I finally built a website. Why was it so hard?

1 November 2022

I love building websites, but you know what I hate? Building websites for myself. I am the worst client I have ever had. Nothing I do is right; nothing I write is enough; nothing I design looks good; and perhaps most of all, I seem to “never have the time”.

“Do it! Just do it!” - Shia LaBeouf, 2015

With how competitive the industry is today, especially in the frontend space, having a website to direct people to when you're looking to pick up a new project or find a team to work with is practically a requirement. They need more than just a list of the places you've worked at. Professionals who work in an industry commonly have a presence or a connection to said industry. For us, that takes the form of a website.

So here we are! It's extremely simple, nothing flashy. Just a minimalist approach to who I am and what I do, which if you know me, is very me. It's something I've been trying to get out into the wild for the length of my career, and whilst I've "succeeded" once or twice, none of my attempts have ever stayed live for very long.

Without a doubt, my number one issue was that I was always trying too hard to create something that would stand-out above the rest. I used to spend hours looking at some of the best portfolios out there from the most talented people in the industry - all with cutting-edge features and the most modern designs - and trying to replicate something close. Of course, don't get me wrong, who wouldn't love a website like that? But how many people actually need one? Selling your own work to yourself is always tricky business, and justifying certain time-saving or cost-cutting decisions to yourself is even harder. But once you get over that hurdle, you might actually ship the damn thing!

Content has always been another issue for me. I do love to write content, but doing so is not typically something I ever have to do as part of my role, so when it comes to my own website, I'm always perplexed by what type content it should contain, and I second-guess myself so much that I tend to give up.

I'd ask, "is this project I worked on good enough to show off?", "should I write about this topic even though I'm not an expert in it?", "will people even care about or see what I've got to say?".

Yes. Yes. Who cares?

Not every project can be glamorous, and not every website can be a perfect representation of what you can do. A role like mine often involves learning on the job, which sometimes means the end product can be a little rough around the edges, but if you gained something from it, then it's an ideal portfolio piece. It also helps people visualise your growth in skill. The projects I developed X years ago aren't going to be of the same calibre as the ones I'm producing today, and the next one is always going to better than the last. It's a natural progression that we shouldn't try to mask.

Sometimes, there are some projects that you can't show-off, or simply don't want to. That's fine too, but again, what did you learn from it? Some advice I've recently been given is that even just writing about such a project can be an effective method of showcasing your abilities. Writing about any decision you made, or your experience on any tools or services that were used, for example, can demonstrate your understanding of them and show your progress.

You don't need to be an expert in something to have your say about it either. Sure, you might sometimes be a little off the mark, but it's a learning process! Demonstrating the need for growth in something isn't a bad thing.

With that in mind, target audiences is another component that has always had me delaying the process of shipping my website. If I had a target audience at all, it would be other developers in the industry that are looking to hire me, but the thing about websites is that they're a type of media that can be seen by anybody, anywhere, anytime. It's not like putting up a poster in a place where you'd only expect a certain group of people to be found. It's something that's always stopped me from writing content for myself; an irrational fear that the wrong people might see it and cast judgements on my abilities. In my case, the "wrong" people would be other developers that know more about a topic than I do, so I'd always stop and ask myself what they would possibly gain from my content. If they really did want to learn about a particular topic, I could probably name ten other sources.

I've come to realise that this is the wrong perspective. People might not always gain any knowledge from the content I've added, but it will give them a solid resource to learn about me, which is likely the primary reason they're here. For those outside of that target audience; who knows why they're here? Did they search for something I wrote about and my SEO-fu was spot-on? If that was the case, and just one person stumbles across my website and sees something that helped them in anyway, I'd call that a win and a worthwhile use of my time.

That's not all to say that I won't eventually be writing about something as an expert, or that I'll never write about something with the intent of teaching something I've learnt. The point is that just because someone isn't at a particular stage in their career yet, it doesn't mean they have to stay silent until they are.

You can show off and write about whatever the hell you want.