Web Hosting: The Nightmare, Site5 versus BlueHost

For the longest time, I’ve spouted much love and support for my web host of over a decade, Site5.

The year was something like 2007, or even earlier. I recall they had a super sweet deal called “The Plan to End All Plans” for which they offered an unbelievable price for an unbelievable amount of web space. It was great. They even had a referral program for which I got a discount off each person I convinced to sign on with them.

I had no problem doing this, and most of my clients know that I’ve always been up front about this referral program. Their support staff were always, always, 100% helpful. I never had any issues with getting set up, and for all the dumb questions I’d throw their way, there was a patiently explained and understandable answer. To say that I was a fan of Site5 is fair. Or an understatement.

Then they switched their Backstage to a different platform. This took out the referral program, which was fine. Things seemed okay for the most part, and I didn’t think too much about it.

Fast-forward to early this year, where I had recently recommended Site5 again to a client. Perhaps I had gotten so used to living in the smaller pond, but when this client started outgrowing their hosting, I spent a bit more time talking to support.

I had also started experiencing some website downtime. It didn’t matter too much for me, because nobody visits my website. And I’m seriously okay with that. I use the space to put up baloney experiments like collecting menu preferences for my wedding and a Sausage Toss Simulator for my friends.

But this is not good for my clients. And I’m very protective of most of them. Others, not so much. But the ones I love, I really love. So I went on a bit of a journey here, and I started asking some more questions.

Then I started to notice that nobody from Site5 seemed to ever know what the fuck was going on anymore. I would ask one question and get three different answers. Gone were the support people who knew what they were doing, and each message from them now either started or ended with, “Please be on hold for 3-4 minutes while I check on this.”

Most times, they would answer my question with something completely unrelated. It was like watching a terribly-edited episode of Jeopardy! and nobody was winning.

So out of curiosity, I started searching for other options. We all know that it’s a good thing to look outside of our windows once in a while, because when we get too comfortable, we miss out on the rest of the world as it turns.

One afternoon, I ended up in a support chat with someone from BlueHost. Days of, “Sorry, let me check on this. Please hold!” from Site5 may have taken its toll on me, because as soon as I realized that I was talking to someone who actually knew what the fuck was going on, it felt like waking up from a terrible never-ending nightmare.

It was all a blur at that point, but I know I entered the conversation with pre-sales questions for my clients. I came out signing up for a Prime account with them and this exciting feeling of starting something new. I still remember my support guy’s name. It was Vincente. And I told him how awesome he was. And he told me, “If you don’t need the space, don’t waste the money.”

And then I asked him to marry me.

No, I didn’t.

But I wanted to.

Full disclaimer again, but I’m not getting paid for posting this or even talking about BlueHost. Just as I was pretty jazzed about Lunapads, I gotta say that I’m equally jazzed about BlueHost. I’m using the word, “jazzed”. That means something, guys.

Their Shared Hosting Prime offering was much better and cheaper, for way more things:

  • Unlimited websites
  • SSL installation for WordPress sites
  • 1 free domain
  • Domain privacy
  • Back-up services

What the actual fuck. And while I was looking at VPS options for another project, their very similar options were at very different price points.

Site5’s VPS starts at $62/mo
BlueHost’s VPS starting at $20/mo

Friends, I can’t even.

I know I’m no expert at any of this, and cheap web hosting is hardly something worth talking about at fancy dinner parties or when you’re trying to impress colleagues. But I just felt like sharing this experience because for one thing, it kind of woke me up to how I had lulled myself into complacency with Site5.

It might still be the honeymoon stage with BlueHost at the moment, and I’m already discovering a few annoying things there and there, but at the moment, they are miles ahead and way better than what I was previously dealing with.

Maybe in another 10 years, I’ll change my mind again, but for now, my bottom line is:

Yes, I would recommend BlueHost!

#AEASea: “Faster Decisions With Style Tiles” by Samantha Warren

Samantha Warren. What a cutie-pie. Anybody who starts a talk with a story about bananas and monkeys is a gold star in my books.

Design tiles are her way of building a pattern library for clients.

In her talk, “Faster Design Decisions with Style Tiles,” Samantha brought up a really big shift in how we handle websites today. I don’t know exactly when this thing exploded, but D-I-Y has stretched itself from handymen and Martha Stewart floral arrangements to how we all manage ourselves online. Whether it’s a personal blog, portfolio, or a giant conglomerate’s website, we all want control over our content.

It’s not enough to have a static HTML page that you set and forget like a Ronco Rotisserie anymore. And with good reason. We’re all realizing what we’re capable of, and long gone are the little lines of text that say, “Questions? Contact the webmaster.”

We’re all fucking webmasters now! (I mean “fucking” in the descriptive sense, not as a verb.)

In her talk, Samantha points out that we aren’t just putting together mock-ups for people, but systems for them to work with.

