Building a Personal Website — Why I Chose Obsidian Publish

Technology

Comments: 0
jotham.lim

I have since moved to HUGO for cost saving reasons, but the points here still apply.

Why I Need a Personal Website

The job market is highly competitive for both full-time work and freelancers. In the past, a solid portfolio and resume/CV were sufficient for getting one’s foot in the door, but today, companies are looking for more than just academic qualifications.

If you’re a software developer, you need a solid GitHub page. If you are a graphic designer, you need a solid portfolio on Adobe Behance.

Beyond just proof of work, companies are also looking for personality traits and people who share similar values, something that’s difficult to gauge from a portfolio alone. Hence, they stalk candidates on Instagram or LinkedIn.

But I’m neither a developer nor a designer—and there’s no dedicated portfolio site that can showcase my expertise and work. Hence, building a personal website is the way to go.

Requirements for the Website

  • It needs to be affordable: I don’t expect to generate much passive income from the website to offset the hosting cost, so a monthly cost of less than USD10 is important.
  • It needs to be functional: The website needs to fulfil three main purposes: Serve as a blogging platform, showcase my portfolio and job experience, and highlight my freelancing services.
  • It needs to be easy to setup: I do not enjoy the configuration process of setting up a website and fine tuning the design. Ideally, the website should look great out of the box.

Why Obsidian Publish for My Personal Website?

The Barrier to Publishing Is Non-existent

Obsidian users can easily push new content with a hotkey and a button click, and their website will update instantaneously. The same is true for updating old content as well.

I’ve yet to find any website builder that has so little friction in publishing content as Obsidian Publish. This way, one can focus on writing and generating content. I no longer have to worry about fiddling over settings, copying & pasting content across platforms, and not having a single source of truth.

This benefit alone is a significant competitive moat and single-handedly makes Obsidian Publish my go-to platform to host my personal website.

It Is the Most Trusted Way to Build a Digital Garden

Digital gardens are just a fancy way of calling Wiki pages.

Normal pages reward one to “arrive” on a particular page, stay on it, and savour the content. With digital gardens, you are encouraged to click on on-page links, and go down rabbit holes into a topic they’re particularly interested in.

This gives website visitors more control over the topic they want to explore. It also encourages the publisher to create short-form content that goes straight to the point with no fluff.

My website is not a good example of this because I’m used to writing long-form blog articles. But that’s the great thing about Obsidian—it gives me the option to publish normal blog content as well. I don’t have to pigeonhole myself into a wiki format.

I specify “the most trusted way” because there are other markdown static site generators as well, such as Markbase and Quartz. These are wonderful cheaper options, but I prefer supporting the official Obsidian developers instead, and I feel that official Obsidian products have more product longevity.

Fast Loading Speeds and (Somewhat) SEO Optimised

SEO used to be a major problem for Obsidian Publish, but a bulk of it has been resolved in the latest update. It now obtains high scores on Lighthouse metrics, and it looks wonderful both on mobile and desktop.

The site takes a hit on performance—depending on browser extensions and image format and file size, but it is far more impressive than many other industry contenders.

In the latest update, it allows publishers even to specify the webpage excerpt, feature image, and permalink using YAML tags. Despite these improvements, it does take time for Obsidian pages to get crawled and indexed on Google relative to old blogs on Ghost.

It might be because of the lack of a sitemap.xml file, but it is still something that the devs need to pay attention to, and I hope that it gets resolved soon.

Obsidian Publish Looks Unique

The entire point of having a personal website is to stand out against the competition. I’m also confident that I’m not the only one with a personal website as well.

After spending days customizing my website on other platforms, despite how much I configure and tweak it—it still looks like a generic, boring website.

Obsidian Publish, however, is unique:

  • The way you navigate through pages is unique.
  • The layout and design are unique.
  • The addition of stacked pages and a graph view is unique.

Everything about the design of the webpage screams geeky and nerdy, and that’s what makes the website more personable and charming, which is unlike the “corporate” vibe that other websites have.

