The Obsession of a Personal Website
The most obvious question to ask oneself before having anything is, “Why do I need one?”
In the case of getting a personal website, I skipped that one and went to the next question instead, “How do I get one?” A standout one, like www.sohilhemnani.com Different people have different reasons and ways to get a personal website. It recently struck that me that one of my secret obsession over the years has been to have my personal website. And get one I did. So many times. Probably more than the content, I loved the idea of designing my own website; my own space to capture the digital presence, build a digital identity and an outlet to capture my thoughts. I toggled across multiple platforms, domains and layouts and finally decided to go live with it. I have penned down a few nitty-gritty about the journey and some tips if you are planning a similar quest as well in this blog post. During my engineering, there was a lot of practical learning in the hostels and rooms. Apart from how to play a crazy amount of computer games and improving ‘debating’ skills, the biggest learning was around computer basics, troubleshooting and coding while either discussing it with someone or copying what that someone was doing. One of the branches was about website making. Nothing fancy, a bit of frontend, backend and everything in between. Another thing that also happens in hostels, is trends get spread around very quickly because everyone wants to ‘try it’; that is, activities becoming viral, before becoming viral was a trend. Like when everyone had long hair. No, there are no pictures of that time. Or, our college being in the only dry state in India, everyone wanted to ‘travel’ to the neighbouring state, to experience new places. No, no drinking was going on at that time. Another new-found trend found its way in; that of making personal websites also referred to as portfolios, online profiles, and digital images(!). This was a trend which I caught on too. So far, so good. The early ‘sites’ were local college pages which were fancy CVs; they had information about background, accomplishments at the school level, college grades, research papers written, rockets designed, new elements discovered, satellites launched, aliens spoken to; basic stuff. Personally, there was not much to write about at that time (or even later for that matter) but I was hooked to the idea. By creating multiple drafts, I was able to create base pages with placeholders for my achievements and awards; content coming soon. Sure of the awards coming very soon. Followed by the publicity, adulation and further awards. A skeletal site ready to own the world. Satisfied, I moved on to the next trend. So far, so good. I finally came around to creating a personal website as a portfolio when I was applying for a design course. My idea of portfolio included projects I had done, which weren’t many, and personal information in a verbose form to fill the page. Suffice to say, I did not get through for the course. Also, being partially colour blind has its limitations when looking to join a design course. It shouldn’t, but it does. After that is where it went a bit haywire. Taking it up as a challenge to create a standout website which truly captures my personality and my profile. In the twelve years since there have been 7 different versions of my personal website. Not so good. One of the earlier attempts. Initially, the limitations were concerning the hosting of the website, the money part, which is one of those things I was not convinced about. In general, spending on services does not come naturally to me. Also, being from the Sindhi community, I have a hereditary limitation concerning spending. It’s not a limitation of thriftiness, as a couple of communities are famous for, but a need to find the best possible option or not spend without finding a good deal first. I love finding good deals. After trying unsuccessfully to find free options which would suit my need, I even tried to set up my server, which did go live, but keeping it active 24x7 was a challenge. I finally found a reasonable solution, which I changed again a couple of years later for another reasonable solution. I love finding good deals. The next area to focus on was the design of the website. I would say I have an average design understanding which in my opinion was enough for a personal website. In earlier iterations, there was a limitation of platforms and templates easing the design process, and the results were not always brilliant. The partial colour blindness might also have played a minuscule role. I did take inputs and feedback from a set of people, but there were always elements that were not up to the mark. Then there were times in between when I thought I had the right foundation and then would come the last (and in hindsight, most important) struggle, the content. As a jack-of-all person, I am above average in a lot of things rather than being an expert in one. People who know me will know this about me — I don’t tend to stand out. And so the content was pretty dispersed. There had been decent experiences during my school and college days, but nothing mindblowing, at least not what can be put on a public forum, so what do I put up? There had been some great projects while working in corporate, surprising for me and my managers over the years, but were they really needed to be put up? Instead of a portfolio, should the focus just be on a blog? I had written several pieces which were never published, so should I do that now? I have always had some volunteering experience, so should that go up? Do I put information and content related to the multitude of books I have read? Or about the multitude of movies and series, which I have an opinion on?
In the end, the websites that materialized were helter-skelter and showed confusion in thought. Years later there was a realization that in trying to create a perfect solution, I was always trying too much and experimenting too soon. But the good thing was that I had kept in touch with my technology side in some way which, if nothing else, serves as an outlet for keeping myself busy and also keeps me updated enough to be able to help people around me. Maybe, I’ll start charging now. And only then I came to the question of “Why do I need one?”. This time there was an answer or a least an inkling of one. In the last couple of years, I have been on a path of exploring and while charting a new course, working on many projects and streams, towards a portfolio career (more on that soon). I needed an online profile that captures all that and helps me put information out there. So, I made a personal website, again. My most recent attempt is available here. Feedback/comments are welcome. The site contains a profile, some insights and also a blog. (This post shall go there!) And, as usual, it remains a work in progress. Creating a personal website is not so technologically challenging as it was a few years back, and the availability of templates and solutions for design, hosting, and even ideas for content are widely present. For the benefit of those who are considering creating a personal website, online profile, or blog, I can crystallize how-to steps and my learning into the following - Tip 1 — Don’t ask yourself on why you need one but ask your loved ones, family or friends. They will be truthful and tell you what their view is. You can then choose to ignore that opinion, as I did. Tip 2 — Start with the content, always. Put all your content on document or slides or spreadsheets and see what you come up with. Will it really fill up a page? You can then work on your hyperbole and extrapolation skills. Tip 3 — Premium hosting solutions are worth the spend if you are looking at the website as a marketing or promotion tool. There are a lot of solutions if you search, but one of the best ones I have found is Wix. Easy hosting, help with domain acquisition, lots of plug-and-play tools and loads of templates with very easy to understand process. It is actually good for more than a personal website and also helpful if you are looking for a business or e-commerce website. I can guide you if you want. You can also choose to research more deals and free resources which will provide you with a lot of learning. Or, you can just use my referral link, go here and join me as an individual with a personal website! And in the process earn me some money. Isn’t it a good deal? Leave a note if you have a journey to share. Or even if you don’t.