Hello! Welcome to a new look for asabharwal.com. It’s pages load fast (as low as 1.4seconds) meets web standards, and is easy to read. Its simplified and doesnt have unnecesary code. Oh, and the site you are browsing now is not running on WordPress or any other CMS; but it is a statically generated site, that has been developed using a software application called Jekyll..

I have been writing and producing on this site since 2007 using WordPress. I have setup sites in WordPress for friends and customers, and have stable running sites. WordPress is a reliable and capable CMS. But over the last few months, as I tried to write more and more long form articles, I found that the features of CMS which make it powerful and an all-rounder, were coming in my way.

Performance

I ran WordPress with very few plugins - Jetpack, Vaultpress, Akismet, and WP Super Cache. The themes I stuck with were simple and gave emphasis to typography. I stayed away from page builders and complicated themes.

Despite all this - I found that the performance of the site was not acceptable to me. It was slow to load and start serving content. (And yes, I’m talking after considering the server, which was a SSD based VPS).

As I tried to optimise my site for load times, I found that WordPress more often than not made things more difficult.

With Jekyll - I’m working with static files. Quick loading and easy optimisation.

Templates and Customisation

I have tried customising templates, and building them from scratch in WordPress as well, however despite the fact that I am not technically challenged, it was complex for me to customise as per my desires. With Jekyll, I have been able to get my template customised, and ready for use in the space of a weekend.

This template is based on Solarized - a theme in use on Unix machines since forever. Solarized is a sixteen color palette (eight monotones, eight accent colors) designed for use with terminal and gui applications. These colours offer Selective Contrast, so they can be read in sunlight or inside.

Text Editor

One of the most powerful feautures of WordPress is its editor. However I always used to struggle writing long form with the editor, and I was forced to write my text offline using BBEdit or Byword. Pasting back into WordPress did not always work. Neither Markdown, nor HTML pasted back perfectly and I had to fight with WordPress again to perfect my pages. So much that I dreaded publishing.

With the new page builder like Gutenberg features to be introduced in WordPress 5, I expect this to start getting worse.

Hidden Costs

Using WordPress, I also found a lot of hidden costs in the form of Akismet, Vaultpress and the big hog - Jetpack. Jetpack’s premium plans were not cheap. When I started paying for these services, I was happy, the service was good and did what it promised, over the past 6-8 months, though - Jetpack started becoming a complete hog, hiding more and more features and moving you to WordPress.com to manage aspects of a self hosted blog. This for me defied the purpose of self hosting.

With Jekyll, I use Git repositories (I use Azure DevOps as a remote) to save backups and keep versioning my site. I have also setup Pipelines to automatically generate and push my site to my server.

Simplicity - Why Jekyll won

Jekyll allowed me to get simple. I’m now writing my articles in Markdown, pushing my changes into a git repository and having them automatically pushed to the site. I’m not struggiling with my words, and concentrate on what I’m writing rather than worrying about how something will be published.