If you know a bit of CSS, you can customize the look and feel of the website as well without losing the core essence of it.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Obsidian Publish

Of course, not every platform is perfect. Here are a few reasons Obsidian Publish may not be right for you.

Obsidian Is Not Your Markdown Editor of Choice

Although doable, Obsidian is not designed to be a pure content management system. Using other markdown editors, such as Nota, Logseq, or even Notion, circumvents the biggest selling point of Obsidian Publish—its minimal friction publishing experience.

You Want a More “Professional” Website

Obsidian is great for sharing thoughts and written content, but it struggles with visual elements. It’s difficult to implement cards, complex graphics, and animated backgrounds without immense tinkering with the CSS files. I doubt anyone can build an e-commerce store on Obsidian Publish.

You Are Looking for Direct Automation

Unlike WordPress and Ghost, Obsidian does not have a direct API integration, allowing you to link it directly with Zapier or Make.com. However, it is technically possible using Github as a middleman, but it makes the workflow much more complex.

Thoughts on Other Platforms

WordPress With Elementor

What I like: – It is extremely powerful with unlimited customization. – Its drag-and-drop features make it easier to use than direct coding. – WordPress is the de facto choice if you’re looking to earn a full-time income via blogging, with a host of powerful SEO plugins. – It is somewhat future-proof. Powering more than half the internet, WordPress isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

What I dislike: – It’s tedious to set up. You’re better off hiring a professional—not ideal for a solopreneur or working professional. – It can be expensive if you decide to opt for high-quality plugins. – Publishing is slow and tedious. I can spend 15 minutes fumbling around with the excerpts, meta descriptions, and featured images. I don’t want to hate posting content on my website.

Squarespace

What I like: – Squarespace sites look extremely beautiful, even with the default themes. – It is relatively easy to set up compared to WordPress. – It is scalable. I don’t need to switch platforms if I choose to expand my side-income business or venture into e-commerce.

What I dislike: – It’s quite mediocre as a blogging platform and requires multiple clicks to enter the draft post page. – SEO capabilities have improved in recent years but still lag behind an optimised WordPress site and the other options. – It is the most expensive option, which quickly disqualifies it for a personal website use case.

Ghost

What I like: – Ease of setting up. You can go live by just choosing a domain name and a theme. – It has strong SEO capabilities. The website loads fast, and the default SEO settings are sufficient for most use cases. – It has an entire suite of integration options, allowing you to automate plenty of pipelines using Zapier. – The post editor is clean and pleasant to use if you prefer writing blogs directly on the CMS.

What I dislike: – The newsletter capabilities are mediocre but sufficient to build a dedicated following. – It can be expensive. The default free themes are ugly (in my opinion), and you need to pay for much nicer themes, unless you choose to build them yourself. You also need to upgrade to a higher tier for advanced integration support. – It’s built specifically for blogging and nothing else. Anything besides the homepage and blog post page is a generic one-column layout. Which leads to: – It’s stuck between both worlds. It doesn’t look as great as Squarespace or WordPress sites, but it’s almost as restrictive as Obsidian Publish.

Substack

It is Ghost, but worse and free.

Closing Thoughts & Tips

The options are limitless when it comes to building a website. Just trying to build a site alone has led me down a rabbit hole for days. I haven’t touched on Hugo, Jekyll, and other static website generators.

Here is what I have learned so far.

  • Figure out your personal requirements early on. There is no such thing as the perfect website builder, only the one that is right for you. I’ve made the mistake of succumbing to the “shiny new object syndrome” and mistaking features for must-haves.
  • Build a pros and cons list. Once you have a clear idea of your requirements, you’ll narrow down your options to two or three website builders. Building a pros and cons list will help you make an informed decision.
  • Start with a domain name. Your website builder might change, but your domain name will largely remain the same.

Hopefully, this article is useful. Good luck with your website-building journey

Share via:

Leave the first comment