Too often I have come at the crossroads of setting up my site, only to fail to pull the trigger. As is evident from this post, I have finally bitten the bullet. I would like to present the thoughts that preceded my affirmative stance so that it may be beneficial to those on the sidelines.
1. Owning your name:
You do own your name in the real world, so why not in the virtual world. There is something magical about being reachable directly by your name rather than by a generic third-party site. $10-12 a year is a small price to pay for your own identity on the Web. Another upside to this is that you can have a personalised mail ID that references your name every time and is thus easy to recall. However, domain names seem rather like mythical beasts, their sole existence can be doubted if the pursuit leads to a dead-end. Once the boat has sailed, there is seldom calling it back. Hence, time is of the essence when selecting a domain.
Some of the considerable options that can embody your identity are:
From my perspective, it is the most favourable option. You “virtually” own the name that belonged to ancestors of yours and hopefully will be inherited for years to come. It also gives you the most flexibility in terms of what you can do with it since you can play with the term that shall constitute your mail id (eg. email@example.com) or even your sub-domain (eg. firstname.lastname.com) to extend to any member of your family.
FirstInitial+lastname.com: As you can see, this is the option that I had to settle for. As it bears your first initial, it doesn’t offer the same freedom as the first option. However, it is a much more personalised alternative and is indeed the most conducive option if you want to utilise it to focus on your content alone.
Firstname+lastname.com: An extend version of the second option, this may actually be preferable in case your first and last name are not too long. This wouldn’t have worked in my case, but the general rule of thumb that I would set is for the URL to not extend beyond 8-10 characters.
Lastname.me or other TLDs: To me, “.me” sounds a little pretentious (pun intended). But if your name happens to be a really “popular” one, then this seems to be the next best thing. “.net” might actually work better since it indicates a network extending to your name. However, with TLDs now dime a dozen, you can certainly pick up one or the other. A factor here would be the cost. Fancy TLDs cost a lot more and apart from the initial teaser rates, they normally turn out to be costlier over a long run, besides not being the easiest to communicate verbally.
Firstname.com and its variations (eg. iFirstname): Seems a lot more conceited than “.me”, but whatever rows your boat. Only down side is that it may turn out to be more of a vanity name than a professional one.
I have used Namecheap as well as Google domains over the years and would whole-heartedly recommend these two over any of the others.
2. Making your mark:
Owning the name is one thing, but it is quite another to make something out of it. For many, having a personalised mail id ought to be enough. Logically, social networks do a great job of sharing thoughts and opinions while also giving you a better view of your audience and their tastes. However, if you would like a more calculated approach or are a bit sceptical of your data being misutilised, then setting up your own content makes more sense.
Following are some of the handy options available to quickly deploy your content online:
wordpress.com: From my experience, it exists just to give you a taste of something better. There are far too many limitations in terms of what you can do with the free option and the paid options cost a pretty penny. Only justifiable if you are going professional and want to avoid technical hassles.
wordpress.org: The open-source version of WordPress that you can host on your own server. It certainly offers the most freedom and gives you complete control. However, again, you need to have a good reliable host to get the most out of it and those too cost quite a bit for you to be able to justify.
Blogger: It offers as much of a hands-free experience as wordpress.com, though with HTML access, it gives you a lot more customization options. It will never approach wordpress.org in customization but gives you something to build up on and call your own. Google’s ownership can be seen as a virtue as well as a curse. It offers a fair degree of integration across Google’s services, but you are again dealing with all the evilness you may wish to attribute to Google.
ghost.org: A lighter alternative to WordPress which is considered to be bloaty as a pure blogging platform. It doesn’t have the same extensive features and themes as WordPress, but is a great platform in its own right. The paid services seem to have been done better than wordpress.com and it is as free as wordpress.org if you own a server. Amazon Web Services can be leveraged up on to mostly try it out free for a year as can be Microsoft Azure which offer a one-click installation. It all comes down to how far you would like to get your hands dirty.
Jekyll+Github Pages: “Blog like a hacker” is what this eludes to and perfectly so. It certainly requires a bit more technical knowledge to setup but even that process is satisfying since it gives you the grandiose feeling of working on a project. The static website (no backed) approach works remarkably well. However, writing in markdown instead of WYSIWYG editors might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, it is hands down the best free option there is if you are up to the challenge.
I had a taste of all of them and I finally settled with Blogger (perhaps only for the present). My priority was to get the site up and running really quickly and to have some degree of customization. I think Blogger does a good job in that regard. For being free, it offers quite a lot and allows you to concentrate much more on content creation than maintenance. I managed to set everything up and post nearly 20 times over the weekend. I find such kind of a turnover really appealing. However, there is a fine line between the various options that would tilt you one way or another and you should choose the right option depending on your purpose and to some extent the depth of your pockets.