Out with the old…

This Christmas break, I revamped zier.com. Let me explain why and how.

Web Site: Old

Old Site Design

Old Site Design

Back in 1999, I registered zier.com and signed up for a hosting account at pair networks. I then painstakingly came up with the web site design that was on the site for the past 13 years. The HTML was hand coded, the (sparse) imagery manually cobbled together in Photoshop. This took a considerable amount of time, mostly since I’m a web design amateur, at best. Getting the design to “look right” simply involved a ton of trial and error.

The site content evolved over time, and I added several “features” to it:

  • A blog, via blogger.com.
  • A photo site, using home grown HTML generator.
  • Calendars to manage capacity in our ski leases in Kirkwood.

All of them were crude, and tedious to run. Lack of time and laziness got the better of me, and I replaced the features gradually with other services:

  • Twitter/Facebook instead of brief/sparse posts on my blog.
  • flickr for pictures.

Earlier this year, a colleague smirkingly noted that I hadn’t updated my blog since 2007. I had to agree with him – all of the content was stale. I resolved to scrap the site, and replace it with something simpler when I got the time.

Web Site: New

Today, I set up the new site. I signed up for wordpress.com, selected a theme. Customized it a little, until it looked “good enough”, then started writing a little. Setting this up took about an hour. It looks more modern, since a professional designed the theme I selected, and I have the peace of mind that a group of professional worries about security, uptime, etc.

Email: Old

pair networks includes email as part of their hosting offerings. You can set up mailboxes, access them via POP3/IMAP and a crude web interface. Over the last 13 years, I’ve set up @zier.com email addresses for all my immediate family members, and cobbled together mechanisms to get those emails to them: My mom’s PC was set up to pull via POP3 into Windows Mail. For my dad and my brother, the email addresses were simple forwards to their GMX accounts. I myself had originally used POP3 directly into my mail client, but later on switched to Gmail, configuring Gmail to pull the emails from pair via POP3.

This setup had a number of disadvantages. Some of the mechanisms introduced lag, wherever POP3 was used, email landed on a single machine, and if that machine was lost, so was the email archive. Multiple spam filters along the way could potentially eat up non-spam messages.

Email: New

Luckily, I signed up for a free Google Apps Standard account a few months before Google discontinued offering it. Having managed Google Apps at Sumo Logic, switching our email over to Google Apps felt like the path of least resistance, and I knew Google Apps was a solid offering. After switching everything over, I just had to spend a few minutes showing my family how to use it. Now, I don’t have to be nervous about lost emails.


At this point, I’ve not moved DNS hosting for zier.com over to wordpress.com, but instead dropped a PHP redirect into zier.com. Once I’ve convinced myself some more that hosted WordPress is sufficiently flexible for me, I’ll pony up the $13 per year for a hosted domain.


Overall, I feel like I finally moved zier.com into the 21st century — better late than never, as they say…

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