Notion is a workspace that allows you create all kinds of things. You can use it as a database, a knowledge base, project management tool, daily planner, or simply take notes or collaborate on docs. In this article, I talk about how I used Notion to build my personal website and the pros and cons of using Notion to build my website.
How I chose notion
I had heard a lot about Notion and played around with it a little, even creating a resource called Beginner’s guide to UX research on it. I had initially wanted to create the guide on GitHub. I was "bookmarking" the links in Notion so I could move everything to GitHub later, but the learning curve was too steep and I had been sitting on the resource for too long, so I decided to publish on Notion as it was.
A while later, I started taking the creation of my website more serious. I checked out all the popular platforms: Squarespace, Webflow, Wordpress. I settled on Webflow and even created wireframes. Again, I was using Notion to brainstorm ideas for some of the content that would go on the website, as well as general content strategy.
I randomly look through Notion templates to see what exciting things people are building with it, so it was in one of those times that I saw a Portfolio tracker. That’s when I had a lightbulb moment: I could create my website in Notion.
So I played around with the structure from the wireframes and created pages and blocks and viola, a website appeared. At this time I already had my domain name (ladetawak.com) but I wasn't sure how to point it to Notion. I got a tip from a Twitter friend that I could simply use the URL redirect function on NameCheap, so I set that up and that was that.
So, the pros and cons
The major pro for me is that it’s very easy to maintain. Updates go live as you type or add photos or other content. Or you can make changes in the background: I can move a whole page out of the site, edit it and drag it back into the “website.”
I don’t have to pay for hosting, and when I inevitably reach the block limit for free accounts (update: there’s no longer a block limit for free accounts on Notion), it’s still cheaper than regular website hosting on any of the aforementioned platforms.
As a non-visual designer in tech, creating my website in Notion helped me remove the pressure of “doing too much.” While searching for inspiration for my website, most of what I so was really visual heavy. And as I am not a visual or UI designer it was a bit discouraging.
Notion also gives you the option of allowing your page appear in search engines. I’m not sure how well this competes with standard SEO on hosted websites, but I’ll assume it works. (update, Jun 2023: My website shows up often when I google my name, so I think there’s no SEO problems)
I can’t necessarily optimize SEO.
The pages on my website are not in the ladetawak.com/[page] format, so that might affect searches (update, April 2021): you can use paid tools like Super and Hostnotion or follow the guide provided by fruitionsite that allow you create neat links).
There’s no way for me to get site analytics (update: paying for Super and Hostnotion should help; update Jun 2023: notion now has page analytics so you can see unique and total views for each page). I don’t know who visits my website, what country they’re in, how they got there, what they searched to find it, and other information that analytic tools on hosting platforms can provide. On the one hand, I’m missing out on what could be valuable information, but on the other hand, it’s one less thing to worry about.
I used to have a Wordpress blog and I obsessed over my site daily stats. Medium is kind of different, but within the first one or two weeks of publishing an article, I check the stats every day. On social media, there are so many things showing you the "value" of your account: impressions, followers, likes, retweets, shares and so on and so forth. I feel a little relieved that I don’t have to worry about tracking website analytics. And for now, I don’t see the need to change that (update, Jun 2023: I still don’t see the news to change it, in fact, I rarely check page analytics for my website or even Medium anymore).
Notion can also be very slow to load especially on mobile. This actually hurts your SEO score. So, again, if you want your website to be discovered via search, probably don’t use Notion.
If search engine indexing is important to you or if you intend to have a photo heavy website, it’s probably best to not use Notion (without any add-ons)
My website [probably] won’t live on Notion forever, and when the day comes where I think it is now necessary to invest in analytics, SEO etc or to jazz up my website, then I will move to Webflow as planned (or use whatever works then). A personal website is supposed to help you showcase your work and yourself, and right now, Notion serves my needs perfectly.
Update: Notion has removed the block limit on free plans, so you can add as many blocks as you need for your website. The major limitation, I think, is that you can’t enable search engine indexing on the free plan. You can see the different plans, pricing, and features here.
Also, if you want to get SEO and other extras on your notion, you can pay for Super and Hostnotion that enable you do this. You could also follow the guide provided by fruitionsite that allows you create a website in notion at no cost and get a clean url such as yourdomainname.com.