Lately, I’ve haven’t been doing as much writing as I have in previous years. As a result, I decided that continuing to pay for a WordPress instance seemed a little excessive for the 1 post a month — if that — I was churning out. That’s why my content has been moving over to Medium, though that’s a different post for another time.
The big decision I had ahead of me after deciding to nuke WordPress was what to do with my domain: looped.network. I really like the domain and didn’t want it to go to waste. My original thought was to use it as a landing page of sorts that could have links to all of the accounts I have online that I wanted to share; it would basically be the “About” page that I used to have on WordPress. There are plenty of services out there which offer a nice little web interface for customizing a link page, so I started digging into those. One of the OGs in the space, LinkTree, has rather spartan options, and I ultimately wrote it off because it doesn’t even allow for the use of a custom domain.
I next looked at Beacons, which several people who I follow on Twitter use. The Beacons setup is nice, with a slick UI and some very good pre-made themes. I actually picked one without really customizing much of anything on it and loved how it turned out:
Even better is that Beacons supports custom domains. The bad part is that there’s only one tier of paid plan; it goes straight from “Creator” (read: free) to “Entrepreneur” (read: paid). The paid offering gives you rather a lot, including marketing tools, SEO features, the ability to sell things, and more. One of the extra features just happens to be the option to use a custom domain. Given that everything is bundled together, however, that means it’s quite expensive, coming in at $10 USD per month. For those keeping score at home, that would make it cost nearly double what I had been paying ($70 USD per year) for WordPress. That doesn’t seem worth it to me if the custom domain is the only part of the Entrepreneur plan that I had any use for. I really needed a cheaper option that only allows for a custom domain, and without that I decided it wasn’t for me.
At this point, I figured my best bet would be to create something like a Beacons page on my own, which I could then host for free. As someone who doesn’t really enjoy any kind of frontend development, though, I didn’t want to really do it myself; I wanted a template I could easily customize to fit my needs. This part actually took more searching than expected before I finally hit upon LinkFree. This open source project compiles together templates for your own LinkTree-esque page. After spending some time looking through the various options in the repository, there are a ton of great templates, though ultimately I had to go with the Dracula theme. A rendered sample of the default template is available here.
With the baseline work already done, which for me is by far the most difficult part, I just had to customize it! Some changes I made include:
- Increasing the size of the name.
- Adding FontAwesome so that I could use it for a Twitter link rather than having Twitter in the link list, similar to Beacons.
- Adding a location section — including another FontAwesome icon — similar to Beacons.
- Embedding a tweet at the bottom of the page — you guessed it — similar to Beacons.
- Modifying the link colors in the footer to keep with the Dracula theme while giving love to both LinkFree and Netlify.
The end result was this:
I worked on all of this from a local git repo on my machine while sitting at a brewery. Then once I realized the project wasn’t a complete failure and I had something I was happy with, I pushed the repo to GitHub. Once it was in GitHub, I then just created a new site in Netlify where I told it to host out of my repo’s HTML directory.
This setup gives me a lot of benefits. The obvious one is that I’m hosting this completely for free rather than spending $10 a month on it. The only cost is the domain registration. Additionally, my content is separate from the hosting. If Beacons were to disappear, for example, my site would also be gone. If something were to happen to Netlify, though, I still have my site saved on my machine and in GitHub; I’d just need to find another place to host it.
Big love to everyone who put work into LinkFree!