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To Ghost or not to Ghost – that is the question

Ghost is a Node.js based open-source blogging platform built by ex WordPress employee John O’Nolan and fellow coder Hannah Wolfe.

I had heard of Ghost before but paid no attention to it as I have always been an avid WordPress user. I may have visited their website in the past, but it did not appeal to me at the time, so I never gave it a second look.

I was on the search for an all-in-one publishing and membership solution as an alternative to WordPress. I love WordPress; don’t get me wrong, but I could not find anything remotely close to what I was looking for; yes, it can all be achieved using several plugins and external services, but it’s not the route I wanted to take.

After a few days of research, I stumbled across Ghost – again. This time I noticed things had changed; things looked a little more upmarket, a fresh new look, a new dashboard, an integrated membership system with integrated newsletters. Have I just hit the jackpot? I asked myself. It seemed to have almost everything I was looking for.

Ghost Pro

Ghost Pro is similar to what WordPress.com offers; it’s a fully managed hosted service, so there is no need to worry about setup, security and updates. You can also self-host Ghost just like you can with WordPress, but I dare say, technically, it will not be easy to set up for those with little or no command-line experience unless web hosts begin to offer one click installs.

Anyway, I was pretty excited, and I did not hesitate to sign up for the hosted Ghost pro service trial to test things out, and this is what I found.

The user interface immediately blew me away; let’s be honest, we all know the WordPress admin dashboard is a little dated and clunky. The look and feel of the Ghost admin dashboard blows WordPress’ own out of the water. I will go as far as saying the whole Ghost experience tops that of WordPress. It’s fast, clean and there is no need for plugins, SEO is built-in, and the publishing experience is second to none. It’s immaculate; I couldn’t find any faults on that front; they have got everything spot on.

One thing missing from Ghost is comments. There is no way for visitors to comment on your work or to start a discussion. You will need to integrate an external commenting system if you want a community-style publication. But worry not, Ghost has several ready-made integrations at your disposal should you want a commenting system.

Ghost, just like WordPress, supports custom themes, but I must say the selection available is pretty dire, and I could not find anything appealing. There is a marketplace on the Ghost website where independent theme designers sell their themes, and you can also find themes on marketplaces like Themeforest. Although there isn’t much option there either, it is something that Ghost lacks. You will most likely need to hire a developer/designer to build a theme for you based on your needs if you can not find anything you like, and you will also need some HTML experience to make custom tweaks as themes do not come with options, which I personally like. It removes the bloat and focuses on performance, and that’s what Ghost is all about.

On the Ghost website, it says: “Until now, building a publication with memberships and subscriptions has been difficult and complicated. Ghost makes it easy, with native signup forms that work on any site”. This is exactly what attracted me to Ghost; there is no need for plugins, no need for external services, everything is under one roof, a perfect all-in-one solution to create a subscription-based publication.

So, to Ghost or not Ghost?

Ghost is now a contender for my next project. If you are looking for a fast publishing alternative to WordPress, then Ghost is definitely a platform you should consider. You will not be disappointed, it’s pretty impressive.

www.ghost.org

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