a
cross-posting plugin that was created by a Mastodon user.
It automatically publishes it on my social media account through Mastodon.
I'm not using Facebook.
I'm not using Twitter.
I'm not using any other platform right now.
I'm only using Mastodon.
The key reason for that, aside from my personal beliefs
and the personal reasons why I'm doing that, which is a whole talk in itself,
it's also a practical thing too, because Mastodon is an open-source platform,
and the APIs and everything that connect to it are open source.
This means that cross-posting capabilities are relatively easy to accomplish because
you don't have to go through extensive authentication and things like that.
I'm sure it can be accomplished with Twitter.
If you find the right platform,
you're probably going to have to pay for it because they have to pay to access
that API, so they're not going to just give that to you for free.
Facebook, I can tell right now is downright impossible to do,
and I don't think it's possible to do on Instagram either.
Meta has become very unfriendly with that thing over the years,
and Twitter is becoming rapidly unfriendly about this as well.
Your mileage may vary.
I hope for your sake, that you're able to accomplish this in the way that I did.
But honestly, this was a part of my decision making process.
I decided that I'm not going to use these social platforms
literally because I wasn't able to cross-post on them from my site.
This is a term of engagement that I've set
for myself with these other platforms, and I've decided that if they can't allow
me to cross-post on them, then I'm just not going to use them.
Because to me, using my website in this
way is way more important than being able to be a part of Twitter.
The easiest part of this process was
regular long-form content that WordPress was originally built to do.
I didn't have to really think about this at all.
I didn't have to invent anything special here.
I just needed to let WordPress do what it
does naturally and make sure that my feed is able to detect whenever it's
a regular post instead of a tweet and display that accordingly.
So in this case, in my feed,
instead of it showing up like a tweet, it just looks like a blog post.
The title, the excerpt, the date it was published, the tags,
but note that the tags are being used in a normal format this time instead
of being hashtags, the category and the source of that blog post.
So note in the feed image on the screen
here, the bottom right corner actually says, Alex Staneford.
That seems a little bit redundant,
but you'll understand why that exists whenever we get into the next slide.
Then, of course, whenever you click on the actual post itself, it shows the content.
It displays that a little bit differently than it would the tweet,
but it basically just shows up like a regular old fashioned blog post.
This content is cross-posted as well.
The only difference is instead of it using
the full content of the tweet, it just uses the excerpt,
but it still transforms those tags and the hashtags and posts it at the bottom.
So even when I'm publishing blog content,
it's still being shared on my social platform.
It's just being shared using the parts of this post that make more sense to use.
However, sometimes it makes more sense
for content to be published on a different location than my own site.
Take, for example, a scenario where I was paid to write a blog post.
I've done a couple of things like this in the past, numerous, in fact.
Let's say, for example, I was commissioned to write a blog post on CSStricks.com.
That content was written for that site.
It wasn't written for me.
It doesn't technically belong on my site.
My site isn't the best canonical location for this content.
However, it's still my content.
It's still content that I wrote and I
still want it to be displayed on my site somehow.
This is just one of many examples where this thing happens.
It doesn't even have to be a paid thing like that.
It could also be something like a discussion that I'm opening up in GitHub.
It could be a track ticket that I've submitted in wordpress.
It could be a pull request for an open source project.
It could be a post,
a question that I asked on Reddit that needs to be published there first.
There's times where content needs to be published outside of my site first
and then be ingested and duplicated on my own site.
So to solve that, I have gotten into the habit of adding
an extra step to the process of capturing that content.
So once that content is published, I will, instead of say, write a tweet about it or
something like that, I will then go into my site.
I will copy all of the content from that post and put it in my own site
so that if that content is ever deleted or removed, I still have it and I have
the opportunity to be able to determine if I want that content to be able to be
displayed on my site or not, assuming I'm allowed to.
There's definitely some nuance there.
But in addition to that, I'm also categorizing it in my website's context.
I'm also giving it an excerpt that is
consistent with what I would publish on a tweet or something like that.
Then, of course, my auto-poster will then automatically publish that content.
But there's one key thing about this,
and that's the canonical URL for this content is not alexstandiford.com.
It's a different website.
I needed to be able to not only
communicate that from a design standpoint, but also support that on the back end.
From a design perspective,
that's what that little Alex Standiford in the bottom right corner is for.
It's so that you know, Hey, this is going to link to a different external site.
It communicates that.
What's interesting about this is, like I said, my natural process,
anytime I publish content outside of my own site in the past,
was exactly like what it would be whenever I publish content on my own site.
I would be instructed or asked to publish that on my social media platforms.
They call it a social media blast.
What's cool about this is I have integrated the act of archiving
that content and storing it on my own site with that process.
So whenever the time comes to do the social media blast,
I'm literally just archiving that content on my site,
and I'm letting the cross-posting setup that I have on my WordPress site
automatically handle that social media blast for me at the same time.
And because that content is archived on my site, a copy of it to the best
of my abilities, if it's a podcast interview,
I try my best to get the audio from the podcast, and I upload that to my site.
If it's a blog post, I copy and paste the content in the content of that posting.
Now, that stuff is never actually used.
