The old static website (jachandler.com) is currently being transferred over from Hugo/Netlify to WordPress.
On my old static website, I noted that the possibility of using Google Cloud’s perpetually free F1-micro server might eventually push me to use WordPress instead. As it happens, that wasn’t the case. The Google solution still came with a variety of limitations:
- It’s too slow for comfortable real-time editing in WordPress.
- There are too many inadvertent ways to generate charges.
- The 1GB network per month limitation.
Static Site Limitations
The real thing that made the shift happen was my realization that a static site wasn’t necessarily meeting my needs. Things like responsive images and comments required clunky workarounds using either other services’ servers or space-inefficient brute force. Git isn’t designed to handle large media files, and git LFS is a band-aid fix which undermines the portability that makes static websites so appealing. In practice Netlify’s ecosystem is the only viable static host; if anything, server solutions are more portable because there are fewer dependencies to deal with.
Most of all, I realized that my needs weren’t being met. As much as I like writing in markdown, the time to publish with a visual editor is much lower. I often found myself deciding not to write about projects because the process of constantly switching between writing and previewing, coupled with the build process and media handling, took too much time and effort.
And to top it all off, the static approach wasn’t practically any faster. A minimal WordPress setup with lazyloading performs just as well in the real world. Both sites load and render in under a second, with media files serving as a bottleneck that WordPress honestly might win at on a large enough page. With Cloudflare in front, heavy traffic should in theory be isolated from the server and even that shouldn’t become an issue affecting load times.
The issue of where to get a server that didn’t cost more than my DNS registration would still have been an issue. Luckily, a number of cheap hosts that I wasn’t aware of before are also available – considering the limitations of the Google VPS, they might even be cheaper than the technically completely free solution in some cases.
The site is currently hosted on Racknerd, with a $7/year shared hosting plan. That includes 20GB SSD, 1GB physical memory, 100% of a single core, and 1TB/month egress. The company is only about a year old, which does make the deal a bit less sweet, despite the excellent pricing and (so far) service. If I do happen to get burned, that’s not too big a deal; the pricing is low enough for it to not matter all that much, and small server backups are easy enough to restore on different physical machines. HostKoala and Inception Hosting have been around for quite a few years, and their shared hosting starts even cheaper for a more limited instance – they’d be a good backup choice should anything go wrong.
So far WordPress has been easy to work with – much easier than writing custom CSS and JS for the original site – and as long as I’m careful about minimizing bloat, performance should be comparable. There are certainly more things I can do now with a server than I could before. Hopefully none of the drawbacks turn out to be too significant.