Should Developers Build Their Own Blog Or Use A CMS Like Everyone Else?
It is often a huge point of debate, to start blogging on an existing platform like WordPress or to build your blog from scratch.
If you do enough research, you'll find good arguments on both sides. Blogging platforms have more features than ever. But if you build your own blog from scratch you can customize every single thing about it just how you like.
There's no one-size-fits-all answer here.
For a lot of people, it's definitely better to use an existing platform. For the rest, you may find that building a custom blog is actually a better decision.
Let's dive in.
Why I Built My Own Custom Blog
I built my own custom blog and here's why.
I do a decent amount of freelance web development work on WordPress sites. I know the interface well. I've built custom themes and plugins and have a pretty good idea of what it takes to build a blog that way.
I also work as a full-time software engineer and build new things from scratch every day.
For me, the biggest difference between the two approaches is customization.
Building a blog on WordPress or another platform will get you started quickly, but it's going to be harder to customize. You get everything you need out of the box. But if you want to build a new totally custom thing, that's going to be a nightmare.
Now with a custom blog, it's the exact opposite.
Building your own blog means you start with NOTHING. No search. No comments. No SEO plugins. You have to build all of these things, and that takes a lot of time. But the reward is now you are able to build these things EXACTLY how you want.
Having said that, I do think most people will be better off using an existing blogging platform, and here's why.
When to Use a Blogging Platform
1. You Don't Want to Reinvent the Wheel
Blogging platforms have been around for decades, and they have only improved over time.
If you go the route of building your own blog, you are ignoring the decades of features that are freely available to you. Some people are okay with this, and again there are tradeoffs. But before you start building your own blogging platform you need to understand what you are giving up, because you really are reinventing the wheel.
A modern blog needs many things to succeed.
The most crucial technical requirements include things like fast page loads and performance, tons of caching on your content and following all of the technical SEO best practices. With a WordPress blog, you can download a plugin and you get all of this immediately. Your own custom blog will not be so lucky.
Every additional feature that you want to add to WordPress, usually just comes down to finding a plugin to install.
Do you want comments? Search? Multiple teammates and editors? Draft posts? A media library? All things WordPress gives you for free.
A custom blog expects you to build each and every part of all of these features from scratch.
2. You Have Limited Time
Let's build off of reinventing the wheel because an obvious side effect is how that will impact your time.
If you are someone who has limited time or you want to invest as little time as possible into maintaining your blog, you certainly do not want to build a blog from scratch. Every feature listed above will take hours if not days to implement and if you go the WordPress route, you can add all of these to your blog in minutes (if not seconds).
You need to carefully evaluate how much time you want to invest in your blog. But also consider how much time you want to allocate to maintain it in the future.
A WordPress blog can be updated to the lasted version with the click of a button. All of your plugins too.
But not a custom blog. You'll have to manage your own dependencies and handle all of your own maintenance yourself. Definitely a significant time investment.
3. You Want to Blog, Not Build a Blog
Lastly, considering how we spend our time is massively important.
The harsh reality is that most blogs fail, usually because the people behind them aren't consistent with their writing and content creation.
If you want to succeed with your blog, it's actually not hard. You just have to be extremely consistent and disciplined.
But if all of your time is spent building your blog, it will be significantly harder to consistently create the content your blog needs to survive.
When to Build Your Own Blogging Platform
Here are the best reasons for building your own blog instead of starting with a blogging platform.
1. You Enjoy Building Things
First of all, us developers like to code and build things. This is why are developers.
I think this is why most developers also tend to build things that already exist too. We definitely a bias for that kind of thing.
If you enjoy building things then building your own blog will certainly satisfy you. But keep in mind the tradeoffs and don't ignore the benefits of starting with a blogging platform, mentioned above.
It will ALWAYS be faster and take less of your time to use WordPress instead of building a blog from scratch.
Even if you are a 10x programmer who can create a "blog" in 5 minutes... (yes, there are tutorials that advertise this)
Your blog will be a barebones website with none of the critical features that a blog needs to succeed.
A CMS, technical SEO, search features, comment sections, sharing widgets, and tons of meta tags.
Just remember, WordPress gives you all of this out of the box.
2. You Want Experience
Building your own blog is a lot like building a portfolio website.
One of the best things you can do to stand out when interviewing for a job is create a rockstar portfolio website or blog.
I landed my first job not because I was an amazing programmer, but because I showed them a project I built in college that blew them away. I literally had never heard of the language the company used (Objective C), but I got the job because the interviews were full of questions about my project. Not Objective C.
If you want to make yourself stand out as a valuable candidate, creating a blog is an excellent way of doing that.
3. You Want Content Ideas
Now if this is your only reason for wanting to build a custom blog, I should warn you there are MUCH easier ways of coming up with ideas for content.
But if the reasons above also apply to you, this one is the cherry on top.
By building your blog from scratch, you will definitely run into problems and challenges that you will have to solve. Write about these challenges and the solutions you came up with. Odds are other people will also run into the same problems.
This is sort of a paradox because if you instead used a blogging platform you would never have run into these problems in the first place.
But hear me out.
ALL of the best-performing articles on my blog came from me documenting how I built a solution to a problem I ran into.
For example, I needed to create a sitemap to help boost this site's rankings in search. So I built a solution and wrote an article on how to generate a dynamic sitemap.
Then I ran into a problem with how I was managing domains. I wanted a single Rails server to be able to handle multiple domains and point traffic to the correct controller. It turns out that was pretty easy to accomplish and again I wrote a blog post about it.
As I build more features and add to this blog, I'll face more challenges that I can write about and share.
So if you do go the route of building your own blog, this strategy is definitely something you should take advantage of.
I don't want to say there is a right or wrong answer to how you start your blogging journey.
There are really good reasons to back up your decision, no matter how you slice it.
The most important distinction comes down to your time and how much customization you want. If you're already limited on time you probably shouldn't build a blog from scratch. And if your blog has to have certain custom elements or quizzes, it might actually be easier to build these yourself instead of refactoring your WordPress template's PHP codebase.
But most importantly, don't worry about what other people think.
If you're not up for the challenge of building everything from scratch, WordPress is a much faster and probably smarter approach. Anyone who looks down on you for this or makes negative remarks is ignorant of how powerful and efficient existing blogging platforms are.
And if you want to build your own blog, definitely do it.