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Nayeon Kim
Nayeon Kim

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

My whole web development career has been built around building websites and web applications for other people. I first seriously learned how to code to build a website for a good friend. My first job was at an agency, where I punched out one website after another for clients. I now freelance, where I often create sites for clients from the very beginning stages of design to development and launch. I love going through that entire process with my clients. However, when it comes to creating my own freaking website, I am sad to say I have never been able to have a complete one for very long (longest one was a one pager that lasted about two months out of a dire need to find an internship).

Some time of retrospection revealed some reasons why I struggle with creating my own website:

1. It's never good enough - I am always changing my mind. Some thoughts that go through my head: Which projects should I showcase? Oh I don't like that color scheme anymore. That font doesn't really represent my personality. I need to rewrite my bio again!! and the insane list goes on and on and on...

2. I can never pick a framework - Because I developed on WordPress for a long time, every time I think I want to start on working on my website again, my natural tendency is to build it on WordPress. However, with so many cooler sounding frameworks that pop up every few months, I can't help but think that I should try building my site on one of those frameworks so that I could pick up a new framework along the way. The theory is good, but I usually end up in a rabbit hole learning the nuances and the shiny parts of the framework that I end up forgetting about my own website. Then I get distracted by something else and then the site is left unfinished. :(

3. I don't like updating it - When I was looking for internships while in college, I did create and launch a very simple one-page website using Bootstrap and a jQuery slider plugin. After I got an internship I never updated it and took it down shortly afterward. Because I created it so fast, I didn't have any process to easily update my work. Therefore, it became too tedious to maintain and #1 from above started to happen, so I shut the whole thing down.

I look at other developers' websites and am insanely jealous of their ability to buckle down and get theirs done and done so well. So I'm curious... what do you guys use to build your own personal website?

Top comments (42)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern • Edited

Here's what I built my personal site with and I'd do it again:

Plain-old HTML, CSS and a bit of plain old JavaScript. One of the biggest impediments for going back to update a thing are dependencies. They are the easiest thing to lose track of, forget how to set up, etc. It's also generally nice to use the raw tools.

On a bigger project that I'll touch regularly and do more powerful thing with, I'm all for the right frameworks, preprocessors, etc. as long as they are appropriately mature and developer-friendly.

It's really nice to have a static personal site that does not need to be compiled or processed in any way, or rely on code that is not contained within the project. Maybe you can't do as much without it getting stringy, but I see that as sort of a bug instead of a feature.

Another tip: I'd advise inlining the CSS in the body and async the JavaScript if it's reasonable within your site structure. This radically reduces worst-case rendering latency.

This is my personal site: benhalpern.com

Don't take it as an indication that I'm not 100% serious about what I've outlined above. 😋

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isaacdlyman profile image
Isaac Lyman

I think this is the greatest personal site I've ever seen. I'd hire you in a heartbeat.

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vgrovestine profile image
Vincent Grovestine

Your personal site...yeah...ummm... WTF, man?! :)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I think the word you're looking for is transcendent.

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nayeonkim profile image
Nayeon Kim

Thanks for your tips! Keep it simple, I like that. Your site is super awesome by the way. Where did you get your inspiration from? 😋

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nektro profile image
Meghan (she/her)

That was amazing and it brings me so much joy that pages like yours still exist. The only think I would suggest is that you add https so no one can ever ruin the masterpiece you have made.

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cadellsinghh_25 profile image
Cadell

lol @ the "Here is a link to nothing: localhost:3000"

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danieljsummers profile image
Daniel J. Summers

Wow - thanks for the CPU workout... LOL

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magicwishbone6 profile image
Caitlin Lamprecht

Your site is amazing. The youTube video!! :D

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isaacdlyman profile image
Isaac Lyman

Static HTML/CSS/vanilla JavaScript, hosted on GitHub.

isaaclyman.com

I know a lot of devs feel like they need a site with project examples, blog posts, scrolljacking/parallax, a visual resume, and so forth. That's fine. I prefer a minimal, attractive, responsive "me hub" with links to GitHub, Medium, and Stack Overflow, and a list of technologies I'm working with lately.

It's tiny, requires almost no maintenance, and still demonstrates that I know how to write consistent, readable markup and code. I doubt I'll ever want one more complicated than that.

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nayeonkim profile image
Nayeon Kim

Interesting... it's true that my work can be viewed on GitHub, my blog posts (which I hope to eventually write) can be on Medium so most of the content won't need to be on the personal site. I like your simple approach. I will keep it in mind. Thanks for sharing!

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sambenskin profile image
Sam Benskin

I frequently see "originally published on my site/blog xyz" on medium articles and dev.to so no reason why you couldn't have them on your blog too. Not sure how this affects duplicate content for SEO so check that out first

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danieljsummers profile image
Daniel J. Summers

(You seem to be using "personal" to talk about both personal and personal-business, so I'll answer both.)

