What's a great blogging tool you peeps use?

What's a great blogging tool you peeps use?

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fabulousrice

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Hi all,

I'm thinking of redesigning my website and 5 portfolios soon.
And as much as I love spending hours a week designing and coding for my clients, when it comes to my own blogs, I'd prefer to use automated tools as much as possible and get straight to the point. Paste some text, style it, add images that instantly look great, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I speak fluent HTML, CSS, JS and a few others. But for this personal project, I don't want to put in hours of coding to get a beautiful result.

In the recent years, tumblr kind of disappeared out of sight, Medium, started adding nasty paywalls, and I've heard of many tools that are supposed to be super-duper-simple to use - blot, typehut, proseful... but also have paying options or a steep learning curve.

What I'd need is a tool that lets you type away a title and copy, add images, and that outputs a simple CSS and HTML file I can integrate and host myself on non-wordpress websites. The idea is to focus on producing the content, and to be able to do so quickly and often, not coding it every time.

I've tried a few tools online when I've had to do a quick and dirty HTML conversion in the past (convert from word doc, etc), but these usually spit out a pretty disgusting code.

I'm interested in seeing examples of what you guys have used.

 

Gummibeer

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I only can recommend 11ty or any other JAMstack/static site generator.
At the it depends on your favorite language/templating and so on.

What I really love about 11ty is that you can mix multiple data and template file formats in a single project.
So use nunjuck with hardcoded plus latest posts in your index view and simple markdown with nunjuck Layout.
I like nunjuck because it's very similar to twig.

You are even able to use async JS functions to provide data retrieved from APIs. For example your latest tweets, GitHub stats or whatever you need.

This way you have full control over design and content and via Zeit/Vercel you have blazing fast, feature rich and free hosting.

What I don't like about all these blog as a service tools is that you don't own your content.
11ty has also a RSS plugin which you can use to auto repost on dev.to

If you want a nice CMS UI for it you can use Git-backed CMS for Gatsby, Gridsome, Eleventy, Hugo, VuePress, Jekyll, etc. to edit/add your markdown files. This will only work with markdown + frontmatter.
For local and on the go writing I can recommend iAwriter.

✋🎤 .......... 😉😅

 
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adam

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Unpopular opinion time!

If you don’t want to faff around and just want to write in a beautiful, powerful editor then WordPress has to win here. The mobile app is good too (and works on self hosted also). Just pop open your admin, write and publish.

Used vanilla it is very fast, has all of the blogging functionality you could possible need, is very easy to theme and extend as needed.

Not sure when you last used it but in the last couple years and particularly few months the editor has come on leaps and bounds and is now hands down the best WYSIWYG editing experience I’ve used.

That being said, static site generators and particularly 11ty are great for something a little more involved.

 
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Gummibeer

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Unpopular opinion time!

If you don’t want to faff around and just want to write in a beautiful, powerful editor then WordPress has to win here.

Used vanilla it is very fast, has all of the blogging functionality you could possible need, is very easy to theme and extend as needed.

Not sure when you last used it but in the last couple years and particularly few months the editor has come on leaps and bounds and is now hands down the best WYSIWYG editing experience I’ve used.

That being said, static site generators and particularly 11ty are great for something a little more involved.

Can only agree if combined with @m1guelpf awesome A static site for your dynamically-generated website on your local machine . I NEVER want to care about a server + DB only for "static"/CMS content. It's not worth it!

 
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fabulousrice

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I only can recommend 11ty or any other JAMstack/static site generator.
At the it depends on your favorite language/templating and so on.

What I really love about 11ty is that you can mix multiple data and template file formats in a single project.
So use nunjuck with hardcoded plus latest posts in your index view and simple markdown with nunjuck Layout.
I like nunjuck because it's very similar to twig.

You are even able to use async JS functions to provide data retrieved from APIs. For example your latest tweets, GitHub stats or whatever you need.

This way you have full control over design and content and via Zeit/Vercel you have blazing fast, feature rich and free hosting.

