It’s been one month since I migrated from WordPress to Hugo. In my original post, I mentioned some of the immediate benefits of migrating: I saved money, performance went up, and I was totally geeking out about getting to learn new skills. It was all about the tech, really. Today, I want to reflect on some of the less obvious benefits and how migrating has had a positive impact on me this past month 😊
I think I can summarize it in one sentence:
I enjoy blogging again because I’ve taken back control of my website.
That sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, this has always been my website and I have always been in control of it. But what I’ve realized is that for many years, WordPress and its features and plugins shaped how I used - and didn’t use - my blog.
I can’t and I don’t really blame WordPress. This is mostly about my habits and thought processes and how I started changing them. However, that change only happened because I migrated to a new blogging platform. It was only after I started using Hugo that I realized how I could do things differently.
So what’s different now?
I’m writing because I enjoy blogging…
…not because I feel like I need to beat the statistics from last month.
When I logged into WordPress, the first things I saw on my dashboard were the views and visitors graphs. If the numbers started going down, my stress levels started going up. My brain decided to interpret that decrease as “you’re not good enough”, which is… stupid. It really is. But that’s what happened, and it got worse over the years. Blogging became something I had to do more than something I wanted to do.
Sure, I could have removed the graphs, ignored them, not even opened the dashboard page. But I didn’t. I’m not sure I even thought about how it affected me until I started using Hugo and the graphs weren’t in my face anymore. They’re still there, they’re just in a separate service that I have to log into. All I have now is my content. I can… I can just sit down and write when I feel like writing!? Whaaat? 😁
I’m focusing on the content…
…not the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) scores.
In WordPress, I used a plugin called Yoast SEO. It’s an excellent plugin that I highly recommend. It can help you optimize your blog posts and improve your writing, and it has helped me a lot. However. How-ever. It also became my biggest nightmare because I just couldn’t stand to see my content get tagged with red and yellow lights. I had to optimize everything and follow all the rules and make sure everything was green. The result? I stopped trusting myself to evaluate my own content on my personal blog, which is… also stupid. Over 30 drafts were never published because a tool said they weren’t “good enough”.
I still use Yoast, but I only use their standalone tool when I want to use it. It’s an excellent tool for technical walkthroughs, for example. I still highly recommend it if you want to up your blogging game. But for my personal ramblings, like this post? Nah. I’m not going to use it. I know I won’t get a perfect score because I’m choosing to “break their rules” since this is more of a journal-style entry than a technical article. And that’s ok because this is my website and I say so 😂
I’m choosing if and when to share my blog posts…
…by using a separate newsletter service.
When I published a post through WordPress, an e-mail would immediately be sent to all my subscribers. It’s a powerful feature! But it also meant that everything I published would be sent to all my subscribers. It made me even more self-conscious and raised the bar even higher for publishing something, because I didn’t want to spam anyone with content that would probably only be interesting for future Cathrine. It created a disconnect in my brain where I often wanted to write something silly, less formal, more personal, “just sit down and get things out of my head”-style posts like this one… but I didn’t. And that drove me away from blogging. It made me feel like blogging was more of a job than a hobby.
I’ve now moved to Tinyletter. That means I have to actively log in and send a newsletter when I publish a new blog post. It takes a little more effort, but it’s nothing compared to the benefits of having more freedom. I can publish a blog post one day and send a notification a few days later, for example. Or maybe I won’t send a notification at all if I’m writing something that’s mainly for myself. It’s a new kind of flexibility and freedom that I never really knew I missed when I was using WordPress 😃
I’ve eliminated distractions (and some annoyances)…
…by disabling comments.
Hugo is a static website builder and doesn’t have the same built-in comment system as WordPress. I looked into several solutions for embedding discussions, but in the end I decided to just not include comments.
I miss the kind replies to my posts. There is a chance that I’ll miss out on good feedback or discussions between readers. New visitors won’t have the benefit of seeing others “verify” my content in comments saying that something was helpful to them. There are definitely drawbacks to not having comments on my blog.
But to me, comments had become more of a distraction than a fun feature. I spent a lot of time managing spam comments and updating spam filters. I had a few posts that attracted a lot of negativity because others used it as a place to vent their frustrations. Some days I got really annoyed by people who demanded my time and expected me to provide free consulting simply because I had published a blog post on that topic. Other days I felt guilty because I hadn’t yet responded to excellent questions because I never got around to sit down and write the answers they deserved.
Managing comments had become a chore that distracted me from producing content.
I could have just turned off comments in WordPress. (I did on some posts.) But when I migrated to Hugo, it was an easy decision to just not include a comment system instead of spending time implementing something that I knew would bother me at some point.
I’ve sort of solved this by redirecting people to social media instead, where I want to have conversations 😊
So… what’s different now?
Oh, you know… Just the way I think about my blog. Nothing big.
(It’s kind of big.)
With WordPress, I ended up feeling like I constantly had to publish new posts to keep improving my visitor stats, but I could only write the posts that were “good enough” for Yoast and “worthy enough” to share with my subscribers, so I ended up publishing very few posts. That started the loop all over again with even more stress added. I really did create a nightmare scenario for myself, didn’t I? 😅
That’s what I meant when I said this is mostly about my habits and thought processes. Migrating to Hugo forced me to re-evaluate what the heck I wanted to get out of this website. And I’ve started to realize that what I want is a place where I can be myself. This website isn’t my job, it’s my hobby. I want to go back to where I can just enjoy blogging and playing with web development again. A drastic change like migrating to a new platform has kind of been that new start.
And now I’m going to just go ahead and publish this post without overthinking. That’s a massive step forward for me.
About the Author
Cathrine Wilhelmsen is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero Certified Expert, international speaker, author, blogger, organizer, and chronic volunteer. She loves data and coding, as well as teaching and sharing knowledge - oh, and sci-fi, coffee, chocolate, and cats 🤓