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Building a website without becoming a ‘soydev’

Posted in: Matthew's Tech Posting

The internet nowadays is plagued with crappy websites. Websites designed with a goal of getting as many visitors and as much AD revenue as possible. We all know these websites, the ones with overly long articles, contain every tracker in existence, have several AD placements, nag you to sign-up for their email newsletter and somehow take ages to load a basic and generic webpage.

These websites have become such a plague that many people have named the developers of them, Soydev’s.

But what is a Soydev?

A Soydev is someone who will not create websites that are simple, well-optimised and accessible. Instead, the Soydev creates websites that appears sample at first, but whose code they filled with random jQuery and nasty NPM Javascript dependencies, combined with un-optimised images, leaving that ‘simple’ website a slow, bloated mess.

That is even before we talk about NodeJS…..

An example of a ‘‘classic’’ Soydev website is Medium. The total page size of one article I saw was 10.08MB, for one article and the vast majority of that was from each image being over 1MB.

Tip: If you want to spot a real life Soydev, look for the Apple hipster at your local Starbucks using a bloated IDE, like Visual Studio coding a website, on his overpriced laptop.

How to create a non-Soydev website

Step 1: Select the platform that will power your new website.

Many online tutorials will tell you to use WordPress for your website. This advice ignores the many problems with WordPress that would far-outweigh the ‘convince’ that software provides, especially for smaller website’s and personal blog’s.

For most websites, a Static Site Generator is easy is a perfect compromise between a CMS like WordPress and manually writing HTML webpages. While a SSG does not the apparent ease of use of WordPress, it is really no more complex to larn how to use a SSG than it would have been to learn WordPress.

There are many SSG’s to choose from. If you want your website to render slowly and be in Ruby-related dependency hell, then choose Jekyll. Any sensible person should choose HUGO instead.

Step 2: Select a simple and non-Soydev theme, or create your own.

Now you have chosen a Static Site Generator, next you will need to decide on a theme for your new website.

Hugo has many free themes listed on its website. Some are better than others and many have slightly un-necessary amount of Javascript (Not to Soydev levels but often for mobile burger menus).

Mainroad, for example, is a really nice light theme but unfortunately suffers from this issue but if you know some HTML, you can easily replace the Javascript with a CSS alternative.

Another option if you’re more experienced with HTML and CSS, is to create your own theme as I have for this website. We can make the process for creating a HUGO theme easier by using a barebones theme (one that has no-design but has the features required by HUGO). This allows for creating a design in a WYSIWYG editor, like RocketCake and integrating that into the base.

Step 3: Write Content.

Now you have installed HUGO, and either downloaded a theme or designed your own. Now it’s time to write some content that someone might want to read.

There are a couple of tips I can give for this;

  1. Keep your articles as short as possible.
  2. Break up your article with H2 headers, bold-text and list, as people hate ‘walls of text’.
  3. If you want to include images, make sure they are well-compressed and have appropriate ALT text. The ALT-text is important as it informs search engines what the image contains and allows screen readers to communicate that to a blind person.

Step 4: Choose a web host.

This is the step that choosing a static website over a WordPress will make your life easier. This is because HUGO exports static files that can be hosted ‘‘almost’‘ anywhere. Any shared hosting account or ultra-cheap VPS will be sufficient for your website (depending on monthly traffic usage), in fact you could even host the website on a CDN storage object.

However, to protect your visitor’s privacy, I would recommend that you use a VPS (at a minimum). There are many providers of VPSs but many are complete crap or expensive. There are a few though that are both cheap and offer an excellent quality of service.

For most people, I would recommend getting a VPS from BuyVM. They offer a 10GB SSD, 512MB RAM VPS, for just $2/month. The service has many excellent reviews, offers a level of freedom of speech that is rarely matched and has optional Muti-Tbit Anti-DDOS for an extra $3/month.

Published: 4th of July 2021

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