Currently: business uses Vue.js with pug templates (on GitHub under "djs-consulting.com", if you're interested), personal uses Jekyll with a theme based off its previous iteration.

Past:

  • my own set of static HTML files
  • my own MySQL-backed PHP site
  • WordPress (first time)
  • BlogEngine.NET
  • WordPress (second time)
  • Orchard
  • WordPress (third time)
  • my own MongoDB-backed Node.js (koa) app
  • my own RethinkDB-backed F# (Nancy) app (based on the Node.js one - this one is on GitHub as "myWebLog")

I don't see myself moving away from Jekyll anytime soon; it's perfect (IMO) from a resource utilization perspective. How many database queries should it take to load a old blog post about the 2008 election, or a cheesy sausage hashbrown recipe? With Jekyll, that number is 0, which I think is correct one.

Anyway - I write all that to show you that you're not alone in not leaving your personal site alone. :) In my case, part of the churn is that I'm doing this as a side project (though I am a day-job programmer as well), so I'm trying to do it as cheaply as possible. Resource utilization is a big deal. I love the .NET ecosystem, and F# in particular; .NET Core has really helped make that run fast on my dirt-cheap Linux VMs. Plus, WordPress can be quite the hassle if you don't run where your web server can write to the files that it serves; I'm glad they push regular updates, but sometimes the things they fix make me happy that PHP couldn't write to the web server while the bug was active.

Finally, what I have (sadly) left alone is the content; Facebook ended up getting a lot of the material that would have gone there instead. I'm trying to get better about writing something, but that would mean I'd have to stop writing code long enough to do it. Being a part of this community is encouraging me to find the time to at least start writing up some tech stuff.

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nayeonkim profile image
Nayeon Kim

I've heard lots of great things about Jekyll, especially if I want to eventually write blog posts there, which I am also hoping to do more of thanks to the support and encouragement of this community. :) Thanks for sharing!!

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dothtm profile image
dotHTM

Jekyll is pretty sweet.

I've even used it to prototype and mock up work that had to be recoded from scratch for another CMS in XSLT (ugh)…

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damcosset profile image
Damien Cosset

I did mine using Wordpress. I'm not an expert. I just like how beginner-friendly it is. When you are starting out, I thought that was pretty easy to understand and publish blog posts and stuff like that. I'm not sure I will touch the design too much. It's pretty basic I think, but it does the trick for me.

In retrospect, considering where my career is heading, it might have been fun to use a more javascript-centric CMS, like Keystone. I could have work on my personal website while learning more Javascript. But, I use my website as a way to store blog posts. I'll probably list projects I've been working on in the future. But, things will stay very simple for that too.

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leob profile image
leob

Very recognizable, it's called "paralysis by analysis", too many choices ... same reason why my site is also still not done (other reason is there is no urgency).

Also as a dev you tend to think "I need to use some cool technology" while in fact there's totally no reason, it's just a basic website ... in my case I thought "I want to use React" because I wanted to learn React but in the meantime I already learned React on a project, so there's no need.

I saw an ex-colleague of mine who created a website for his wife's company using static HTML/CSS/JS (no server side pages generation) with good old Bootstrap and some good looking images and well written text. HTML looks clean, with "sections" and all. It looks mainstream (nothing original or flashy) but it looks clean, fairly modern, professional and friendly.

I think if ever I need to finish my website then this is what I would go for, just download and clone that stuff and replace the text and the images. I'm not a web design artist and my website doesn't need to demonstrate cutting edge, so I just keep it down to earth and use what works.

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jjude profile image
Joseph Jude

I started my blog jjude.com more than a decade ago. I started it when I was learning SQL as API developer. I was good in visual basic, but not on oracle / sql server. So I was looking for almost same type of issues over and over again. Those days search and speed weren't as good as it is now. So I started to note down my issues and answers which worked as reference for me.

I follow what C.S. Lewis said: I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself. I continue that path of noting down things for myself.

Those days I started with plain htmls, then moved to nucleus cms, then to wordpress. I stayed with wordpress for long. But I would go without going to my blog for long (sometimes even 6 months). But then there were memory and security issues on wordpress. So I decided to move back to plain HTML.

Recently I coded my own static engine olai which serves my purpose. Think of it as static blogging as a web-service. I can blog from any browser, it generates plain html and pushes to my server. This has worked out pretty well for me. Someday either I will make it available for others.

Regarding your #1. As we notice other things and we ourselves mature, our tastes evolve (or change). So it is normal that you want to update / modify / confused about what to show. Sometimes I write and publish a post every other day for a quarter and then go silent for couple of quarters. Then I will revisit and tinker with how it looks. And I repeat.

