David Simpson

How I built my new site in 48 hours

Posted on September 22, 2012

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself staring longingly into my sad excuse for a personal site knowing it needed change. When I started to think about what I should do, I realized I had a big problem on my hands. Over the past four years, I had put all of my eggs in one basket by putting all my design work and social identity behind Epicio, and this left me with no freestanding design identity for the day when I might not be part of Epicio. So, before I could kickoff this new website, I had to figure out how to seperate and build my own personal identity out.

I’ll skip ahead to the end of the brainstorming session where I ended up with the idea of using “Simpson” as my signature. Most of my life friends have called me Simpson, it’s memorable and fun and there were no major designers that I could find using it so I pulled the trigger. The first thing I did was look for a new domain name, I ended up with simp.sn (pretty cool eh?). If that wasn’t cool enough, after a long process with Twitter I was able to acquire the handle @simpson.

Check back soon to hear the full tale of this epic Twitter handle acquisition.

As I started to break down the information that I had on my old site (http://old.simp.sn), I realized I was missing the mark big time. I hit the whiteboard and quickly decided the primary goal of my new site would be to share my thoughts and design inspiration in a simple blog format. Outside that, would be to give you some of my background and how to connect with me socially. Now having a defined scope and some goals in mind, I was ready to start looking at the different pieces of the project and get the ball rolling!

Step 1: Content Management Systems

The interesting thing about choosing a CMS a few years ago versus today, is how many options we now have. In years past, the CMS market wasn’t nearly as crowded so it wasn’t difficult to pick-and-go based on what your needs are. Here are some of the options I considered:

Anchor CMS

So I decided I needed to throw a young competitor into the mix. Of the few i’ve heard about over the last few months I chose Anchor. I actively follow the one and only @Idiot, so when I heard that he had made his own CMS, I knew the design would undoubtedly be beautiful but what about the functionality and experience? Overall, I would have to say that he is off to a great start. It is lightweight and feels effortless to use. The only thing is, i’m not looking to do a lot of development to save time so I’d have to build out any kind of widgets I might want.

ExpressionEngine

Over the years I’ve heard both great and terrible things about EE. In the few times I worked with EE, I will admittedly say I didn’t find it to be a terrible experience. Overall it is a fairly good CMS, and has a good deal of extensibility with plugins, but I don’t like the idea of having to pay to use the full fledged version.

Wordpress

Wordpress was the first content management system I ever toyed with. When I first began exploring the possibilities of what I could do with Wordpress, I quickly realized that the stereotype that it was nothing more than a blog was very very wrong. That was a few years ago, flash forward to today and with the improvements they have made to the platform, combined with the nearly unlimited number of plugins available makes it a powerhouse CMS in my opinion. Easy, used by millions, unlimited plugins, open source? No brainer that i’m gonna stay true to my good ‘ole friend Wordpress.

The Winner: Wordpress

I have worked with Wordpress for years, that combined with the fact that my new site would be a very simple blog made this decision pretty straight forward.

Step 2: Simp.sn in the Clouds

After a few years at Epicio, I understand and recognize the importance of good reliable web hosting. I’ve worked with a dozens of providers over the years on the behalf of clients, and most of those experiences left a bad taste in my mouth. Terrible customer support, unexplained downtime, random charges and changes in account settings, are just a few of the things I encountered. Here are vendors we shortlisted:

MediaTemple

I have heard a lot about MediaTemple over the years, not only that, some big players in the design industry tout MediaTemple hosting so I couldn’t ignore that. I found the overall experience of the control panel to be confusing and it didn’t seem like a solution that would scale with the needs of Epicio clients.

Amazon AWS

The almighty, powerful AWS infrastructure is pretty impressive. There is no question that AWS is the most comprehensive and scalable provider with data centers all over the world. My first impressions were that management and administration were going to be difficult, the control panel and user experience are clearly for serious infrastructure administrators. With not having enterprise clients, it seemed like this kind of power was unnecessary for our needs.

The Rackspace Cloud

The Rackspace Cloud was originally launched as Mosso in 2006, a wholly owned subsidiary startup billed as a utility computing offering. In 2008, they relaunched and redefined themselves as contenders in the emerging “cloud market”. Though there price was higher than most of what we had looked at, the sheer power, quality of service, and fanatical support blew us away. The entire experience was amazing, and with the ease of use of their control panel I knew it was a solution that would scale with our needs.

The Winner: Rackspace Cloud

Long story short, we decided on Rackspace for their incredible support and high quality of service. We built our own cloud infrastructure with Cloud Sites, Cloud Servers, Cloud Files, and even recently added Cloud Databases.

Step 3: Ok Designer, Design that Design

So now everything is ready to role, domain purchased, CMS chosen, hosting infrastructure in place, now we are ready to rock and roll with getting this blog design kicked off. So this may seem anti-climatic for an ending but I ended up not designing from scratch. After spending a bunch of time online searching for inspiration, I found this wordpress theme that I have hacked away to look exactly the way I want for version 1.

There are many more changes to come so hopefully you’ll be back to read more!

The end

What do you think?

Do you have any questions or comments (positive or negative!) about this article? Don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you, ping me on Twitter.

Tweet @Simpson

Let's get connected.

I’ve gone on a bit of a conquest, to acquire the username "simpson" on every popular social network. The journey hasn't been easy, but i'm almost there!