I've made a bunch of simple websites over the years [1], and from my endless failures I've built up some principles I now follow:

  1. Avoid learning new things where possible. Learning takes time and energy, and will burn me out. If given the choice of two tools, go with the one I know how to use already.
  2. Do not generalize. Whenever I try to create "a general tool for building X", and then try to use that tool to make X [2], I burn myself out. Just write a script that suits my exact needs instead (example).
  3. Be realistic about who needs to grok the code. If I'm building a personal website, only I need to be comfortable hacking on it; so go ahead and use three different languages and twelve other tools in the build process (example).
  4. Keep the website's goal in mind. If I just want a place to host my thoughts in a blog format, don't get caught up worrying about design too much (I didn't have a blog for a long time because of this). If I'm building a portfolio, make sure my design conveys what I want it to (my portfolio tries to very quickly convey that I've made a lot of things using a lot of different technologies over a long period of time).
  5. Make a static site. By this I mean make a site that could be hosted on GitHub Pages or a similarily simple service. Sometimes this isn't possible, but building and maintaining something besides a static site is so much more obnoxious, so try really hard to Keep It Static Silly.
[1]I don't have a precise definition of a "simple website" for you, but here's some typical examples of them: blogs, portfolios, project homepages, company websites, etc. Sites with no account management, if there's user-generated content it's super minimal (ex: comments on a blog), backends are usually no more than static file servers, etc.
[2]Phial is my attempt at building a static site generator when I really should've been concentrating on just building my blog. There's a shockingly large list of static site generators that's a nice reminder that I'm not the only one to get caught in this trap.


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