The first post I published online was on my birthday in 2000. Now, I have a new home on the web.
I believe it's important to own your words and publish them under your name and domain. In 2000, blogging had just begun and I started writing on weblogs.com.
Next came Radio Userland, followed by TypePad from Six Apart. This was during my peak blogging (and pre-Twitter) years when my goal was to post every day.
I used Svbtle for a few years and experimented with Tumblr more than once. For some reason, I never gave Wordpress a serious try, and Medium just isn't what I'm looking for. My most recent solution was the GitHub Pages and Jekyll static site combination.
I recently decided it was time for a new online home. And for the first time, I would hire someone to help! The first question was what tool to use.
For bb.place, I chose Ghost. It’s the best blogging platform I’ve used.
I briefly considered the self-hosted, static site option again (likely using Hugo), but I wanted the simplest workflow possible. It’s not particularly hard to keep your local environment current, push commits to GitHub, and host your site on Netlify, but writing is! Additional friction makes it less likely that I’ll do it.
Ghost was the obvious answer. I’ve admired the team and how they run their business for years. Ghost is an independent non-profit and the platform is open-source. They have a sustainable business model and are focused on the long-term. Learn more about the small and mighty team.
The tool itself is phenomenal. Managing a site is simple and intuitive and the editor 1 (1 The editor supports HTML and Markdown. I write posts in Markdown using iA Writer, which supports publishing to Ghost.) is a joy to use. It’s clear they view speed as a feature.
Ghost offers a great collection of themes, but is powerful and flexible if you want to build your own, which is why we did.
Ghost's membership and newsletter features are also well done. Having everything in one tool is a plus. I love that they include the option to turn off email tracking and analytics.
In addition, support is quick, personal, and top-notch. They even helped import nearly 150 posts. Thanks Sarah and Paul!
A Custom Site
For the first time, I hired a designer 2 (2 My fabulous friend Andy. Design is just one of his many talents. Why not give his music a spin?) to build a few features and a custom design. I’ve never been able to have the exact site I wanted until now and you know, it’s a lot of fun!
Most themes today are designed for content marketing—images for every post, featured posts, read more links. It’s as if we’re all publications with six staff writers and an editorial calendar. I wanted something simpler: a calm, high-quality reading experience focused on the full content of each post with the most recent first.
One of my goals for the site was to celebrate Uncommon in Common, an online community I started in 2012. I wanted to create a mini-site with its own navigation, multiple pages, and even a separate archive of hundreds of posts. I’m really happy with what we came up with.
With Ghost, you can use tags and a little code to customize what appears on the homepage, archive, and RSS feed. That made it easy to support a variety of content.
One of the fanciest things we built is a form of related posts. Inspired by Uncommon, I want to write about my favorite things.
But Uncommon taught me that a few paragraphs about a favorite often isn't enough. For instance, standup comedy is one of my favorite things. I plan to write an essay about that, but I’m sure there will be more. For instance, posts about specific comediens. Using internal tags, I can add favorites on the fly and publish related posts and they're automatically connected. You can see an example with The West Wing.
I wanted sidenotes from the moment I saw them on iA's site and we were able to make it happen. We used Ghost snippets so I have quick access to the necessary HTML to add a sidenote. Of course, sidenotes become footnotes on smaller screens.
I enjoyed trying fonts and slowly becoming opinionated about them. Thankfully, Andy is a great guide. We experimented with Wotfard, Assistant, and an early favorite, Illisarniq. I eventually came across Source Sans Pro and it fits the aesthetic I wanted perfectly.
Logos are so fun and easy when you know exactly who to ask.
I hope bb.place is a delightful experience for you! If you have questions or run into any hiccups, please share them.