For the last six months, we’ve debated in our minds about self-hosting LazyTech.tv versus using a SaaS solution. When we ran WordPress as lazytechguys.com, we had a staff of writers, a schedule and strong plan in becoming a decent media outlet. Nonetheless, we were still small fish in a big pond full of other small fish and some sharks who were friendly – at least some of them.
A few years later, I got a job at TWiT and the backend was handed off to the rest of the crew. Fortunately, Tony (who became the EiC) was technically sound to handle most of the innards of WordPress. It was during that time when websites became more mobile friendly and responsive – something we had to figure out while I was still working. This meant toying around with the already custom theme that we put together since it was self-hosted.
Since 2012 and its succeeding years, the Wordpress Core Team began deploying the latest and greatest versions of its popular blog platform to the web. Core upgrades meant plug-in upgrades. And when you have 7000+ posts indexed on the web, running database backups became a norm. Unless you can count the number of plugins in one hand, clicking through a list of “upgrade” buttons will only set you up for trouble – that’s assuming of course your plugin isn’t managing a store inside your blog or doing something complex.
So this is where we are now – the SaaS version of Wordpress. In a huge ocean of a zillion small fish with thousands of sharks, we have a clear path of what we can do as well as what we can’t.
But at least between us writers, we can see the sunset.
1. Avoid maintenance hell
Naturally, the whole point of a SaaS is to minimize overhead with technical experts. No self-hosting configurations, upgrades or headaches associated with running your own shop. That much is obvious.
2. Have a self-hosted path if things change
The lesser obvious but more important decision was opting for something we were familiar with that has a self-hosted path. While we could have went with another popular service like SquareSpace, we wanted to avoid the fate of platforms that were acquired by other companies. As a general rule, the merging company with the commanding shares will either trash the platform or transfer the data to its inferior version.
With WordPress still dominating a large portion of the blogging market and the creator’s company managing the SaaS version, we can export our data from a SaaS version of WordPress and import it into a self-hosted version. Issues can still arise even when moving to the same platform but it would not be near the kind of data migration headaches one would have to deal with when moving to a completely different platform.
3. Have a diverse set of base templates
We didn’t want to spend a ton of time figuring out the look and feel since many WordPress designers have done the homework on user experience and interface design. The more important matter was making sure the templates were responsive and looked good in a variety of devices. We didn’t worry too much about the color scheme and we will illustrate that point shortly after understanding that…
4. The SaaS version includes self-hosting like features
And this goes hand-in-hand with the diverse set of base templates. Can we quickly embed YouTube videos by just pasting a link? Check. Can we quickly share our articles on social networks effectively? Check. Podcast deployments? No problem. Self-hosted videos? Got it.
While these are common things you’d be able to find in most SaaS-based platforms, a more important detail we wanted to know was if the this version has enough shortcode and HTML tricks to provide some interesting layouts.
And they do.
Having a variety of styled tables, blockquotes, post formats and full width articles is part of the big game of enticing new readers who now have millions of choices reading or watching another content provider. If you’re not looking professional enough – you’re dead.
5. Customize the style sheets
The same thing holds true with the entire site’s look as a whole. If you’re a “me-too” site (which this is), you might as well not look like template #25 out of 30.
It’s fine to have the same year, make, model and perhaps color of your car – but not your website. One of the big selling points in moving towards WordPress.com was its ability to provide complete control of your sites Cascading Style Sheets.
In fact, the service even provides an option where the entire CSS file can be created from scratch. But if you’re feeling a little less ambitious and simply want to put out a color scheme that works with your transparent logo, you can.
Just having control over your site’s typography can change the entire feel of the site. As a developer, you can appreciate this kind of control since it is easily taken for granted in a self-hosted solution. We’ve always believed in making the site we wanted and not one where we’re forced to look close like another’s. This feature alone provides us that luxury.
You live and die by the sword. But if you’ve trained with it and know its weaknesses, you’re likely to wield it and pass it down.