What Having a Domain for a Year Has Taught Me
By Cassie Nooyen
The original version of this post appears on Cassie’s own domain, of course!
This summer marks the one-year anniversary of acquiring my domain through St. Norbert’s “Domain of One’s Own” program Knight Domains. I have learned a few important lessons over the past year about what having your own domain can mean.
The first issue that I never really thought about was the security and privacy on my domain. A few months after having my domain, I realized that if you searched my name, my domain was one of the first things that popped up. I was excited about this, but I soon realized that this meant everything I blogged about was very much in the open. This meant all of my pictures and also every person I have mentioned. I made the decision to only use first names when talking about others and the things we have done together. This way, I can protect their privacy in such an open space. With social media you have some control over who can see your post based on who “friends” or “follows you”; on a domain, this is not as much of a luxury. Originally, I thought my domain would be something I only shared with close friends and family, like a social media page, but understanding how many people have the opportunity to see it really shocked me and pushed me to think about the bigger picture of security and safety for me and those around me.
I was hesitant to start my blog because I thought, ‘What do I possibly have to say?’ I still have that thought occasionally, but I have turned my blog into a blog really just for me. Sure, I share the posts online, but I like to blog to remember my memories of college. Even at the end of the year, I was looking back at some of the first blog posts I wrote and I had forgotten some of the fun things I was able to do earlier in the year.
I have two different blogs: my personal blog on my main domain and my work blog on my subdomain. I have discovered two main differences and how they relate to one another: how much I blog and how much fun it is. My personal blog is all for fun; if I don’t want to blog, I don’t have to. I usually only blog when fun things are happening in my life, which happened to go in waves. I wouldn’t post for about two months, and then I could post three weeks in a row. I never felt pressure from anyone else to post anything; it was completely self-run. The main pro of this random blogging is I feel the quality was a bit better because I was never forced or rushed to post. For this same reason, I seemed to put it to the back of my mind and it would only come to my mind occasionally; this made my blogging very sporadic and infrequent. This style works great for a personal blog, but it is very easy to procrastinate if it was ever for a class assignment.
Meanwhile, on my work domain I was encouraged to blog weekly about the different projects I was working on. This usually brought two different emotions to mind: excitement when I had accomplished a large task and had ideas for the program, but also slight frustration when I felt like I was working on the same project for weeks at a time or felt like I could not accomplish anything that week. The main benefit of weekly blogging was it made me more self-aware of what I was working on. When Thursday and Friday rolled around I started to think about what I had accomplished that week, if I felt like it was not much, I took a step back and thought about the reasons why. Was I unproductive? Unmotivated? How many hours did I work? What else was happening in my life? This exercise did really help me to evaluate my work and make sure I was giving my best effort to be a part of the team. This frequent blogging was a bit of a stress on me and would not be the best for a class, but it did help me to be self-aware and to reflect each week. Although blogging so often was difficult for me sometimes, knowing that I could still take a few weeks off made the structure less intimidating; it was important for me to take a break every once and awhile.
I really enjoy having both blogs; the one that I can update every two months or daily, and the one that I update weekly. I feel like both blogs show my growth this year, both personally and as a student worker.
ASK FOR HELP
In the beginning of the year, I was slightly terrified to ask for help because I had experience in website design and I felt like I should know everything I was doing. However, I soon realized that this was horribly wrong. Some of the errors were as simple as something being spelled wrong, but others really needed another set of eyes to help. Everyone around me was there to help me and teach me, and not relying on them only left me feeling stuck and frustrated. The only way I am going to grow as a designer and a developer is to ask for help. Many of the advancements I have made on my own domain and FSL’s domain are because I asked for help when I did not understand. The best projects are made by teamwork and being able to admit when I don’t know everything is one of the most important lessons of all.
On the other side of this, I have learned how important it is to share my knowledge with others. I used to be the person who would just take the laptop and do it for you, but now I understand the importance of teaching and explaining so others can also learn. I still struggle with this, but I continue to try to get better. Sharing knowledge with others helps both people to grow; life is not about sitting in a corner and trying to be the best, instead it is about helping every person to grow together.
CHANGING YOUR MIND
The biggest lesson I have learned with my own domain is that not only is it okay to change my mind, it is actually encouraged! A domain is never done; it is always changing and improving. My main domain has stayed consistent, but my subdomain and other projects have been through many phases and designs. I came into St. Norbert with no WordPress skills at all. I had previously worked with Adobe Dreamweaver and it turned out to be a very big change. Finding a theme for my main domain turned out to be an adventure, but I have stuck with it ever since the beginning of the year. Recently, I decided to change my header image from black and white to color and was astonished at how much that brightened the site! Changing one image helped me to completely change the look and feel of my website.
My sub-domain however, I still don’t love. I had the same theme almost all year and I feel like it is too plain and boring. I recently updated it to include purple, the main focus color of Full Spectrum Learning. The grid is focused on the intersection of engagement (blue) and technology (red) to create purple. I added pictures to each page to get more of a visual for what I am working on each week instead of just paragraphs of text. I do want to continue to experiment and maybe even try out a new theme.
The biggest change that happened was the Full Spectrum Learning Website. I created the first iteration of the site in early fall. It took all of about two hours, and that should have shown me the quality. With help, I found a new plug-in called Elementor and experimented for days on how to make the website look the best. I continue to experiment and upgrade pieces of the site constantly. I know the website will never be complete, it is always improving one piece of code at a time. This is the beauty of website design, it is encouraged to continue learning and it can be incredibly fun and rewarding to keep improving.
This lesson is the hardest to learn, but the most important. You have to be open to changing your site. No website is or will ever be perfect, but making small little changes can help it to be that much closer. Sometimes the opposite is true as well. As I have learned, it can be important to know when creating a new sub-domain to play around with and completely starting your site over is the best option.
These four lessons have been my main takeaways from my first year having my own domain. I know that it will continuously change and grow and that is necessary. I learn something new about my domain and its
Cassie is at St. Norbert College majoring in Computer Science with an emphasis in Graphic Design. You can find her on Twitter here.