How I Chose Hashnode as My Blog Platform
After deciding to create a blog, I knew I would need a blog platform and I knew I wanted it to have the following:
- A hosted (and free) solution
- The ability to use my own domain name ( https://blog.lutterloh.dev )
- Simplicity and ease-of-use (because I’d much rather spend my development time on other things)
- A built-in audience (more on this below…)
Hosted (and Free) I’ve run a few blogs over the years on a variety of hosts and platforms and I’ve always found the management of them to be annoying. I have never enjoyed receiving alerts to update my Wordpress plugin versions or anything like that. Consequently, a hosted blog solution was what I was looking for. Oh, and I don’t like paying for hosting (which is why I use Firebase to host all of my projects) so I wanted it to be free. I recognize that many blog platforms exist to make money and I respect that, but as I’m not interested in making money from this blog, I don’t intend to pour any into it. This is a labor of love.
My Own Domain Name Using my own domain is important to me because of something innate that I like about my content being associated with my name. It matters to me from a personal brand perspective and started to matter even more once I learned about canonical urls. I don’t sell anything online nor do I host ads on my site, but I thoroughly enjoy monitoring analytics and actively learning how to promote a website. Having my own content on my own domain allows me to do this.
Simplicity As mentioned in the “Hosted” explanation, I want a simple blog. I don’t need a website built around it. I don’t want lots of plugins or extras. My blog focus is the writing itself and my intent is to share things I’ve learned and to provide updates on projects I’m working on. I don’t need anything fancier than a way to clearly read my posts and a text editor that allows me to include code snippets from time to time.
Built-in Audience I’ll be honest, this wasn’t on my original list. When I decided to write a blog, I made a conscious decision that the blog’s purpose would be more for my own personal growth (I’ll explain that in a different post) than trying to gain an audience. An audience was not (and still is not) the point. However, as I started searching for a platform, it became clear that there are some amazing developer communities that I could learn from and hopefully there were people in those communities that I could impact as well.
With these four criteria in mind I began my search for the right blog platform. I thought about hosting my own blog but I’ve “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” and didn’t want to mess with upkeep as mentioned before. Wordpress came to mind pretty quick but it felt like overkill for what I wanted. Medium has had some good press recently and I like its layout but it didn’t allow for my own domain. Maybe Blogger?
I’m a big fan of the Google ecosystem so Blogger initially seemed like a natural fit for my blog. It allowed the use of my own domain, seemed simple enough, and was freely hosted. Also, I’d used Blogger before (albeit over a decade ago)... and unfortunately, not much has changed since a decade ago. Apparently, it underwent a Material Design/UI refresh recently but I don’t think it’s 100% complete. The whole site feels unpolished. Still, I soldiered on through the setup process until I came to the appearance settings. Frankly, I was overwhelmed with the amount of customization I would need to do. To be fair, ten years ago, I would’ve loved the level of offered customization but it’s not what I was looking for now. Anyways, after a few minutes looking through all of the options, I decided Blogger wasn’t for me.
Next, I happened upon Dev.to (DEV) after a quick Google search. Let me first say, I really like DEV. It’s a positive and inclusive community that allows developers the ability to write and post anything about development. It has a pleasant UI and like Medium, it’s focused on content. This site is really what led me to looking for a built-in audience. I enjoy the community feel and appreciate that it’s a site geared toward developers (which would be my primary audience if I was to have one). DEV is free and it’s simple to write a post but as it’s more of a content platform than a blog platform, they don’t let you use your own domain. This forced me to keep looking as I was still keen on being able to use my own domain...
(Side note: I liked DEV so much I actually repost my blog posts there and luckily for me, DEV allows users to include the URL of the original posting of their content so they can keep their canonical in check.)
After DEV sent me on a quest to discover a developer-centric blog platform that would allow me to use my own domain, I found Hashnode . Hashnode is built for developers who want to write a blog and it instantly appealed to me for its simplistic approach. It is free, focused on writing, and to my pleasant surprise, allows me to use my own domain name. It also has a built-in developer community. The profile creation is simple and customization is kept to a minimum (which is a good thing in my case). Mapping your own domain name is as simple as adding a CNAME record to your domain DNS settings. Appearance settings are relegated to a background color and few logo/hero image uploads (optional). It was everything I was looking for so I set up my blog and started writing. I’m pretty happy with it.
As with anything, Hashnode isn’t without it’s limitations or quirks. It’s developer community seems a little less engaged than DEV (although that’s a bit expected given the slightly different focus of the sites). Also, for every post, Hashnode generates an image with the post title and the Hashnode logo that appear in image results. That’s not necessarily bad but it’s definitely unexpected. Also, Google Search Console informed me that there are errors in how Hashnode handles it’s AMP content. I plan to follow up on that...
UPDATE: Within minutes of posting this story, I was informed by the cofounder of Hashnode that they're working on a way to customize the generated images (which I'm very excited about). Also, he told me they had already fixed the AMP issue I mentioned and it was ready to be re-validated. I'm very impressed with that level of personalization and it has definitely solidified Hashnode as the right choice for my blog platform.
Overall, I’m happy with my setup though. I post at Hashnode under my own domain and then repost on DEV and Medium (a recent search result experiment). I learned a lot about canonical URLs during this search and am still curious about other developer-centric communities and what they offer.
Do you have a favorite blog platform? Why is it your favorite? Thanks for reading.
Thanks for choosing Hashnode. Your workflow seems perfect and that's what we urge every developer to do -- keep your content on your own domain and always republish on other platforms for extra visibility.
It also has some strange SEO habits. Search engine results for my posts have random metadata before the actual content.
I am not sure if I follow. When I searched your posts on Google I could see the following preview:
I didn't see any random metadata -- am I missing something?
Hashnode generates an image with the post title and the Hashnode logo that appear in image results.
That's good feedback and I must mention that we are working on making it a lot more personalized. :)
Also, Google Search Console informed me that there are errors in how Hashnode handles it’s AMP content.
We have already sent a fix for that. You can click on "Validate Fix" in Google Search Console. It might take some time for Google to validate and reindex the posts.
I should highlight that the core strength of Hashnode was not blogging until the beginning of this year. However, this month we shifted our focus and goal since blogging was fetching a lot more engagement than regular Q&A. I wrote about our plans here:
We are seeing a massive boost in engagement and views since changing our focus and becoming a platform for independent dev bloggers. You should check out the featured tab to see the best content.
Hi Sandeep! Thanks for the super quick reply. I'm really impressed and appreciate the personalized response.
I think I owe you an update in my story because as you posted (and I just verified) my search results look totally fine now. It may have just been a product of it being recently indexed when I was looking at it.
I'm looking forward to the more personalized image generation for sure!
I've clicked "Validate Fix" and will keep you posted on the results.
Thanks so much for the reply!