It always will forward to the canonical URL instead of using that post.
However, like I said,
if that content is ever removed or deleted, I have the opportunity to pursue
keeping that content on my site just by simply getting rid of that canonical
URL reference, thereby bringing it onto my own site
and ensuring that things that I have contributed to remain accessible to me.
The way I've set up my WordPress site is
really about simplifying how my different interests and activities are presented.
I use the platform's native tagging feature to organize my content
into multiple feeds, each focusing on a different part
of my life or different topics that I write about.
This isn't exactly mind-blowing.
This is just good old-fashioned tagging.
But I found that by having all
of that content on my site, I'm creating rich content for these different feeds.
I have a page that I'm trying to upload
to, especially for content that I want to feature, such as my travels and RVLife,
or maybe personal updates or blog posts, or my open source contributions, or
my work with WordPress, or my work with Underpin, my PHP library for WordPress.
Or maybe I want to feature my portfolio on my site.
All of these things are just using categories and tags with pages and posts.
I didn't do anything crazy.
I didn't create any custom post type.
I didn't install any custom plug-ins because for one, I couldn't.
But for two, I just didn't need to.
I've come to realize that a lot of us tend
to go for these super custom, plug-in-based solutions
for stuff that WordPress can just do really well without any extra help.
I've taken advantage of WordPress's
ability to add descriptions to tags, so I had to update my theme to support this.
But if you land on any feed that happens
to have a description, you'll get a bit of context on what you're looking at.
At that point,
it's just a matter of picking what feeds I want to feature on my site.
Which ones do I want to maximize the visibility of?
Those feeds are the things that end up being displayed on my menu to be able
to ensure that people can visit those and access that content regularly.
You can see by looking at the feeds
that it's just an intermingling of all of these different content types.
Everything from being a tweet, to a blog post, to an externally shared
post, all of them are just shown in the feed all mixed in together in one place.
So I've been using this site for just
about a year now, and I can say with confidence that I have
a decent grasp on the key benefits that this approach has had.
Aside from the personal benefits that I've experienced of being able to have access
to my own content and the peace of mind that I get of knowing that it's all
organized and centralized in a single place.
Of the less tangible benefits,
the biggest thing that I've noticed is just how quickly strangers seem
to trust me, how much faster they trust me now than before.
Most of my opportunities come to me
through referrals, and it gives them context that they need
to be able to know that I'm just a regular person worthy of trust.
In addition to that, all of the non-professional anecdotes
that are on my site seem to lubricate the conversation.
Whenever a person says something like,
Hey, Alex, it's nice to meet you, usually in addition to that in the email,
there will be something like, It's nice to meet you.
I checked out your site. I think it's really cool that you do this,
or, I really love that you created this kitemount thing.
It just generally gives people an opportunity to find something that we
have in common before I even have a conversation with them.
And if that doesn't happen right off the bat, usually whenever I respond
to them, there's almost always an opportunity to send them to my site
with something that's prepared, such as a case study, or a portfolio piece,
or a blog post on something that I've written about.
And that doesn't even apply strictly to getting clients.
This talk that I'm doing with you right now is based on a couple of blog posts
and a series of tweets that I posted in the past about it.
All of them were grouped by a single hashtag,
so it was really easy for me to be able to go back and grab these pieces and be
able to just say, Hey, I'm thinking about the one to talk.
I want to talk a little bit about what I've posted in this blog post.
You can see some of the details from this tweet.
And I was able to share a reference
that just gave this context, and all of it came directly from my website.
Despite how much I've streamlined this
process, there's definitely no shortage of challenges.
For instance, when I'm uploading a large file like a video or a really long audio
file, it's not as straightforward as I'd like.
I often have to upload these files
manually because there's some limitation that will sometimes cause
the upload to time out through the app or something like that.
Not only that, but I also have to consider that the video I'm uploading isn't going
to be converted or optimized in any way for the web, so I have to manually
compress them using software on my computer before uploading.
Right now, that is a pretty notable shortcoming.
I imagine that there's probably some Vimeo
integration that would work directly with the uploading process in WordPress,
and perhaps it could enable me to be able to actually have
all of the benefits that come from a video hosting service like that.
I just haven't spent the time to figure out what that toolkit is yet.
Another shortcoming is, like I said before, a lot of social media
platforms just don't really want to play ball.
They don't want to allow you to do this.
Or if they do allow you, it's behind some paywall where you have
to pay them to be able to maintain and have access to that API.
It's possible that maybe you'll have some cross-posting tool or something like
that that would be much more robust than the setup I have.
Either way, I don't think these are deal
breakers, but they are definitely speed bumps on an otherwise smooth road.
But once I got the hang of it and I knew
the steps, these shortcomings felt less burdensome.
That being said, I really do wish the WordPress app was easier to customize.
I think a lot of the experience
with the editing process in the app could be resolved myself if I
was able to, say, create a custom post type that would allow
me to signify to WordPress that this is a tweet and as a result,
make the entire interface congruent with that instead of having all
of the robust blogging utilities at my fingertips.
I don't need categories for tweets, for example.
And the fact that I have to manually tell it this is a tweet isn't pleasant.