What I don't like about all these blog as a service tools is that you don't own your content.
11ty has also a RSS plugin which you can use to auto repost on dev.to

If you want a nice CMS UI for it you can use Git-backed CMS for Gatsby, Gridsome, Eleventy, Hugo, VuePress, Jekyll, etc. to edit/add your markdown files. This will only work with markdown + frontmatter.
For local and on the go writing I can recommend iAwriter.

✋🎤 .......... 😉😅

goes to the 11ty website
notices a raccoon floating across the screen hung by a balloon
notices the 1200 x 220px sized button
scratches head

I wonder if this is what I want... looks a little on the difficult side, plus the few examples they showcase are not that great in terms of design.
Did you look at the examples I quoted, blot, typehut, proseful? Even indexhibit. I'm really looking for a stupid simple type of experience, but ideally, one that I can download and own on my own servers.
I asked to see what people use in 2020, and what examples they can show, so I can compare effort / result before I decide, to focus on productivity.

 

fabulousrice

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Unpopular opinion time!

If you don’t want to faff around and just want to write in a beautiful, powerful editor then WordPress has to win here. The mobile app is good too (and works on self hosted also). Just pop open your admin, write and publish.

Used vanilla it is very fast, has all of the blogging functionality you could possible need, is very easy to theme and extend as needed.

Not sure when you last used it but in the last couple years and particularly few months the editor has come on leaps and bounds and is now hands down the best WYSIWYG editing experience I’ve used.

That being said, static site generators and particularly 11ty are great for something a little more involved.


Thanks for the input!

So - let's say I don't have any prejudice against WordPress, can you show me a couple of examples of templates / themes that are not cluttered with a ton of useless add-ons and feel clean and modern?

This for example, seems really dated in terms of typography - navigation/UX is hell. None of the themes I see after doing a search for "blog" seems very visually relevant in 2020. They also don't really offer a clean, legible index of contents most of the time, so it's an endless scrolling type of nightmare... So I'm still leaning against WP for now, until proven wrong!

 

Sharkie

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Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but dev.to is brilliant! It's got a great community of dev's, and (though never tried it myself), they have some kind of way to build a blog with a DEV backend (Relevant Link).

Possibly worth looking into!

 

adam

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Thanks for the input!

So - let's say I don't have any prejudice against WordPress, can you show me a couple of examples of templates / themes that are not cluttered with a ton of useless add-ons and feel clean and modern?

This for example, seems really dated in terms of typography - navigation/UX is hell. None of the themes I see after doing a search for "blog" seems very visually relevant in 2020. They also don't really offer a clean, legible index of contents most of the time, so it's an endless scrolling type of nightmare... So I'm still leaning against WP for now, until proven wrong!

The WordPress.org repo does a terrible job of showcasing templates. Their default content is cruddy and they are slapped on with a default set-up that is rarely optimal.

If you're after something ready to go out of the box, ThemesKingdom make some great standards-compliant and bloat-free themes: Blog WordPress Themes - ThemesKingdom

I'll have a think about some other good examples! My personal site is still very much a WIP but is built in WordPress with an entirely custom template. It will be hard to beat statically generated HTML files (even though I do utilise some level of LiteSpeed caching) but you don't need any hacky/3rd-party workarounds to support comments, likes, proper search and more depending on your needs.

This is the new block editor. It also supports Markdown-like shortcuts and there are lots of ways to export posts as HTML, markdown files and more should you ever want to move. WordPress is also great headless if you wanted to just use the great admin and API to build your own front-end.

Screenshot 2020-04-28 at 15.40.09.png

 
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fabulousrice

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The WordPress.org repo does a terrible job of showcasing templates. Their default content is cruddy and they are slapped on with a default set-up that is rarely optimal.

If you're after something ready to go out of the box, ThemesKingdom make some great standards-compliant and bloat-free themes: Blog WordPress Themes - ThemesKingdom

I'll have a think about some other good examples! My personal site is still very much a WIP but is built in WordPress with an entirely custom template. It will be hard to beat statically generated HTML files (even though I do utilise some level of LiteSpeed caching) but you don't need any hacky/3rd-party workarounds to support comments, likes, proper search and more depending on your needs.

