I recently created my second site with Magneto, so I’m going to share my experience in doing so.
All of that futzing meant that I only made about 3 posts, all very soon after I created the site. I attribute that lack of posting to two factors (and I like to believe that it isn’t because I’m a bad father):
- The time it took to make a post – to make the Squarespace site do what I wanted it to do, I had to spend about 20 to 30 minutes for each post. That was mostly because I would have to look at the past posts to re-learn what I had hacked together the previous time.
- Having to log in to Squarespace – I’ve found that having to log in to a service is a large enough hurdle to discourage me from using it. Any friction in the form of discouragement is a factor that will undermine my intentions and that I want to eliminate.
So I decided to abandon Squarespace and create another Magneto site.
Change of Plans
As I said earlier, I had an idea in my head of creating a website that was sort of like a children’s bedtime story book, to which I would add new information about my daughter as she grew up and could do more things. But I ran into problems with this concept. Where would a new user start in reading the story? If I put them at the beginning of the book then they would get the full effect of the story. However, my friends and family that checked back often would have to jump through hurdles to get to the new stuff. Additionally, in a children’s book there is generally one picture and caption per page. Having the same effect on the web would require a lot of clicking and waiting1, delivering a poor overall user experience.
So I abandoned the original idea and one of my primary reasons for leaving Squarespace2. The new concept reminds me of what you would see on many Tumblr sites, pictures or videos with some comments.
Setting up Magneto was very easy to do. I simply followed my instructions (having to fix a couple of typos along the way) and I had the basic site up in a few minutes. It is so much easier the second time around.
Despite changing my overall concept of the site, I still want to tell a story through the use of pictures and videos. In order to do that, I had to make some modifications to the stock Magneto setup.
Now a short bit about my experience serving images and videos. I have no prior experience in this area (my current professional work involves sites on an intranet that have little to no media assets) so I was experimenting with serving these assets straight from my server (which is the lowest tier virtual private server at Midas Green Tech). With this strategy, my server would become unresponsive shortly after uploading updates to the site. I believe that this is because the server was caching those assets in memory, but I am not completely sure. I next experimented with a CDN, Cloudflare to be exact, and the server’s unused memory went up dramatically and load times shortened dramatically. In other words, as convention would tell you, use a CDN.
The last thing that I modified was Don’s timeago.coffee. I wanted the time stamps on my daughter’s site to display my daughter’s age at the time of the posting, so I created timesince.coffee. You can provide the script a starting date and it will display how long after the date that that post occurred, with accuracy to a month.
I am quite pleased with my switch to Magneto for my daughter’s site. I have already posted more times than I did on the previous platform, and more importantly I don’t get that feeling of dread that I usually do when I have to put in a password and navigate a site that I’m not used to navigating. I can almost do everything on my iPhone.
Would I recommend this setup to someone who is not technically minded? Definitely not. But if you are already managing a Linux server and want to share some pictures and memories with family and friends, or just want to have a memory for yourself, I think this is a great way to go. I might just be putting together another soon, and I will definitely be iterating upon my daughter’s site in order to get it closer to my original concept.
I do not regret my decision to stop using Squarespace, because of the following benefits of self hosting: 1) I have the content on my local machine and can use it any way that I like, 2) I don’t have to log in, and 3) I can run my daughter’s site on the same server that I run my own which saves me money. ↩