The Bear minimum - Building a super simple blog with

TLDR: Create a super simple minimalist blog with little to no coding experience. Get Bear (only available on Apple devices), export notes as HTML files, upload to GitHub, then link to host/domain. Profit!

I love things that are stripped down to the bare essentials, but still do their job well. I try to replicate this in both my personal and work life. Here’s why:

Big chunky things = Scary

Scary = Never gets done

Small and super simple = Gets done

To get stuff done, I break down and simplify tasks to a degree that some might consider excessive. This forcing function also helps me consider and address core issues versus symptoms. This post is about how I used this approach to quickly create a blog.

Having used Bear for years to keep a daily journal, I decided to start writing online. With Bear as the inspiration, I listed what I needed now, ignoring what I might one day use. The first approach leads to a simple but finished project, the momentum of a win, and the option for future improvements. The latter invites indecision, complexity, delays, and usually doesn’t get me very far.

My ideal blog needed to be:

  1. Self hosted on a custom domain.
  2. Exceedingly easy to set up and update.
  3. Text based. Images were not an immediate priority.
  4. Styled for readability.

By listing problems before looking for solutions, I can quickly filter results that don’t match. I’m then less likely to fall prey to premature optimisation, marketing or aesthetic usability bias.

Most solutions (including Wordpress) simply did too much. Paradox of choice was another issue. Having so many off-the-shelf options, each with a microcosm of near infinite themes and widgets, was just too overwhemling.

I took a step back and considered if my time would instead be better spent building a blog from scratch. A quick Google once again presented a paradox of choice; an endless number of ways or frameworks to choose from. I’m not a programmer and didn’t know where to start, so I took another step back. I drew up a simple plan, filled in some blanks, and decided to ask a friend about the rest.

I realised that Bear could export notes in HTML, including all the CSS styling at the bottom. This was a huge win as I could use Bear to create a simple home page with a title, a paragraph, and an unordered list of links to individual posts. As for the posts themselves, I just needed to write them up in Bear and export them.

Enter Kasun, a friend, indie-hacker and freelance programmer (who’s currently working remotely while travelling across Sri Lanka). He was kind enough to teach me some basics about HTML, hosting, and linking domains. Here’s what we did:

  1. Create and export notes from Bear.
  2. Create a GitHub account and paste the exported code into a project.
  3. Use Vercel’s free tier for hosting and link to Github.
  4. Link domain to Vercel.

That’s pretty much it really. For someone familiar with the basics, it would have taken under 15 mins to have a minimalist, well styled, and self-hosted blog, all without writing a single line of code.

In the end, not only did I get my blog, but I also learned some basic web development! It’s a big win in my book and I wanted to share this post in case others (especially other Bear fans) want to do something similar.

Postscript notes: