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Goodbye WordPress, Hello Hugo!

Long story short: I’ve been working intensely on my website for about a month. After a couple of years of thinking about moving away from Wordpress, I finally did it! I’m so excited and so happy to be up and running on a brand new platform. Hello Hugo! 🤓

Person standing next to a computer displaying Cathrine Wilhelmsen’s logo next to the Hugo logo.

What’s new!?

For you, very little has changed. You may notice a few things, like:

  • New dark theme available! (Click the button in the menu to switch between themes 👆🏻)
  • Improved performance, especially on mobile devices
  • Comments are gone

For me, everything has changed:

  • Saved money by eliminating expensive web hosting
  • Complete control of all functionality and code
  • Access to local development environment
  • New workflow using Hugo, GitHub and Netlify

This has been a massive project for me. I’ve worked day and night for weeks, I’ve learned new concepts and technologies and coding languages, and I’ve loved every minute of it 🤓

Goodbye WordPress

I bought my first domain and launched my first self-hosted website in 2001. In June 2004, I migrated that website from Movable Type to WordPress, and I have been a WordPress user since then. When I launched cathrinewilhelmsen.net in 2012, it was natural for me to keep using WordPress. That’s 20 years of blogging and 17 years of using WordPress. I have officially spent more of my life using WordPress than not! 🤯

Basically, I know WordPress 😅 I have created my own themes and plugins, modified and extended the core functionality to suit my needs, and spent countless hours learning, tweaking, and updating things.

WordPress and I grew up together, but it was time to go our separate ways. Sometimes you just grow apart, you know?

Hello Hugo

For a couple of years, I have wanted to migrate to a static website generator, but never actually started. I considered both Gatsby and Jekyll, but in the end I decided to go with Hugo.

The biggest nudge to just do it came when some of my friends migrated to Hugo. Kendra Little (@Kendra_Little) recently wrote a great blog post about moving from WordPress to an Azure Static Site with Hugo. Alexander Arvidsson (@arcticdba) was equally positive to Hugo, just in fewer words 😁

The final nudge to go for it came when I wrote about developing in containers using Visual Studio Code and realized I could also create a Hugo container that way. In literally minutes, I had a local development environment up and running. Win! 🤓

What are the results of migrating from WordPress to Hugo?

I could write ten blog posts about why I migrated, how I migrated, and what I’ve learned along the way. In this post, I’ll just stick to some fun facts and numbers.

I’m saving money!

I used to pay approximately €225 per year for web hosting, domains, and extras.

Now I’m paying $20 per year for domains. Everything else is free!

Performance has improved!

My last full website backup was 480 MB (and consisted of 15779 files in 1906 folders). That includes WordPress files and images, but not posts since they were stored in the WordPress database.

My current Hugo folder is 50 MB (and consists of 1898 files in 131 folders). That includes all my images and all my posts.

The biggest change is that I have manually optimized and compressed all my images, and only created thumbnails when they’re needed. WordPress would automatically create at least 2 thumbnails for each image I uploaded, even if I didn’t use them. In addition, I discovered that many of the thumbnails were actually larger in file size than the original images… even though I was using an image optimizer plugin in WordPress! 😱 Here I was using the WordPress thumbnails everywhere thinking that would help performance, only to have made things worse for readers 🤦🏼‍♀️

A smaller change is that by having complete control of all functionality and code, I’ve shaved off thousands of lines of code. I’ve reduced the HTML, CSS and JavaScript to the bare minimum. Cleaning makes me happy 🤓

I’ve learned so many new skills!

And speaking of HTML, CSS and JavaScript… This is probably my favorite part about the migration process 😁 I’ve built my entire website from scratch. All of it! I’m not using an existing theme. Instead, I have written every single line of code myself. (Which also means I can only blame myself for any errors, ha!)

I didn’t know anything about Hugo and I hadn’t written a single line of Go or JavaScript before I started the migration process, so I have spent many hours learning, experimenting, trying, failing, and succeeding. I’ve loved every minute of it. It has been absolutely wonderful to return to my oldest hobby (web development), to feel EXCITED about a project again, to spend hours completely absorbed in solving something and forgetting all sense of time, and to finally figure things out and get that adrenaline rush when it works 🤓

Summary

It’s a little sad to say goodbye to WordPress after all these years, but it’s a pleasure to say hello Hugo! I’ve had fun, I’ve learned new things, I’ve improved performance, AND I’ve saved a lot of money. I’ll call that a win win win win. Yay! 🥳

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About the Author

Professional headshot of Cathrine Wilhelmsen.Cathrine Wilhelmsen is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero Certified Expert, international speaker, author, blogger, and chronic volunteer. She loves data and coding, as well as teaching and sharing knowledge - oh, and sci-fi, chocolate, coffee, and cats 🤓