For blogging enthusiasts

Ghost blogging
4.0
Customer reviews
Free - $250/month
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Ghost Reviews

 

Introduction

Young and fresh, Ghost has been around for few years now. Launched in late 2013 it is open source (and free) blogging platform that is written in JavaScript and distributed under the MIT Licence. The idea sparked from John O’Nolan, a former employee of the famous WordPress when he got the feeling that it was no longer just a blogging platform. Founded on Kickstarter and have been created to make live easier for bloggers, although there are two very different variants. One is the classic online platform you can pay for while the other is a free downloadable option where you can install it on your hosting account and work with its source code.

Main features

 

Launch process

As you open Ghost homepage, you will see three boxes. When you type in the username, email, password and click the “Test it out” button, you will be sent a confirmation email with your account details. Next, you will be immediately taken to a dilemma. You will be offered to pick Ghost Pro or Ghost 0.5.10. While the Pro option allows you to publish a new blog online in a few clicks with their hosted service, Ghost 0.5.10 is a downloadable version of the software that you can install on your own web server. Which one you will pick depends on your skills and ability to manage your blog on your own hosting account.

If you go with Pro, you will pay a monthly fee and most of your worries will be taken care of, but if you go with the current version of 0.5.10, you will get the source code for free. With Pro version, you will be able to test it out in a free two-week trial period. The trial version setup process is very similar to any other blogging platform launch, with some variations. If you decide to download and set up a blog yourself, then it is going to take a bit of your time and it is wise to follow the instructions on the provided “Readme” file. After that step, the process of blog customization is the same for both options.

Maintanance and the dashboard

The dashboard is stylishly minimalistic, some would maybe say too minimalistic. Just don’t get confused with your dashboard and your ghost.org profile. Luckily, it is not too confusing, and everything you will need will reveal itself in the right moment. The only truly baffling thing was the avatar. It’s not clear where did Ghost pull the avatar from. In our case, it’s a picture used on certain online profiles, but how did they select that image is a mystery. There are also home, marketplace, support, and blog links, along with your profile and account settings.

When you login to your blog dashboard, things might seem a bit weird. While settings are pretty standard to make a new post, you will notice the lack of classic word editor or option for HTML editor. Instead, you will use Markdown and if you request it will also render HTML. If you’re not used to that, it can be very frustrating at first, but after some short time, you will get a grip on it. One of the benefits is that there is always a reminder of what are you doing in real time. Yup, the post editor has a split screen with the preview and the edit options. In the bottom, by clicking down on the lower right corner you will reveal settings for the post with save, publish or delete choices.

Ghost is made by people who love blogging, but it is not necessarily made for all blog lovers. It still has to deliver on all things that were promised in the Kickstarter campaign. Using Ghost will definitely involve some bigger learning curve than with other blogging platforms.

Themes and tools

There are plenty of themes and you can browse through them in Marketplace. You will have a tough time choosing because all of them are gorgeous. It has free and paid themes that vary from $5 to 35$. However, if you are used to one click installation, you’re out of luck. If you don’t have an account at GitHub, you will need to handle the registration and installation of its software first and that is another step that needs a review on its own.

The good news is that you can customize your theme as you want, or if you are a design enthusiast, you can submit your own. Many of themes are very mobile friendly, especially default one. You won’t have any problem with adapting your blog to many different mobile devices because it is very intuitive when it comes to resizing and shuffling things around.

Storage, reliability, and uptime

If you have chosen to download the software and host it yourself, of course, all of those things will depend on your hosting provider. If your blog is down you will have to bring it back up or ask for help from support staff. However, when it comes to the hosted blog on Ghost, things are pretty reliable and fast. It has a very good uptime, and when it comes to blog loading speed, it is one of the top platforms.

Storage room and transfer are unlimited, even with the most basic package. However, it will limit you to 25,000 views and if you want or need more than you will need to upgrade to the more expensive package.

Help and support

This is the place where everything is awesome. As a nontechnical person with zero programming skills, I managed to get the grip on every single step of the installation and setup everything that I needed. On their support page, you will find absolutely everything that you need, and you can always ask away on the forum.

Advanced features

 

Hosting and pricing options

If you download the free source code, you will need to find a hosting provider on your own and that pricing will depend on the company you choose. Usually range from $5 to $20 per month. If you decide to host with Ghost, prices will vary from $10 to $250 per month. Most users choose $30 option because it gives you 100,000 views and up to 3 blogs.

Content management

The spam blocker, a comment moderation section, or even commenting section are not a default part of your blog. Many themes have comments built in, but the default theme does not have it.

Basic content management is almost absent from the starting point which is almost unforgivable. You can add all you want, which is the point of the Ghost (make it into whatever blog you want) and you will get all the help you need, but there should be more flesh on the content management bones.

HTML and CSS knowledge

You will definitely need some HTML and CSS skills. One big difference is that Ghost isn’t written in PHP, but in Node.js, so make what you want out of it. While it will take some time for technically inclined to get used to some things, once you get used to them, you (almost) won’t see any difference. However, if you have absolutely no idea what coding is, or how to use CUI, you should definitely pick some simpler one-click blogging platform solution.

Promotion and monetizing

This is a bag of mixed goods. You can easily add things, but beside making your blog public or private, you are left in the dark. There are no widgets, plug-ins, and even RSS feed has to be third-party. Sharing, promoting, and monetizing are experiences that you will not particularly enjoy while dealing with Ghost because you are mostly left out on your own. There are some SEO tools, but anywhere near compare with some other platforms. Minimalism is good for design, but not for promotion.

Pros

  • editor with split screen
  • sleekly designed editor
  • greatly designed for themes
  • self-hosted and hosted options
  • very fast loading speed
  • very customizable for third-party installments

 

Cons

  • aims for the masses but is still (mostly) for the geeks
  • very confusing for those that aren’t tech educated
  • installing a theme (and other things) often requires third party programs or plug-ins
  • compared to other self-hosted solutions, installing it isn’t easiest one
  • lack of certain basic tools

 

Conclusion

First of all, Ghost is amazingly designed when it comes to blogging platforms. But it will appeal to those who know what they are doing. If you only know what a command line is on your computer, you should probably skip this one because you will be stuck on the installation itself. This one is for the tinkerers. When you get the grip on it, like any good instrument it will play off, but if you only need a template and drag-and-drop editor, it won’t give you that. Even if you are experienced HTML programmer, you will notice lack of some elementary things that are standard in other blog editors, like RSS feed or comments. All in all Ghost is a shiny new toy that is still growing, but it has some serious growing pains. Beginners? Walk away. Experts? Go and have fun.

 

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