This is the new block editor. It also supports Markdown-like shortcuts and there are lots of ways to export posts as HTML, markdown files and more should you ever want to move. WordPress is also great headless if you wanted to just use the great admin and API to build your own front-end.

View attachment 131

Thanks for the thorough reply, Adam.
What you say in your answer does, however, raise even more red flags associated with wordpress than I had before!

That the people managing Wordpress are bad at presenting its product/templates = 🚩...
That their themes are old looking, but not in a cool, vintage kind of way, more in a Windows 98 kind of way = 🚩
That there are vendors out there who might be able to salvage WP, but hey, it's all paid options = 🚩...

May I ask what made you code your own template, rather than look for something that looks good right out of the box?
My major problem with blogs, and one of the reasons why I seldom read them is how much of an eye sore they all are. Sadly the problem is moving onto websites as well, they're all starting to look absolutely crappy and I have to divert my eyes from computers entirely or it brings me down.
Medium tried to make something different and nice to look at for a bit, but it's in the dumps now...

 

Talia

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May I ask what made you code your own template, rather than look for something that looks good right out of the box?

Why not? He's a web developer, so presumably he enjoys it, and it does make him look better to potential clients.

Wish I had a better response to this question. Honestly, I'd just go for WordPress with a custom theme too.

 

avena

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I recently set up a blog using Ghost and It worked well, although I must say that it was a pain to set up properly (too many peculiarities), so I am not sure If I would use it again.

It really seems like there is no actual alternative to Wordpress that is easy to set up.

 

fabulousrice

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Why not? He's a web developer, so presumably he enjoys it, and it does make him look better to potential clients.

Wish I had a better response to this question. Honestly, I'd just go for WordPress with a custom theme too.


That part of what I said was probably misunderstood. Technology is supposed to make things simpler... (or is it?).

Back in the days you'd pop a sheet in your typewriter and write right your ideas away. Knowing how to fix a typewriter, even as a hobby, doesn't mean you'd want to do it every single time you have a thought you want to share... right? I mean, I know most of us are developers here, but some of us also enjoy hobbies that are other than developing.

Also, most clients don't want to be tethered to a developer every time they need a blog update, they want to do it themselves. In this situation, although I'm a developer, I want something fast and simple like a client would.

And there is absolutely nothing simple or fast (or beautiful for that matter) about Wordpress lol... they even had to make a stack exchange community because people had so many unaddressed question and technical issues.

 

fabulousrice

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I recently set up a blog using Ghost and It worked well, although I must say that it was a pain to set up properly (too many peculiarities), so I am not sure If I would use it again.

It really seems like there is no actual alternative to Wordpress that is easy to set up.


That's interesting! I find the pricing a bit outrageous, but I assume it's because they're hosting your files? They don't explain how much hosting you get for that price on the pricing page. One of the usual schemes is to start with a system, and after a short while they say "You've used up all your free space! You should upgrade". Every hosting service does it, from iCloud to google etc. And it's what I'm trying to avoid... Maybe I'd prefer to host on my own servers that I'm already paying for and that have massive storage.

 

adam

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That's interesting! I find the pricing a bit outrageous, but I assume it's because they're hosting your files? They don't explain how much hosting you get for that price on the pricing page. One of the usual schemes is to start with a system, and after a short while they say "You've used up all your free space! You should upgrade". Every hosting service does it, from iCloud to google etc. And it's what I'm trying to avoid... Maybe I'd prefer to host on my own servers that I'm already paying for and that have massive storage.
You can self-host Ghost, it is open source, but it is a little more involved than many scripts: https://ghost.org/docs/setup/

 

Gummibeer

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If Wordpress is simple, easy and fast to setup/maintain depends a lot on how many plugins you need, if you can use a theme out of the box and so on.
With every customization WordPress and it's ecosystem gets exponentially complex. That's at least my experience with it.

So if you are fine with one of the buyable themes and don't need many plugins WordPress is okay.

But for me it's a lot faster and easier to setup a 11ty, Laravel or whatever and write some custom HTML, throw in tailwind and sometimes if needed some vanilla JS.
The benefit: I can edit the markdown content in GitHub UI, in my IDE, in iAwriter on my smartphone/tablet and if it's a customer project he can use forestry.io to edit content in a beautiful UI.
I'm always the owner of my content, it's in a platform independent format and it's versioned via git.
And for sure the responses are also a lot faster (static HTML) and the look is more unique.

