Blogging on the Ghost platform reminds me of the spirit of "Weaving the Web," by Tim Berners-Lee, the CERN-based pioneer of the early World Wide Web. Berners-Lee envisioned the web as a convenient place to read, write and share documents, with lots of collaboration.
Ghost revives that tradition, but Ghost blogs seldom appear geeky or dull. Developers have produced lots of easy templates for customizing Ghost, providing a jump start toward the sophistication, design and structure most viewers expect.
Low-cost hosting and themes
This website appears via the Ghost.org's hosting service for $5 a month. It's $10 a month now, but I was an early adopter, and they've continued to honor that low price.
Earlier this year, I bought a relatively new Ghost-compatible theme called Pluto. It's $24, but on the WordPress platform the theme costs $58. That illustrates how WordPress themes -- while more commonly used than Ghost by far -- are generally more expensive.
If you're like me, you might buy several themes before you find one that really provides all the functionality you need, so trying two themes for the price of one gives you a sense of economic freedom.
It's all about usability
But I wouldn't have stayed with Ghost just based on price. I already was fairly used to WordPress, but usability features like these made Ghost irresistible:
Ghost.org hosting - The Ghost hosting arrangement provides free updates, a simple dashboard and the ability to switch themes by uploading zip files. That minimizes worry and maximizes creative time. You can write and test content on your own computer or preview posts on the Ghost Pro servers before publishing.
Markdown - Ghost integrates John Gruber's Markdown language into a browser-based text editor, which I'm using right now. You write on the left half of the screen and see a preview on the right. When you're ready, the Markdown tool translates your writing to html and publishes the page. By the way, I've tried a half-dozen Markdown editors for Mac and iPad, but Ghost's version of Markdown is pretty hard to beat. And since it's integrated with the Ghost web content environment, it eliminates lots of extra steps in workflow.
Html whenever you want it - You could go for a long while without coding in Ghost, but any time you want to fine-tune something or just pick up a piece of your old html code -- or a nice code snippet that catches your fancy -- just drop it into the Ghost Markdown editor. Most html works just fine. For example, I dropped in bold type into the first words in this series of bullets using
Images - Type Command-Shift-I on your Mac (or Control-Shift-I for Windows users) and the Markdown code appears for inserting an image or photo. Click the graphic area in the preview half of the screen and a window pops up to help you pick your graphic out of your file system. After you pick the file, the graphic appears in preview mode, and the coding's done. Ghost automatically uploads the image to the server. Sweet!
Minimal housekeeping - Ghost and Ghost themes take care of many detailed tasks for you. You'll get the author's name for each post, the post date and tags, all the way to big things like the jquery, CSS and Bootstrap files that keep a Ghost website humming. For each post on your blog, Ghost will let you easily:
- Add a graphic to your post that will appear on your home page or index of posts.
- Mark certain entries as featured posts.
- Turn the post into a static page linked to your menu or another page.
Okay, I like Ghost. It works for me. It's a quick-and-easy path to a blog or website.
Yes, there's a learning curve, and your mileage may vary. But I suspect for many bloggers and website managers the results will far outweigh the time and effort.