From dynamic to static to dynamic or why my blog is back on WordPress

I recently migrated back to Wordpress as my blog platform of choice. The change has been painful, in fact, many of my older posts haven’t been migrated to WordPress. The change has been worth it though since it makes publishing easier. Today’s post is about the importance of focusing on the core workflows of an application and ensuring that they are as easy as possible to complete.

If I don’t want to think about how to use an application then I shouldn’t have to.

Okay maybe that is not entirely true; every new system will have a learning curve. Photoshop for example has a tremendous learning curve, it’s a professional application with a wide variety of features and capabilities.  That said, it’s still easy to open a photo, crop it, and then save it. The difficultly in Photoshop arises from trying to accomplish more complex tasks, in other words cropping a photo is easy while touching up a model’s eyelashes for a magazine print requires a solid grasp of Photoshop’s capabilities.

This post is not about Photoshop. It’s about why I’m back to using WordPress.

I became enamored with static site generators for some time, my site was generated with a tool called acrylamid. Arylamid is actually a very good tool in the sense that it does exactly what it purports to do: the fast, incremental generation of blogs from a variety of source markup formats. For a simple blog, static site generators have some nifty advantages:

  • The site source files usually remain in highly portable markdown or rst.
  • The generated files (CSS, HTML, etc) are typically lightweight and can be served from anything ranging from S3 to IIS.
  • Creating new templates or blogs with static generators is generally very simple

That said, here I am back on WordPress and why is something that’s important for many user facing applications.

The core workflows of an application should not be hard to accomplish.

WordPress is a writing tool. I click a handful of buttons (less than 4) and write the content. Done. Static site generators, like acrylamid (still my personal favorite) don’t have the same level of ease of use. A tool being hard to use isn’t a knock against it in and of itself . Again, Photoshop has a tremendous learning curve, but is still a great tool for everything photo related. Instead the point is that tools should make simple things simple and…. You get the idea. Again this isn’t a knock against acrylamid or static site generators in general, many people use them to great effect and additionally acrylamid has a very specific target audience that wants the above features more than it wants an easy to use GUI. I would posit though that for an average user it is more challenging to use acrylamid than it is to use WordPress(.com).

Essentially I have moved my blog back to WordPress because it doesn’t make me do this when writing a post:

Photo By umjanedoan / CC By 2.0

Is there a takeaway from this post? Why yes there is. A good user facing application (that is really any application internally or externally that has human users) must make the core purpose of the application at least intelligible. I have poked at this topic before, but it’s so important that I’m going to mention it again from my own perspective. I originally used static site generators because I placed value on keeping my original text content in restructured text format and acrylamid made this easy. Similarly I am back to WordPress now because I have (much) less time to write and therefore value ease of post creation and publishing, something that WordPress makes really easy. Continuing this theme there are other examples of easier to use products and more customer centric policies doing better with consumers. Admittedly the later two of those linked articles are more opinion than fact, but you get the idea.

In short: If you’re building a tool that solves a problem make sure that the tool makes it easier (or just possible) to solve that problem.

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