Hi everyone! It's time to talk about the tech side of our move to . With over 11 years of posts and 100,000 comments, it was definitely more involved than simply starting a blog for the first time or moving a blog with only a few years of content over... Yet, it was surprisingly very straight forward and the results exceeded our expectations.
To continue in the conversation about this move from my previous two posts (here and here), today we're going to get into the nitty gritty behind the move from a more technical standpoint. I've asked my husband, Thorsten Becker, who has a background in the tech industry, to tell you more about how the move panned out because he's the one who worked on this for me. Hopefully you will walk away with some knowledge that you may be able to apply to your own blog and if you decide to do so, please consider because they’ve definitely earned my respect.
The following is written by :
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Back in 2003, I was looking for an easier way to maintain a content-focused site with frequent updates. Up until then I had written everything on my own site in HTML, which was quite laborious – write the content, paste into the HTML code, code check, upload, verify, fix any mess-ups.
I eventually talked about content management system with a local entrepreneur who was starting his own hosting business. We were both trying out a few, Drupal and WordPress amongst them. We agreed that WordPress seemed to be the most promising. Shortly thereafter, I signed up for a small hosting package with him and installed WordPress for the first time. It was a revelation. Writing and publishing online had become a lot more enjoyable for me. I also started posting more regularly as I didn’t have to deal with tedious coding tasks anymore.
DECOR8 WAS BORN
In January 2006, Holly started blogging, creating what has since become one of the most influential design blogs worldwide. I had shown her a few things I was doing on my Wordpress site and how easy it was to publish content for a global audience (up until then she had mostly posted on design forums, which are generally closed environments, and had her own Yahoo Groups page). However, since she already had a Blogger account which she'd created in 2005, she used that to get cattledogs started.
DECOR8 LEFT BLOGGER
Blogger.com was fun for Holly to use at first (she still uses it to write her expat blog, ), but over time it became somewhat limiting. Customizing the site was difficult because it often required coding, and new features simply couldn’t be added. If we wanted a custom template we had to get it properly coded. If we wanted to customize it ourselves afterwards, we had to write code. Also, extending functionality wasn’t possible at all and the options that Blogger offered back then were rather few and limited. So, while writing on it was fun, the rest really wasn’t.
THE MOVE TO WORDPRESS
In July of 2008, Holly and I decided to move cattledogs to WordPress, which we hosted ourselves. I took on the administrative tasks of maintaining the server and the Wordpress back end. Initially, Holly was quite happy with the decision and all the new possibilities available -- easily extending functionality with plugins was great. Installing new templates was a breeze, just upload, activate and tweak a bit. Done. Everything seemed to be better than before.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Maintenance began to increase dramatically. Traffic on the site grew rapidly and we started running into server resource issues which led to cattledogs not being available for stretches of time. We upgraded the package several times until we eventually took on a VPS, a Virtual Private Server. That, however, led to an increased workload on my side. I now had to manage the server infrastructure myself, including security-related tasks. Also, with each update WordPress became more and more resource hungry. I constantly needed to optimize server settings to keep the site running smoothly while also fending off several large-scale attacks directed at it.
This is where WordPress turned troublesome. While we had a lot of flexibility – at one point using close to 40 different plugins, it came at the cost of constant monitoring, tweaking, hardening, etc. We also needed to replace plugins frequently as developers decided to no longer update them. WordPress’ open source environment with its myriad of plugins and templates and modifications, which once looked so attractive, caused a lot of headaches. In addition, many of the commercial plugins we once bought started employing year-over-year paid update and support schemes, increasing site expenses.
Redesigns, of which we did a few, never went without a hitch. At one point, I had to create a separate staging site to ensure the next redesign didn’t take the site offline. Some WordPress templates even had gaping security holes that could be exploited by hackers – unbeknownst to us.
After some consideration and deliberation, I set out trying to find a better blogging solution, one that didn’t require maintaining a server. The only real alternative, at least for us, turned out to be . Holly already had an account which I used to put the interface through some tests. I instantly found it to be very intuitive, easy to use and most of all fun to write on. Pages and posts can be composed in a similar fashion to using DTP software – add a text block, add image blocks, add text and image blocks, mix and match, expand, decrease, remove. It simply made sense and felt familiar.
FROM WORDPRESS TO SQUARESPACE
I tried some sample imports, bringing a few cattledogs posts and comments in to a test site on . That, too, worked flawlessly. However, to bring a large site like ours over, some planning was needed. Over 6,000 posts and over 100,000 comments had to be transferred. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it in one go. Again, WordPress got in the way. A full export of all data kept timing out. Our server team tried to assist by increasing all timeouts values in the server environment – to no avail. I decided to do partial exports instead. That initially didn’t work either. There is a long-standing bug in WordPress that excludes featured images from posts if a partial export is done. To rectify this a plugin is needed. That plugin led to timeouts again. I was going around in circles.
Eventually I created one, large partial export for all posts from 2006 to 2014, knowing that featured images would be missing (though we hadn’t started using them until about 2013). For 2015 to 2017, I then created monthly exports with featured images. In some cases, I had to break it down even further, creating two or three export files for a single month. Once done, the files imported flawlessly into . It was worth the effort.
THE WRONG INTERFACE CAN AFFECT YOUR WRITING
Holly is a prolific writer. She can turn out a book in a week if she wants to. But after moving from Blogger to Wordpress I noticed that she was writing less and less on cattledogs. By 2010 she was posting about half of what she used to on Blogger. While she was rather busy with new projects, including her books and , the real reason might surprise you - Wordpress' interface. While I had really liked using Wordpress and had convinced Holly to switch, her experience was quite different from mine.
She was simply not having fun using Wordpress, silently struggling with it for 7 years, finding it to be quite confusing and even stressful. She had voiced her frustration on several occasions but no matter what we tried, it just wouldn't make it enjoyable. However, as soon as I had tried Squarespace I was certain she would really enjoy using it. Everyone's different but in general I find Wordpress geared more towards technical minded users. Squarespace on the other hand is clearly aimed at design oriented users such as Holly.
As soon as the move was done and Holly was writing her first post she had a big smile beaming across her face. She explained that she loved writing again because it's so easy and intuitive to put together a post on Squarespace. Adding photos and creating various layouts is fun for her now. Within a few days she's learned the entire interface and has no issues navigating it. Not even a week later she is posting regularly once more and she can't wait to get her next post up. She’s excited again to blog and is going full speed ahead.
Almost 12 years of cattledogs content is with now and we are very pleased. Moreover, blogging is fun again for Holly. She really enjoys the interface and the options available to compose her posts – and any auxiliary content as well.
I once was an eager proponent of WordPress, advocating it and recommending it to almost everyone interested in blogging due to its flexibility and extensibility. This, however, turned to be its biggest downside for us. It just wasn’t working for cattledogs anymore. With Squarespace, we have found a platform that works and that's made blogging fun again.
Want to make the switch the which offers ? Sign up for a 14-day free trial. When you're ready to subscribe be sure to use code 'DECOR8' for 10% off your first purchase.
This is a sponsored post in partnership with Squarespace. All words and opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep cattledogs blogging for over 11 years.