Easy Websites

Published on by David A. Kennedy

Giles Turnbull in Let’s make the indie web easier:

We need more self-hosted platforms for personal publishing that aren’t Wordpress [sic]. And don’t point me to Hugo or Netlify or Eleventy or all those things - all of them are great, but none of them are simple enough. We need web publishing tools that do not require users to open the Terminal at all. And we need lots of them.

I’m onboard with the vision Giles lays out. Not everyone can make a website. More people should do it, and it can be easier.

It’s a technical feat though, full of button mashing and new vocabulary. That doesn’t even cover making a website that looks the way you want.

I thought about this problem a lot when I worked at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and more. To make creating websites easier, you have to address three areas through a site creation tool:

Technical complexity: Giles talks about this a lot in the post. How does the tool take a highly technical topic and make it easier to understand? Where does it put that complexity? An example: I like how Blot lacks a publishing interface, and uses the construct of files and folders to make a website.

Terminology and documentation: I don’t work with WordPress any longer, but I wonder how the newer Block editor works for people, especially those new to building websites. That’s what this area refers to: How does the tool “talk” about how to make a website? You want people to grasp the concepts laid out in your documentation and tutorials. Otherwise, they’ll give up on making a site. A better example: I like how Kirby allows someone to customize the panel to their needs, cutting out needless features.

Design personalization: This detail will push people to abandon a site even after they’ve poured hours into making it. If they can’t make it match their vision, it’s almost useless. Many tools have heavy technical complexity here (see Webflow). I like to think of the Better Crocker “Add an egg” solution. You have to make it simple, but make the creator feel involved. Pika is trying some interesting design things in the blogging space.

Here’s to hoping that making websites gets easier.

Tagged Open Web