So it depends a lot on your needs, expectations, requirements and if you want to spend more money or time and more one-time at start or more over the full timespan with maintenance and so on.

The easiest and fastest is medium or dev.to or similar.
More advanced but also expensive and requires the most maintenance is WordPress or ghost or any selfhosted CMS.
And the most unique, one-time setup but nearly zero maintenance is any kind of static page generator/JAMstack hosted on netlify or Zeit/Vercel.

 
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adam

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Oh, yes, I'd basically have to buy a computer, install ubuntu on it, and leave it to heat up all day and all night... that's on the other end of the simplicity I am after 😉
I was thinking more a VPS but yep that would work too. 😆

Anchor CMS is quite nice if you are wanting to avoid site generators. There are themes ready to go at https://anchorthemes.com/.

 
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fabulousrice

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If Wordpress is simple, easy and fast to setup/maintain depends a lot on how many plugins you need, if you can use a theme out of the box and so on.
With every customization WordPress and it's ecosystem gets exponentially complex. That's at least my experience with it.

So if you are fine with one of the buyable themes and don't need many plugins WordPress is okay.

But for me it's a lot faster and easier to setup a 11ty, Laravel or whatever and write some custom HTML, throw in tailwind and sometimes if needed some vanilla JS.
The benefit: I can edit the markdown content in GitHub UI, in my IDE, in iAwriter on my smartphone/tablet and if it's a customer project he can use forestry.io to edit content in a beautiful UI.
I'm always the owner of my content, it's in a platform independent format and it's versioned via git.
And for sure the responses are also a lot faster (static HTML) and the look is more unique.

So it depends a lot on your needs, expectations, requirements and if you want to spend more money or time and more one-time at start or more over the full timespan with maintenance and so on.

The easiest and fastest is medium or dev.to or similar.
More advanced but also expensive and requires the most maintenance is WordPress or ghost or any selfhosted CMS.
And the most unique, one-time setup but nearly zero maintenance is any kind of static page generator/JAMstack hosted on netlify or Zeit/Vercel.


All these solutions are incredibly difficult to get into or scale up or down, I think even most developers I know would have a hard time wrapping their heads around it. Generally speaking whether is's a small team or a large team, using a hoard of different interconnected services is only possible if there's only one person in charge of everything.

What I'm looking for is a simple service that anyone can use - the way Blogger or Livejournal were meant to be before dwindling - but that remains scalable and user friendly across the whole process - unlike wordpress or the installation heavy solutions outlines here.

What I hear about are services made by developers, for developers, without much care of whether or not a broader audience can access these products (or actually, some seem to expect a broad audience to use their products, unfortunately that's not how it works)...

There are millions of people in the world who have bad experiences with technology, or don't use it at all, or are afraid to use it, because of the gigantic digital divide between people who grew up learning programming languages for fun at school, and people who grew up with record players... and I don't think the divide will disappear anytime soon, since every single user of tech has their own definition of what is "simple", "usable", "easy to setup".

So, right now, when you want to empower people who are not developers by pointing at a modern, decent-looking blog they can use, there seems to be no solution. When you spend 70 hours a week programming and coding for a client, and you wish for your "time off" to be able to have a blog that's simple to keep and maybe even free, to spend most of your time off outside, not inside, there isn't a solution.

Another thing that I notice is that the definition of "blog" seems to be confused with the definition of "website" for a lot of people. Fo me a blog is composed of separate entries with a title, and body that can be text and images or sounds. A website is a global web entity with a home page, a contact page, sometimes a gallery page, etc, depending on what the site's purpose is.

Like I said, something might have gone wrong, but Livejournal and Blogger were simple tools, aimed at a wide population. I'd love it if there was something of the same style in terms of ease of use but with a possibility to scale up or features such as FTP hosting, etc.

I keep circling back to the same ones I mentioned earlier, blot, typehut, proseful, indexhibit...

 
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