For a little while I’ve been flip-flopping on which blogging platform I wanted to end up on. There were some obvious choices, most of which I have tried to some extent and had issues with.
The first obvious choice was WordPress which by far powers the most websites on the internet right now. It is open source, there are a million different web hosts for it, and it has been around forever. The community is huge so collectively just about any problem you’ll have with WordPress has been solved by someone else.
By far the best part in my book about using WordPress is the theme and plugin ecosystem. It’s kind of like the CI/CD tool Jenkins which has been the de facto choice for ages, so if you can imagine an integration for it, it probably exists.
As someone who is not a web designer but appreciates good design, being able to buy a theme on ThemeForest or a similar site is a huge bonus.
The downside is that because WordPress is so pluggable, the defaults that come standard are never very good. You always end up installing lots of plugins to add the extra functionality you want. Even some of the standard options are set to weird defaults that I have never wanted.
An unfortunate consequence of the ecosystem around WordPress is that the careless blogger can end up with a lot of security vulnerabilities or just general bloat from the multitude of plugins you pretty much have to install.
So at the end of the day, I know I always dread starting a new WordPress site, so for my own personal site I really didn’t want to have to deal with that.
Over the past few years, Medium has become a major blogging platform with a focus on quality content and great user experience. I think it is fair to say they have hit both of those marks pretty well.
Unlike WordPress where you can either self-host or use their managed wordpress.com, Medium only allows you to use their hosted platform. For many people this is not a big issue, but I have a couple of problems with relying on their service.
As a blogger, your content is king, and when you rely on a service to host it you are no longer in full control of it. I recently observed that without paying for a Medium membership, I could only view 5 posts per day. I don’t know if that is only for their curated content or not, but it was a bit frustrating. If I was a popular blogger, I would not be happy with content being blocked from people being able to read it. The whole reason to blog is to share your content with the world.
Additionally, and most importantly to me, is the lack of ability to use a custom domain on Medium. This used to be a possibility if you created your own publication on Medium, but they got rid of that functionality. I don’t like the idea of having to tell people if they want to checkout my blog to go to https://medium.com/logan-donley (make sure to use the dash!). It is must easier to say to checkout https://logandonley.com.
Maybe those issues don’t matter much to you, and if not Medium is a pretty solid choice. If you are a good writer, they will even pay you for some of your posts.
Static Site Generators
Static site generators are applications which will take a configuration file and a specific project hierarchy with content files (markdown, remark, etc.) and generate it into a static html project. This has a number of benefits.
- Your site will be suuuuper fast since it is just static html and has no database calls.
- You can host it for free on GitHub Pages, Netlify, or any number of other hosts.
- You can store your entire project in a git repo and on each commit to master have your website automatically build and deploy with the updates. If you are using Netlify you can even do PR/Branch deploys which is awesome!
- You can find a static site generator built in pretty much any programming language.
So as you can imagine, as a nerd, I love this option! Being able to store my blog like a standard git project and have it auto-deploy to CDNs to be globally accessible and lightening fast, how amazing.
So if static site generators are so amazing, why am I not using one?
Simply, I really enjoy well designed websites and unfortunately the available themes for most static site generators are not on the same playing field as are available for WordPress (or Ghost as it turns out).
If I had the motivation and interest, I could create my own custom theme for Hugo or Jekyll or whatever generator I end up on, but that requires web design skill which is not an area I enjoy working.
So that brings me to Ghost, which as the title suggests, is the platform I ended up going with.
Ghost is sort of a combination between WordPress and Medium. You get the excellent editor like Medium has, yet you are able to self-host and customize like you are WordPress.
Out of the box, Ghost also has really good defaults as far as I can tell. Lots of things that WordPress requires plugins for (the same ones you end up using on every site you start) are built into Ghost.
It is a refreshing change.
Maybe I’ll find some gaping flaws with Ghost eventually, but I’ve been flip-flopping my site too much recently so I am going to stick with this one for a while.
Update – Oct 2019
I’ve moved away from my beautiful Ghost site and have instead gone for Hugo (a static site generator) for a number of reasons. More details in a future post.