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I built a blog engine, now what?

Posted by Vlad Calin 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Long time no write! 4 months more precisely. I can't believe 4 months have passed since I last posted a new blog post. But I have my reasons, and they are good, trust me.

I was busy building a blog engine from scratch, and migrate my blog to it.

So how did it go?

Introducing DevXBlog

The blog engine I created is called DevXBlog and I currently use it to host my blog (this blog you are currently reading). I worked for a couple of months on it (very sporadic work, in the range of a few hours every few days, with a few weeks pause in-between), but I managed to take it into a state where I'm happy with it and it does the job well for me (writing posts in a WYSIWYG editor, with images, a good enough looking theme, free HTTPS, and some SEO tooling out-of-the-box).

Right now, everybody can create accounts and get a free website, but the onboarding flow is a bit buggy and there might be things crashing here and there. Right now, I won't even consider it a MVP, more like a pre-MVP. I still have to invest some time in stability, tests and some more (better looking) themes.

The features

The features I built are not based on any user feedback, but only my own needs. I am trying to take a "dogfood" approach with this product, me being the first "paying" customer (if you count the hosting fees as payment).

The features I needed and implemented are:

  • free custom domain (and provided *.devxblog.com subdomain) with free HTTPS which gets automatically generated and renewed.
  • theme marketplace (one theme for now, so it's not really a marketplace, but later on I plan on adding more and more themes to suit all needs).
  • fully customizable navigation. I have found this being the biggest pain point with the existing blog engines such as Wordpress and Ghost.
  • some built in freely available SEO tooling such as autogenerated and self-updating sitemap.xml (https://vladcalin.ro/sitemap.xml) , robots.txt, and some dedicated meta tags (the meta tags are not yet implemented but will come very soon, the social media previews are s**ty right now).

The tech

The tech stack is the one I am most confortable with:

  • Python + Django. I went for the classic Django templates this time, because I wanted to gain some speed with their built in generic views and their form system, given that the whole app resembles pretty much a CRUD app (creating, retrieving, updating and deleting various resources such as blogs, posts, pages, categories, etc).
  • Bootstrap for styling - that's what I know and I am move fast with it + some customization here and there, of course
  • Kubernetes for deployment, as it has a lot of batteries included. Even though the deployment model is very simple (just a deployment for now), automating the creation and renewal if LetsEncrypt certificates with cert-manager surely saved me a lot of time.
  • Sentry - the classic one for error reporting.
  • SendGrid for sending emails.

What now?

Ok, I built it, but what now? What are the next steps for this project? Will it end up abandoned as my other projects? (#neverforget Amethyst Platform).

I plan to expand on it, invest a little bit more in stability and the onboarding flow, and eventually integrate Stripe subscription billing and make a buck or two oiut of it. The main focus is not to expand it into something big, I am fully dedicated to being Vuuh's CTO and the potential of Vuuh is way bigger than the potential of this project. But I still want to try to grow this project to a level where it will be still manageable in my spare time, and eventuall sell it on a small startup aquisition platform such as MicroAcquire.com. At least that's the plan, now let's see how it goes.

The next steps, development wise, will be:

  • improving the onboarding flow and testing it more, to make sure the first experience is fine
  • adding more themes (I would like to have 3-4 themes before I start actively promoting it)
  • meta tags (such a small and simple thing to add, I'm not sure if it's even worth mentioning).
  • Link management (and maybe tracking?). Not sure how useful this would be, I will need to gather more feedback about this, but seeing a lot of blogs and posts around with broken links, I can imagine it being a pain point for websites. Especially ones that deal with affiliate links.

The next steps business wise will be:

  • setup a mail list and beta list signup on the main website, so I can start promoting the project and gather some contact information to get talking to people about their needs and wants regarding a blog engine.
  • start a blog.devxblog.com website to start doing some content marketing (not a priority right now to do this though, I can probably spend my time wiser this early on, although SEO takes some time to propagate)
  • putting more content on the website, especially some dedicated pages for comparison with popular blog engines (something like Wordpress vs DevXBlog) and some dedicated pages for more targeted use cases (eg. DevXBlog for startups, DevXBlog for affiliate marketers, DevXBlog for personal blogs, etc).