As I said, I blog for myself. It has been a fantastic experience to put out what I know.

I would recommend you to continue to blog. Unless you are a designer (css, ux, whatever other niches are there), don't bother about look of your site. If you write valuable advice, people will come back to your site again and again. Then some will tell you what you have to change (may be you have glaring colors, may be some thing is broken in a particular browser etc). I visit daring fireball, marco.org, and dev.to most often. None of them have fancy design. I go back because I get value there.

Good luck. Keep sharing.

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MichaelBaldwin

I've used a variety of things over time to create a personal site/blog (WordPress, Ghost, etc). I am currently using Jekyll + GitHub Pages and have been happy with it.

While the other platforms were nice, I found that when I self-hosted my site I never took time to update the platform I was using. With static-site generation and GitHub Pages I don't have to worry about updates and security. That is being handled for me. I can't really speak to creating themes for Jekyll because I used an open-source template and made slight modifications.

I also like that my content is all markdown and could easily be ported to a different platform.

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nayeonkim profile image
Nayeon Kim

Thanks, I like the sound of Jekyll + GitHub approach. I also like the idea of having all my content in markdown and being able to port it easily to a different platform.

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sebastianr1982 profile image
Sebastian Rapetti

For my project's site I used static HTML, CSS, vanilla Javascript and a third party Javascript library for HTML5 canvas effects.

The site consists of a Home Page and a Documentation Page and is not yet online.

I have avoided using a Cms like WordPress or any server-side language like PHP because I do not need them for a simple site.

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nbageek profile image
Patrick Minton

In my case, it's "whatever I am currently trying to learn". And I re-engineer a lot (I try for every couple of years)

Re-designing websites with new tech stacks is, from a business or time-efficiency standpoint, a terrible idea, but from a learning standpoint, it's great. You get to work on something you are passionate about, which keeps you invested in the learning.

Right now I'm upgrading to Rails 5 so that I can convert most of the views to Preact.

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ratko_solaja profile image
Ratko Å olaja

My personal website is built with WordPress.
My personal-business is built with plain HTML, CSS and JS. However, I'm preparing a new version that will run on Laravel and VueJS (part of me learning those two things).

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sake_92 profile image
Sakib Hadžiavdić

If you don't mind using a programming language like Scala, try my sbt-hepek plugin. You can make your HTML templates in Scala's traits. Then you just implement an abstract method that will be the content of your page. :) So, it's not a real framework but just a handy tool for generating static files. :D You can find more examples here, rendered at blog.sake.ba.

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Sergio Daniel Xalambrí

I used Next.js with the static export feature to generate plain old HTML with inlined CSS and deploy it under ▲ZEIT Now, here's the site sergio.now.sh and here's the code sergiodxa/personal-site (it implements a service worker too just for fun). For things like a personal blog I use Medium or dev.to and I just have a simple list of all my published articles in my personal site so I don't need a WP or something similar to create a blog.

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erebos-manannan profile image
Erebos Manannán

Generally I use Jekyll + GitHub Pages.

Hosting a website is too much work for most uses, especially personal website. You will end up with a server that doesn't get patched as you have no reason to check on it all the time, and eventually you will get hacked or have other issues with it and you spend your weekends fixing your homepage.

Additionally there are no easy to host and good CMS systems out there. Drupal and WordPress are both disasters, lots of requirements (database, PHP, some sort of cache solution, etc.) generally really slow and especially in the case of WordPress a security nightmare.

With these issues in mind, and still wanting a solution better than just editing HTML, CSS and JavaScript directly, is where static site generators come in. There are a lot of options, but Jekyll has been my favorite for a long time. You can use templating, SCSS, etc. to build a fairly complicated website with little effort. Setup is generally a breeze and there is little "black magic" involved. It also has a neat plugin system for more complicated scenarios (though they will NOT work in e.g. GitHub Pages).

GitHub Pages can then take your static website (or specifically Jekyll sources) and serve it without you having to worry about hosting at all, and for free. It's not perfect, but it IS pretty good. You will get your website running with minimal effort and updates are a breeze, just push to the repository.

Of course GitHub Pages has competitors as well, but most of them are paid, and considering how important my personal homepage is (not very) I'm generally not willing to pay a whole lot for hosting it.

Some examples I could quickly remember of websites I've built with Jekyll:

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niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

For the "Hi, ask me about x" page there's just plain CSS and a tiny bit JS. For the blog I use Wordpress with a minimal theme, mainly because when I made it I had tens of posts from Blogspot which I didn't want to lose and could import easily with a plugin. I planned to switch to Kirby (which I use for clients) but the two posts a year just aren't worth it.

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Shreyas Minocha

I used hugo and surge for my website: shreyasminocha.me