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June 30, 2015

Is Ghost a Viable WordPress Alternative?

Ghost WordPress AlternativeWhen WordPress was first created by Matt Mullenweg, he was scratching his own itch; he wanted a simple-to-use blogging engine — and that’s what WordPress used to be. Over the years, it has grown into something much more powerful. WordPress is now a superbly feature-rich content management system with an enormous collection of extensions and themes — if you want to build a website of any sort, WordPress is more than capable of supporting it.

Some people just want to blog, though. They don’t need all the extra bells and whistles. They want what Mullenweg wanted when he first created WordPress, and that’s the itch Ghost creator John O’Nolan set out to scratch. He aimed to build a simple elegant blogging engine that does everything a blogger needs but no more. He succeeded admirably. Ghost is an excellent blogging engine.

The success of Ghost raises a question: should bloggers who simply want to blog choose Ghost over WordPress? Although, I’m a huge fan of Ghost, I still think that for most bloggers, WordPress has the edge — especially if it’s combined with managed hosting built to make the most of WordPress.

There are two ways of choosing tools. You choose the tool that does only what you want. Or you choose the tool that does what you want but has the potential to do much more. When you first start blogging, WordPress might seem like overkill, but for most of the time, WordPress’ complexity can be ignored and it can be used in exactly the same way as Ghost. You write, you publish.

But I’ve never met a blogger that didn’t want to go beyond that eventually. Perhaps they want to incorporate a newsletter signup form into their blog. Perhaps they want a membership system to sell subscriptions. Perhaps they want to sell T-shirts and need a simple eCommerce solution. The “one-more-thing” is easy as pie on WordPress because of its extensive plugin ecosystem. On Ghost it is more complex.

I advise bloggers to choose WordPress because great though Ghost is, it’s built to do one thing brilliantly — write and publish. Writing and publishing on Ghost is an elegant and refined process. But that’s as far is it goes. The simple experience turns into a complex experience as soon as you want to move beyond the minimal. WordPress offers much the same simple blogging workflow as Ghost, but it also offers so much more. Counter-intuitively, simplicity can result in greater complexity because eventually it becomes a restraint you have to fight against.

If you truly want an excellent text editor that can publish good-looking articles to the web, give Ghost a try. If you value the freedom to go beyond that: WordPress with managed hosting is the better choice.

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