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!

Can ads exist peacefully within websites?

Some more general website things, but I’ve started experimenting with Google Adsense. I’ve been curious about this for a while now. I’ve added a couple of them on the sidebar and the footer.

Experimenting with Adsense

It might be counter-intuitive as well, but I admit that I do have ad blockers installed on Safari. I tend to do more blog reading and surfing on Safari, while I use Chrome more for work on debugging and dev tools.

I notice that there are dramatic reactions from some designers against ads, as if they are little bugs that infiltrate your pantry. The purists all condemn it, which is understandable. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from hanging out with non-designers, it’s that people really don’t give a shit about what young, tough, and gritty designers think.

For here, I’ve put them in designated places. I have a feeling that they might not be super effective, but I will let time tell. Let’s make no assumptions… yet.

Although, I absolutely hate ads within content, like when they disrupt reading. It’s like someone cutting in line at the hot dog stand. Very rude. So I was very cognizant of keeping those bad boys out of the way.

The top example of a website I find rather frustrating is Forbes. I think they have good content, for the most part, but there are just a few too many obstacles in my way to get to it. I’ve since felt more and more disengaged with their website, and usually never get past their obnoxious splash page after I click their links on Facebook.

 

 

Ugh, Jesus Christ, Forbes. Tone it down a little.

Another love-hate relationship I’ve fostered is with The New York Times. Particularly on mobile, the way that the content loads first, and then jumps around as the ads generate. This is taking the notion of “content first” a little too literally, guys. Grrr!

 

 

However, I will note that I like the content and do still engage with the website, even though it loads with the same way a drunk fun uncle stumbles into the bar for your birthday.

The interesting thing for me I guess is comparing blog and news sites to how Facebook places their ads. The sidebar is a nice common ground for me, actually, as it is less obtrusive but not completely hidden.

 

 

The way I’m approaching it is that I don’t have too much chaos in my life (deliberately planned and executed with extreme discipline) and I don’t want my layout to reflect that. I imagine people I want to talk to are those who aren’t in a hurry or juggling ten different things at once.

Facebook also inserts them into their feed, but thankfully, they aren’t inside the posts or anything like that. I don’t want the calls coming from inside the house. 

With the way that the News Feed is set up, this makes a lot of sense because users are free to ignore them as they flow through. This is different from when a user is actually inside a piece of content, such as reading a full article. They have already chosen to engage with the content. I don’t think an ad should burst into the room every five minutes to see if things are okay, or if you want to partake in Amazon’s Deal of the Day.

 

 

I myself have clicked on these Facebook ads (for magic mops and Tubshrooms) because of this thoughtfulness. The News Feed is more like a shopping experience, where the user can take the time to pick and choose what links or posts to open. An ad behaving this way is appropriate, in my opinion.

The key moment for me is between this display of options (the News Feed), before any commitment is made, and the actual choice to engage (clicking the link itself because clickbait–FFS…).

It’s a delicate balance, and I’m keen on digging into this some more.

I like to think that I might have some control over these things (and my life), so I’ve decided on several “musts” within this whole thing:

  • The ads must not be rude. I think they are okay to be a little lively or do whatever ads are set out to do, but above all, it shouldn’t come between the audience and the content.
  • Advertising should not take over the whole site. One of the things that bother me is when I visit a website and there’s 90% ads and 10% content. Most of the time, the content isn’t even very good.
  • I must reflect: When visiting a website, what are the things that I don’t want my friends to suffer through?

All in all, I don’t think advertising is a bad thing, nor is it the root of all evil. But it’s definitely one of those torture tools that may end up killing me if I’m not careful.

Curious to know your thoughts and impressions.

 

Bottom Lines

Trung and I talk about our work often, as most good friends do. And what usually ends up happening is a dissection of the personalities that we both deal with in our lines of work.

Okay, it usually ends up with both of us getting drunk and then watching Midsomer Murders to yell about how much we miss Sgt. Troy, but the lead-up to that is always interesting.

One of our general themes has been to differentiate people by their bottom lines.

Despite the differences in web development and commercial plumbing, our conversations always boil down to this saying, which I think Trung really should trademark:

It’s not the job, it’s the people.

What is this person’s bottom line?

This almost always affects the outcome of the work and how many fistfights you are bound to have.

Money as Bottom Line

There are the old school folks, where the bottom line is money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people being aware, or even prudent, about costs.

But in a sense (and based on past experiences), they are the ones who tend to reserve spending on materials or resources and almost always settle for “Good enough,” look at the end result, and however we all get there, the ends justify the means.

The bottom line is having enough resources at the very end, so that it can be spent on something else.

The tough thing, though, is when you start having awful conversations about reaching the bare minimum, and how it could also be possible to bring that standard even lower to save another $10.

I find that these people do tend to have more money, and that’s great. Because that’s their bottom line. They’re able to shell out for emergency dental work or send their kids off to boarding school. Damages that occur without home insurance could easily be paid for by the money that they saved from not getting it in the first place.

They spend more time on the same project. And maybe because they just have better focus. I really don’t know.

Convenience as Bottom Line

Then there are the Convenience as Bottom Line People, which I think I am definitely a subsect of.

I don’t think we are a particularly smart bunch, but I’ll be honest in saying that I have fewer regrets. It’s almost like I’ve spread out my stress over time, instead of collecting it all at the very end.

For this tribe, it’s more about freeing up certain resources to be able to focus on or achieve a goal. And if that means paying more for something, so be it.

And this doesn’t necessarily equate to just money or expenses. To me at least, the bottom line question is:

What is your time worth?

I would rather invest in a $1000 tool that saves me 6 hours of work than use a hand-crank or screwdriver.

I would rather pay someone to paint the apartment in a day than spending two weeks stepping in plastic dropcloths and shit, doing it on my own, and getting really shitty results. I’ve had experience with painting spaces before, and while I do consider myself capable of doing this myself, I would much rather be doing something else. Like working my actual job.

I would rather share the job, make less profit, and get it done faster and more efficiently, instead of doing everything ourselves, stretching ourselves thin to deliver a kind of passable outcome.

Not to say one is better than the other

I find that at least in my conversations with Trung, this dichotomy of people exist like people who prefer showers over baths; people who eat the soup first before noodles; or people who really like Metallica or just think that they are self-centered babies because of that documentary.

There are downsides and upsides to being either type of person. I always concede with the knowledge that I will never become rich, but also comfort myself with the idea that at least I won’t spend 90% of my life being tired or sweaty or stressed out. All of the things I hate being.

I’m pretty comfortable with where I stand on this, and I have to admit also that I kind of enjoy talking about these differences with people.

To some extent, I also see it related to the type of people who either like super focused projects or those who like various things happening at once.