I often tell the story of how a simple website made me fall in love with programming. I was given a brief training assignment to build a website from scratch using HTML and CSS, with no prior knowledge beforehand. Something about the immediate back-and-forth between building the code and testing the display made something click. Soon after, I would spend hours after work building neat dashboards and landing pages with server-less implementations. Google Sheets used as a replacement for databases, hundreds of lines of jQuery added for interactivity. All of this was incorporated into my personal site, which served as both a list of my projects and demonstration of my abilities throughout the years.
Several years and hundreds of hours later, I am retiring my personal site. This decision was not easy to come to, but I know that my goals and abilities at this moment make it disadvantageous to keep it up.
Before getting started, I would still advocate for creating your own personal site if there's a specific need that it fills. If you are a freelance website builder, a personal site is necessary as a way of showcasing your skills. Others with design-oriented positions may find that the complete creative control a personal site provides best projects your abilities than using other platforms like Dribbble. Additionally, a personal site can be useful as a central resource if you have a sizeable audience, even if the only content for display is a list of your social media profiles.
I do not fall into the above categories. The goals of my own personal site are different from the goals of the examples listed above. Here are my main reasons for going forward with the deprecation and what may be insightful if you are skeptical about your own personal website:
There's just something about my personal website that makes me devote way more time than necessary to updating it. Routine visits to update the content to the latest updates inevitably become updates to the layout as well. The colors never feel correct, the layout is too short or too large or too cluttered, there's never enough transitions, there's too many transitions, etc. Every attempt to revamp the layout spins to a large, excessive TODO.
I certainly have a greater appreciation towards UI designers. I am my own nightmare client, constantly asking for small, inconsequential changes on the website and never feeling satisifed.
I recommend this article for additional info, as well as some interesting insights in the comments:
The core summary boils down to a common sentiment around (software developer) hiring managers: a personal website is appealing to hiring managers but do not increase a candidate's chances. The primary emphasis and discussion in job interviews mostly focus on GitHub projects and contributions.
In order for a personal website to be effective, it needs to be fully functional (i.e. works with every phone and browser) and updated. You either spend an excessive amount of time to satisfy these requirements and gain nothing or risk being judged poorly if the website breaks while the hiring manager looks at it or it contains outdated information.
Breaking it down, the problems that a personal website solve can boil down to the following:
- A concise location with links to other platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
- A portfolio with examples of project work with information
As a programmer with a number of open source repositories, my GitHub profile is the best showcase of my skills as a developer. I could attach a link to these repos on my resume when reaching out to companies, but even that feels too low-level. Thankfully, GitHub released an update in mid 2020 that added a customizable bio section visible on your profile page. I can highlight specific repositories and recent blog posts (if I was cool, I would automatically update a list of recent blog posts with a GitHub Actions workflow).
Other platforms cover any other holes that a personal site would cover, namely linking to Dev.to as a blogging platform and linking to LinkedIn for my professional credentials. These platforms are way easier to maintain and keep updated, without the mental push to want to update the UI in tandem.
Since GitHub will be the main focus of discussion in potential discussions with companies, it should also be the main focus when searching for a replacement to a personal site.
The steps I am taking in the deprecation process:
- GitHub will act as my work portfolio:
- Update GitHub bio with clear links to my LinkedIn (for professional experience) and Dev.to (for blogging)
- Update GitHub projects with well defined READMEs
- Highlight a handful of my highlighted GitHub repositories. Write articles about their motivation and development.
- LinkedIn will act as a resume (although my actual resume is now hosted on resume.io)
- Update LinkedIn to link back to GitHub and Dev.to profiles.
- Update profile to mimic Resume credentials list
- Dev.to will act as a blog
- Update Dev.to profile to link back to GitHub and LinkedIn
- Write articles to fill in the remaining gaps a website would provide that a repo README can't fulfill, i.e. articles about obstacles encountered in projects and how you overcame them, reasoning behind selecting a specific toolchain, etc.
All of this will amount to 3 social media platforms to represent myself professionally. The key and motivation was to create a network of clearly defined tools that are first-and-foremost easy to update.
The true replacement for a personal site is something that will be updated on a regular basis above all else.