Craig Rowe

Techlead / Developer

30th November 2008

Why you should make your own site

Many people spend time creating a personal website but what really is the point?

Unless it is your base of operations for freelance work or tightly linked to your company profile it may be just an exercise in narcissism. However that doesn't have to be the case. It is my firm belief that the main purpose of having a personal website is to create it yourself.

If you are a designer you may opt to use an open source blog but spend time creating your own skin/template. If you are a developer you may download one of the many free design templates and code functionality for yourself. The point is that you do some of the work yourself.

But there's so much already out there

OK, so this can mean you 'reinvent the wheel' but is this necessarily a problem? A personal site is probably the only place where you have total free reign in terms of design/content and functionality, so it is your place to experiment and try new things. Yes you could install an off the shelf blog with various plugins and set it up in a day, but that's not going to help you. It will only help your susbcribers (if you even have any at this point ...and if you write any decent content). Why should your personal site be focussed only on the readers. You, the author, should take something from it.

Jeffrey Zeldman has written about content outsourcing causing the disappearance of the personal site. This may be very true, and why not, if you want to host images flickr provides a great place to do that. If you want to store your bookmarks online delicious is excellent. You can even get plugins for blogs and browsers. But what do you personally learn from that?

With this site I have used third party services. My links are from delicious, my status is from twitter and my location is a combination of brightkite and google maps. But instead of just plugging this into a blog platform I have dealt with all the code myself. Crazy maybe? A waste of time? but definately a good learning experience. Did I do this because I really thought people cared where I was? or what I'd just said on twitter? No. Particularly as a young developer I need to keep up to date and 'hone my skills' and I was able to explore the use of restful apis, caching, providing multiple response content types and much more.

How would a free blog install with other developers plugins have helped me? Maybe I could get involved with developing plugins myself? but I would be restricted by user need, platform etc. It may even be a big jump to get to a public plugin release standard of code, especially if you are just starting out.

That is not to say you shouldn't participate in a community. A conference doesn't go by without speakers espousing the benefits of such activity.

So why do it?

Developing your own system is outside of the constraints of work (where platform or versions may be restricted) or even other peoples needs (where you can't just do something to learn a technique, it must have a purpose). It is your sandbox for you to create and recreate.

There are further benefits... you may want to blog (after all everyone's doing it). What are you going to write about? Maybe you're a student or your employed work is under confidentiality agreements? Time spent building, experimenting and updating your personal site is an excellent source of content. And it's based on real life development (not trivial examples) to explain something you've learnt or read about recently.


Spending time developing your own site gives you the chance to try knew things, reinvent how you did them before, and make use of things you may not yet need for clients or work but might do in the future. It is a real project that is live that needs to be treated as such and yet at the same time is totally within your control.

Code you write can be ported almost immediately into blog posts describing your process without fear of breaking confidentiality or forcing your explanations into trivial examples.

Personal sites often cover multimedia, feeds, downloads, interaction with visitors, interaction with web services. Almost any knew technique can be applied in some way, giving you the chance to learn in a non time pressured environment at your own pace on a real live project.

A personal site should help you as well as your visitors.

Catch me on twitter with your thoughts.

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