Lawson's 818C

Here is some info on a simple version of a project website (V1 of this site) and an advanced version (V2)

Easy Project Website
First version of Lawson's 818C Website

Almost everything is Google owned because I like the integration. There are non-Google alternatives to all of it and you could easily mix/match with different services.

Google Domains Domain Hosting: $12/yr
This is how I get the 818coupe.com custom url.
This is optional. You get a sites.google.com/abcdefg domain for free if you want to pay absolutely nothing to have a website.

Google Photos: Free!
I already use this with my phone and it integrates well with Blogger and Google Sites.

Google Sites website builder: Free!
Google revamped this in 2017 and it is now a very easy to use website builder. Drag and drop, no coding. About the same level of difficulty as using PowerPoint. Not the most flexible or feature filled but great for a simple site like this. I use things like Blogger, Disqus, and Feedburner to help enhance the site. Best part about it over other free options is there is no such thing as a "paid" version so it's not constantly nagging me to upgrade or use premium features. What you see is what you get.

Blogger: Free!
This is how I create all my "updates". Blogger helps me manage all the posts individually and I simply use a embedded webpage to bring it into this site. The blog is technically a separate site because of this. Blog functionality such as subscriptions, searching, etc. are all benefits of this.

Feedburner: Free!
This is how I share a email subscription option for people. It gives people a recurring email subscription to my Blogger RSS feed that is updated every time I post. The interface is old and kinda clunky but it is simple for the subscriber and requires no maintenance from me once setup.

Disqus: Free!
This gives me the commenting feature at the bottom of some of my pages. This is done through embedded HTML code that Google Sites supports. Super simple and easy to setup.

Building An Advanced Project Build Website
Version 2 of Lawson's 818C Website

After a few years of growing my website, it's content, and it's features it slowly became the case that Google Sites, as convenient as it was, was no longer the best option for creating and hosting my website. Google Sites was great for the beginning. I put in minimal setup effort, payed almost nothing, and got a site that was simple but perfectly functional on all types of devices.

There were several things, though, that started to become issues. Some were there from the beginning.
1. Blogging functionality was not integrated. I had to have a separate blog site through Blogger setup in order to allow for subscriptions, search, and formatting of blog posts. This was embedded into my site which was an ok but clunky solution.
2. Every advanced feature required a difficult work-around. At first I didn't need the advanced features- there wasn't much to show. But now I want to show my content in a more organized and engaging manner than a linear scrolling format which is all that Google Sites offers.
3. Search engine optimization (SEO) was horrible! It's funny because Google Site is operated by the largest search engine in the world. But Google Sites has no integrated or third party options that help you optimize your site to place well in search engines. I spend countless hours doing what I could through Google Search Console and Microsoft Webmaster to get my site good rankings and it paid off. But I wanted to fix this and make it easier.
4. Embedding images was both easy and hard. Simply embedding images was a piece of cake. Google photos was integrated and so it was click and add. But Google Sites did not automatically resize or compress images in photo galleries (the main way I embedded photos) so I had to manually resize EVERY image before uploading. I got a tool to do this but it was a pain.

My solution is not a simple one- in fact one I had tried and avoided in the past because it was too complex. I built my version 2.0 site using WordPress. Not only WordPress, but the self-hosted version of WordPress that I run off my own Linux server. I came back to WordPress because my web development skills are way beyond what they used to be and I actually had a reason to use all the advanced features it offers. There are now really great free page builder applications (I use Elementor) that you can use to build your pages code-free. They all limit features if you don't pay, but with the combination of some other plugins almost every feature is possible still with some increased effort. The plugin options are endless! You can truly do almost anything with the plugins available on WordPress without having to write your own code, although it's not always straight forward. I also had to setup the entire hosting software suite on my server to do this, but it was not too bad because I already had this stuff setup for other NAS and similar purposes.

Here's some of the features I gained by moving to this platform.
1. Complete customizability of the site. With enough time, I can do anything I want to. Crazy animations, multiple columns, sliders, animations, live moving images, etc.
2. Built in plugins for search engine optimizations.
3. Built in website optimization for images, page size, caching, and more.
4. Website backup, export, import functionality. If I ever want to move to a new server or something I can.
5. Free from Google's changes. In my experience Google was putting consistent, but slow, effort into Google Sites. It appears to be primarily used as an internal-website development tool for their GSuite/Workspace business clients. It's great for this, and way better than Microsoft Sharepoint. I actually used Google Sites for exactly this purpose as well and I have no complaints there. But this also meant I was at the mercy of Google if they decided to cancel it, change it, etc. I'd be screwed and I could not just backup and export it somewhere else.
6. Potential for future growth. I'm now on a platform with near-infinite expandability. If this website grows into something bigger in the future then I can accomodate that.

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