This blog was originally hosted on WordPress.com but I’ve decided to migrate it to GitHub Pages for various reasons. This post will outline my reasons for migrating as well as a comparison of my experiences with the two services.
For those who aren’t familiar with WordPress.com or GitHub Pages, they are both web hosting services. WordPress.com is powered by WordPress. It can be a little confusing, but basically WordPress.com hosts sites powered by WordPress. Similarly, GitHub Pages hosts sites powered by Jekyll. You could also use either WordPress or Jekyll to host a site on your own or through some other web hosting service. In this post I will sometimes simply say “WordPress” or “GitHub Pages” and depending on the context, that may refer to the web hosting service (WordPress.com and GitHub Pages), the underlying software (WordPress and Jekyll), or a combination of both.
Motivation for Migrating
My primary motivation for migrating to GitHub Pages was so that everything related to my résumé and professional portfolio would be hosted on one site. This is mostly a convenience for myself, since that means there is one less account that I have to manage, but I also like the idea of everything being a bit more “unified.” Another major motivating factor was simply to experiment with some new (to me) technology (Jekyll, Sass, and Liquid) and gain some experience building a simple, static website.
There were also several other, minor factors that contributed towards my decision. First is the ability to have more control over the content and layout of the site. That’s not to say that WordPress isn’t customizable, but there were a few minor annoyances that I’m glad I won’t have to deal with anymore. In particular, I didn’t like how file uploads were handled. Files are automatically placed in a [year]/[month] directory, which makes sense in many cases, such as when adding an image to a post. However, in other cases, such as my résumé, I don’t want the URL to change every time I upload a new version. Another related issue, is if I want to update a file in the same month, I believe it would create a new file with an added suffix and keep the old file, even if I intended to completely replace the old file1.
The last reason that I chose to migrate was so that everything would be under version control. In most cases, there is probably not much benefit since most content won’t change much and new posts which is the bulk of the content, are given dates. However, in the cases where I do edit posts or other content, it can be nice to have the version history. Having the site be a Git repository also means that if something were to ever happen to GitHub, I can keep a local copy and deploy the site somewhere else.
WordPress Versus GitHub Page
For my purposes both WordPress and GitHub Pages have all the features I need to produce the content that I want, so my comparison will focus on ease of use, customizability, and extra features.
In general, WordPress.com is easier to use than GitHub Pages since it has a web interface and dashboard to handle almost everything. You never need to look at or even understand HTML or CSS to be able to create a site. The same is true to a certain extent for GitHub Pages, but if you want anything beyond what the available themes provide by default, you will need to have an understanding of how Jekyll works as well as some understanding of HTML and/or CSS. However, the fact that you can directly control the HTML and CSS that is output by Jekyll and ultimately served to the user means that there are more options for customization2.
One thing that I liked about Jekyll was the simplicity of intalling and running a local server. This means that you can easily make changes locally and see exactly what it will look like when it is deployed to GitHub Pages and it is easy to view on different devices and browsers. While it is possible to run WordPress locally, it appears to be significantly more involved, although I have never actually tried it so my opinion is mostly based on viewing the documentation.
One major feature missing from GitHub Pages that was available with WordPress.com was web analytics, which provided information such as the number of unique visitors, what country visitors are from, and the number of views per page. I’ve decided to use Google Analytics as an alternative. In some ways, this opposes the fact that I wanted everything to be hosted on one site. However, since it is tied to my Google account, which I already use daily for email, I decided it was worth the tradeoff.
Overall, I am happy with my decision to switch to GitHub Pages. Although it came at the cost of some ease of use, the additional experience that I gained with HTML, CSS, and, to a certain extent, user interfaces and usability, was worth it.
Disclaimer: It’s been quite a while since I’ve dealt with this so I may be mis-remembering some of the details. Things may have also changed since then or I may have even just missed something when I originally ran into the problem. ↩
Disclaimer: I don’t know a lot about WordPress and I haven’t really spent much time exploring configuration and customization through WordPress.com so I may be completely wrong about the amount of customization that is available. ↩