Websites aren’t just store-fronts to display our wares. They’ve now become actual platforms for communication, and that’s what’s so exciting about it. I love this idea because it’s a focus on exchanging information and growing together, rather than just throwing your hat in the ring and hoping for the best.

There is push and pull content, not just push alone.

It’s easy to fall back on blaming the client for their lack of creativity or imagination. And I know there are tough discussions about that. But the more I think about it, the more I think it a poor excuse for doing a bad job.

In most cases, projects can go to hell because everyone is looking out for their own best interests. And of course if something is always someone else’s fault, then everyone ends up sucking monkey balls on a hot day.

Her suggestions about abstracting a website’s look and feel goes much further than avoiding “franken-comps” and fights with the client. Style tiles and other such methods give value to the designer-client relationship, in my opinion. It becomes less about giving someone a product, and more about engaging them in an actual conversation.

We then allow ourselves to reflect and consider different options, rethink certain decisions, and maybe get to better solutions than what we first pitched.

I like the notion of working with your clients as people who have their own thoughts and ideas, and giving them the platform to share this—not just giving them a product in a box. It makes the job sound less stupid and a little more meaningful.

Just as we are realizing that the web is fluid and alive and organic, I think we should be transferring that idea into how we treat the people we work with, too.

The client shouldn’t be some kind of cartoon in a suit talking to a car-phone. The same way designers shouldn’t be thought of as pixel-pushers and drones in black turtlenecks.

How much confidence and good will can you foster with this approach? I think a lot. The same way you have charities and organizations empowering women, kids, minorities that change social perspectives; giving anyone a great set of tools and the opportunity can set so many things in motion.

While design can ultimately seen as a service, I think it also helps to see it as a relationship. There is trust needed and guidance involved from both parties. It isn’t one person pushing their expertise on another, but equals with each something to offer.

And if we start with that common ground, instead of “I am here to fix things for you,” then we all get to have a nice time at the party. Nobody wants to talk to that asshole who thinks they know everything. And nobody wants to be said asshole, either.

Restlessness & Youth & Independence

So I have to admit I went a little bananas. I never thought I would, but over a year and something of working alone in my home office, but okay—I totally went apeshit.

I don’t know if that is a bad thing or a good thing, but I do know that there was one night where I was talking to my manfriend and just totally burst into tears. I didn’t even feel it come up. One second I was talking normally, and when my manfriend turned to get something from the fridge, I was already bawling.

And suddenly I was looking at flights to Korea to see my sister, looking at fitness classes at the community centre, and attempting to make peanut butter cookies at ten to midnight. Oh, and I think I moved some furniture, too.

It felt like I was stuck in this one pace and place, where I just let things happen over and over. I didn’t notice the gnawing feeling until it felt similar to how you let go of taking care of an ulcer.

I would wake up, go to my corner, feed the cat, work until dinnertime, and then Netflix and then go to bed. Washing, rinsing, repeating, and suddenly I’m in the tub, having scrubbed myself raw and I’m bald.

While solitude is still something I very much enjoy, there are also times where I really miss my family. I feel so grown up admitting that, and would never had expected it from myself five, ten years ago.

All that mattered then was my independence, and this illogical need to make that point. That’s why teenagers are so shitty, for the most part. And I like to think that I earned my independence at a much earlier age than people like me. That is, sheltered, Chinese-Filipino, middle-class and trained in a Catholic School with Jesus biscuits as treats.

And then, I suppose I got lazy.

It's like we don't talk anymore, Hugo.
It’s like we don’t talk anymore, Hugo.

I guess it takes a toll on you, being alone. I still don’t mind it, and I really don’t think it was totally because of the home office situation. My family is across the Pacific Ocean. My good friends were all moving to different cities/getting married. It just hit me how quiet things were all of a sudden. And without that noise, I succumbed to keeping to myself like the natural mountain man that I am.

It’s also more the matter of missing this place, rather than being there. Perhaps it’s a common thing for Third-Culture Kids, but there’s a weird mix of dissatisfaction with where I am and longing for it at the same time. I like to move around so that I get the opportunity to miss it. You stay in a place long enough and you start taking it for granted.

I went home to Manila recently, and it was a bit of a surprise to see how different I had become from when I first left at seventeen/eighteen years old. Anything we leave behind gets stuck in a time-warp, I think, and all that usually holds up are your memories of it. Some are bad, good, totally inaccurate, but somewhere in there lies the truth of how you feel about the place.

I sound like a fickle housewife, forced to choose between a loving husband and the pizza delivery guy.

Routine is a struggle for me sometimes, as I’m not happy with seeing the same thing over and over. Perhaps this is also just residual feelings from youth, and something that I’m still growing out of. I’m not that old yet, and really, if there’s anything I’ve learned, there doesn’t seem to be a threshold for youth anyway.

And so I’ve taken it upon myself to build on new routines, ones that don’t feel too contrived, and am more aware of creating options throughout my day. The feeling breaks once in a while, but independence really is something we need to maintain, not just achieve. Because when we get lazy, we kind of stop deserving it.