About a month ago, I was in the middle of my annual website upgrade. I’ve been running this website on wordpress.com and I wanted to look for more flexible platforms.
Specifically, I was looking for a place where I could also embed a newsletter sign-up form for easybuthard.substack.com
The obvious choice was a self-hosted wordpress site. I started down this route and bought hosting and was about to start when I remembered why I hadn’t gone this route in the first place. My previous experience with a self-hosted wordpress blog (for a different site) was terrible. The website was slow, it was down frequently, I had to contact the hosting service for support, etc. Though the support was good, that it was required so frequently was the problem.
I also scouted the market for other platforms - using Wix, Squarespace, hosting on Notion, Medium and Ghost! Each one had some or the other drawback. I’m not going to get into each platform. There’s enough review sites already which can help you compare.
After almost 15-20 days of scouring the internet, I decided to come back to wordpress.com. I didn’t want a single day when the website was broken. Also, migrating to a different provider was taking a lot of time.
I was fine with not having a subscriber popup. At some point, I’ll create a separate landing page for Easy But Hard.
But this problem of too many tools is widespread across the internet. Not only in the case of publishing, but everything: from entertainment, payment gateways, website hosting providers, non-fiction books, blogs, investment advice, and whatnot!
So much choice, that we end up choosing nothing.
The world works in waves. Technologies expand and contract. While the first 40 years of the internet were all about creating something new through expanding our knowledge, the time is right to move towards compression.
And there are examples already!
Curating information is getting more and more popular, as compared to creating. This is best seen through newsletters like The Browser, which have now become companies of their own. Twitter, YouTube, and the internet in general is filled with people curating content for their audiences.
Similarly, we need to compress the tools we have into ones that “get the job done”. Wordpress, once built to solve problems, has gotten bloated over the years. So many plugins, ancient tech, requirement of hosting providers, etc are all problems that seem tiny if looked at individually, but as a whole, they mess people up.
In my case, there are very few products that I’ve loved within an hour of looking at them. Substack was one of them. I purchased the Google Pixel 3a after watching one review video. That’s all it took. I didn’t need to go through hundreds of review videos, ask friends for their reviews, wait for others to report bugs, etc.
I bought it the day it was launched.
The reason: it did what I needed a phone to do: click amazing pictures without being expensive, and not looking cheap.
Substack compressed parts of the “newsletter” model into one platform. It simplified creation by presenting a simple text editor, unlike other platforms where you have a plethora of choice of formats, styles, editors, etc. Substack integrated payments, landing pages and discovery in its core product. A writer’s job became that much easier. Shopify (although I don’t use it myself) integrated payments, supply chain, warehousing, shipping in its product. A business owner just needs to subscribe to shopify to get their online store truly running.
If you are someone looking to build products - think about clubbing the experience of multiple products into one.