Learn why I chose to go with Ghost as my blogging platform vs. all the other alternatives out there.
Why Set Up a Blog?
Many people take the easy route and set up a presence on one of the many freely available platforms. Several of them offer decent blogging functionality.
However, they regularly change their policies, UIs, and give you limited control. Some platforms are quire censorious and challenging to deal with if you get into a dispute. And, it is not easy to migrate your content to another platform later.
It's still best to have a central place that you control and own. Have your own domain name, choose how you want it to be configured, and presented. It gives a more professional impression, and you can export the data and move to a different platform if needed.
Platform Selection Criteria
Knowing that I definitely wanted to have my own blog for this brand, I had to go about finding my way through the vast number of blogging platform options to discover the best fit for my needs. For that, I came up with the following selection criteria.
- FOSS: Must be free and open source software because that will give it transparency.
- Continuity: I don't want something that will die and vanish if the company behind it goes out of business.
- Hosted: I'm not an engineer, so I needed a hosted solution that I could just sign up for.
- Freedom: I want a platform that supports free speech. I don't intend posting anything deliberately offensive, but I don't want to have my content censored due to the vague whims of a left-leaning Silicon Valley company's "Trust & Safety" division or an overzealous automated censorship tool.
- Stylish: I wanted something that could look good.
- Usability: I want to avoid messing around with configuring and coding.
- Exportable: Need to be able to export my data.
- Branding: I need to be able to use my own custom domain.
There is a plethora of blogging solutions out there, but if you apply the above criteria, you would likely arrive at the following three options.
WordPress.com: While it ticked many boxes and was reasonably priced, I found it unnecessarily complicated and hard to use. However, if you have grand ambitions for your site that might eventually require all the possibilities that self-hosted WordPress offers, then starting on WordPress.com might be a good match for you.
Write.as: This again fulfilled many of my criteria, but it was missing a lot of functionality that you would expect in a modern blogging platform and required coding to customize its appearance. It's designed for code-savvy people who just want a minimalist, bare-bones place to write. It's not (yet) a platform for building something that may eventually grow into a full-blown own online publication.
Ghost Pro: Of all three, this is the closest to what I wanted. You can read through the official Ghost website to see a list of all its features and strengths.
Missing Features of Ghost
Ghost is focused on the core blogging functionality, and all other features are taken care of by integrations. Some of these are easy to set up and others more challenging.
Comments: I want to enable comments, but this is not included in Ghost. You have the option of adding various third-party ones. Since I want a solution that is FOSS, that cuts on most of them except Discourse. I had been very impressed with Discourse as forum software. However, judging by the posts in the Ghost community forum, it seems that setting it up is going to be quite a struggle. I might need to hire a freelancer to help me.
Email subscriptions: Ghost has built-in functionality to allow people to sign up to a list. However, that's all. You then need to decide how you want to go beyond there. You can integrate the likes of MailChimp and set up different configurations. So, this will be more complex than I'd like.
Theme customization: There don't seem to be many ways to customize themes without knowing to code, but this isn't too big a deal for me just yet.
- There is no single "best" blogging platform or CMS.
- It depends on what your criteria are and you should consider them carefully because it will be a huge hassle if you need to migrate platforms later - even if the one you choose enables data export.
- You should picture what your project may eventually evolve into five years down the road and ask yourself if the platform you are wanting is likely to be suitable for that.
Overall, after careful consideration and trying two worthy competitors, Ghost Pro turned out to be the best option for my needs.