Designing Without a Plan

I think this is a good place to start. Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either using WordPress’ Twenty Sixteen theme or something completely different. After a lot of thinking and prototyping, I realized I didn’t know enough about to design it.

Determining Needs

When I interview a client about a new project, this is always the first step. For projects that are not well-defined, it helps break down a large amount of hard-to-make decisions into simple steps. My base needs for are:

  • Custom URL
  • Website hosting
  • Custom emails with IMAP
  • Scalable content
  • Easy to setup and maintain

Custom URL

I had the URL so that step was done. I’m using NameSilo but don’t have much to say about it other than “everything I’ve wanted to do so far has worked.”

Website Hosting

I had the URL hosted with Firebase because I was using it as a home to test some apps. Great service, but not what I need for this site. I also have a regular shared hosting plan over at DreamHost. Ups and downs for them are the same as most other “cheap” hosts, but I’ve used them for about 10 years with minimal issues and amazing support.

Custom emails with IMAP

My workflow involves using macOS Mail for email, and I want addresses. DreamHost has this covered.

Scalable Content

Since I don’t know what the content is yet, I want the site to allow me to store and organize it in a way that will let me migrate and change it in the future if I want to. Basically, it’s going to live in a database.

Easy to Setup and Maintain

Spending effort on setup and maintenance at this stage is counter-intuitive. Since I want a database, this likely means and out-of-the-box CMS.

Making a Plan

Now that I have needs, I can make a plan. I did some research, tried some new technologies, and ended up deciding on my old friend of DreamHost + WordPress. DreamHost covers everything I need right now concerning hosting and emails, and after using it for so long I don’t run into problems; it was an easy choice.

WordPress was a more difficult decision. A large part of my career has involved hacking its core for client sites, and I didn’t enjoy that. The languages it uses, PHP and MySQL, are the ones I first learned when I began programming and my skills in that area have since been superseded by WordPress’ codebase. I did my best to find a different setup, but then I gave a real look at the “new” WordPress and was impressed. Realizing that it did exactly what I needed in terms of scalability, setup, and maintenance, I installed it. Turns out that as a user, I really like WordPress.

After a day for DNS propagation, I had a website online with custom emails active.

Initial Wants

Having my needs finished, I now had a place to collect content. The biggest change between Gruman Co and my previous companies is that I’m creating products/projects and not just freelancing and I needed to separate them. Portfolio and Projects pages were created to take care of that.

I also want to write again. A lot. For now, every time I have an idea I want to write about I create a draft in WordPress and make notes/add categories. Once I had about a dozen, I looked at WordPress’ categories and used them to help me focus my topics and set some restrictions.

Plan Resurrection

I’m finished this site for the time being. Blog posts and pages will continue to be added and there will eventually be a major redesign, but I’ve created a system that I won’t have to think about until I have enough content to inform the design. Getting base needs and wants out of the way has given me a plan.