Like I said before, though, speed bumps on an otherwise smooth road.
Here's a list of related reads for the site, including a feed of posts
that talk about this site, a blog post that announced my site,
the Mastodon cross-posting plugin I use, the actual archive of my original site
with the screenshots, and an archive of my high school design
that helped inform the retro mode design on my site, which I totally didn't talk
about in this, but go to my site and click on the clock and see what happens.
From here, I'm going to do a Q&A session
where I answer some commonly asked questions related to this website.
The first question, how much time did it take for you to set
up your WordPress site to function this way?
The key challenge in the design was the customizations needed to make
the theme support different post formats and know how to format them.
As for how much time it took,
this was probably years in the making, but most of that was just simply because I
was trying to understand what this site needed to be.
If I were to look at this from a technical perspective and answer that question
in terms of that, I would say it's not much more than your average sight.
The key difference, like I said, is the approach.
The tactical capabilities, WordPress has always been able to do.
We just have chosen against using it that way.
What was the most challenging tactical
aspect you encountered in this transition back to blogging?
That would be working around the limitations of the WordPress app.
I kept on wanting to reach for all these
different WordPress tools in my toolkit, but I couldn't use any of them.
As a result, I had to reset my thinking and limit myself to what the app could do.
Do you have any plans to overcome the shortcomings you mentioned,
like the issues with large file uploads or Twitter cross-posting?
I'd like to be able to make the video uploading process easier in particular.
I don't really care about Twitter, though.
As far as I'm concerned, it's on its way out anyway.
However, I am hoping that the WordPress app will see significant changes
in the future to allow customizations that would ultimately make all of this easier.
This is why I'm working on things like the Fields API with the core team.
My hope is that this work can help make building a unified admin interface between
the app and the desktop site possible, and thereby making the app customizable.
This would make it possible for developers
like myself to make the editing experience a lot nicer.
You mentioned that your website serves as a living, breathing extension of you.
How do you balance sharing personal
information while maintaining professional boundaries?
I don't. Not really.
If I feel comfortable sharing online, I just do.
I just make sure that the important
content remains the most visible with some good tagging and organization practices.
Are there any copyright concerns with your
cost-posted content, especially from other platforms or published work?
No, not really.
That content is always just linked
to the original source, so it's no different than sharing
that content on social media, as far as I'm concerned.
It's just the only time where I have
to consider these copyright concerns is if that content were
to be deleted and I wanted to have that content still on my site,
at that point, I'd have to then go and ask permission if it's copyrighted or in
some way or that content is somehow contractually locked up.
Given your very tailored approach,
what advice would you give to someone who's looking to make their WordPress site
more personal but doesn't necessarily have the technical skills you have?
I get asked this a lot.
Every time I talk about my site,
people get so caught up in the technical details of how I did this.
In fact, this talk was very
intentionally written in such a way to show that I'm just using WordPress.
The fact that my site is using
a fancy-schmancy, headless approach and that it's like
a multisite and all these other factors just don't matter.
They're not a part of what makes this equation work.
You could totally simplify this by using categories instead of post formats,
for example, micro posts, they could be their own category.
From there, you could customize individual
posts with that category to display them as a micro post.
And like I said, WordPress pretty much works how I'm using it now.
So most of the change is how you approach publishing content online.
The canonical URL logic is something
that could be done with minimal code and with the help of something like ACF,
it could make adding that field on posts easy.
I didn't use ACF, but there's no reason
why it can't be used to be able to make it possible to just add that field.
You would then have to update your theme to be able to support that.
But for the most part, it's just an if-else check, right?
So if the canonical URL exists, use it.
Otherwise, use the post URL.
I believe most of these things are in reach of any WordPress agency and can
be done with minimal help from a developer or even a tech-savvy WordPress user.
Pretty much all of the stuff I'm talking
about can be updated or modified using a filter or a hook or something like that.
The majority of the complexity of my design, like I said,
come from the actual infrastructure on how I built the site itself.
The headless approach I took when building my site and all those things.
But like I said, none of that is necessary at all.
And finally, all of this can work in tandem with a page builder.
In fact, I think that if a page builder
allows you to embed these feeds, you could probably embed relevant content
throughout your site and your pages in ways that I haven't.
As I stand here today,
I can't help but feel like my journey with online content has come full circle.
In the late 2000s, I was a blogger, then social media happened, and like many,
I was swept away by the immediacy and reach it offered.
Yet here I am back at blogging, but with a modern twist.
This time I'm doing it on my terms and treating each post,
no matter how seemingly trivial, as something worth keeping.
This has all been a process of relearning and redefining my relationship
with WordPress and, by extension, the internet.
No longer do I view my site as a place reserved for only my best content.
It's a tapestry of who I am,
capturing every shade of my interests, insights, and idiosyncrasies.
This shift has had measurable positive outcomes.
My authentic, nuanced online presence has deepened relationships,
opened new professional doors and created a space that's distinctly mine.
It feels like an embodiment of the journey
I've been on, capturing the essence of who I am and who I aim to be.
My hope is that you will consider some
of these ideas and use them on your own site too.