This post is on www.stuartlennon.com, hosted by Ghost.
Back in 2014, when researching how to setup a blog, I settled on Wordpress (WP). There was nothing that Wordpress couldn’t do. Millions of themes, plugins, and tutorials to achieve absolutely anything. It was intoxicating. Determined to be self-sufficient, I got a theme working and started posting in February 2015. I would learn as I went.
As, is its wont, intoxication led to a hangover. Sure, WP could do everything, but there was always a cost. Either in time, or money, or both. I had a choice. Learn to be my own webmaster, hire someone to be my webmaster, or something in the middle. I decided to pay for “managed hosting” and for some premium, supported, plugins.
I created a monster. Subscriptions lapsed, breaking parts of the site, or auto-renewed, tying me into another year. Nothing renewed at the same time, so I was on a conveyor belt of overlapping commitments. I could have coped with that, had everything worked smoothly.
Ha! Every time I looked at the admin section of the site, there was something that needed updating. Update x, and y stops working. Z reports that my host is not using the latest version of Wordpress so a, b and c may work, may not work or may enslave me to the Borg in the next 25 seconds, 24, 23, 22…
I had taken on the cost of an outsource, while retaining all the hassle.
I tried all sorts. Hiring people to redesign the site. Twice. Redesigning it myself. Still, the thing vexed and mocked me.
Last week, I snapped.
I intended to go to Square Space, pick a standard theme, put in my credit card details, and be done with it.
First though, some research. Square Space? GoDaddy? Wix? Micro.blog? Ghost? I pulled out a notebook and started analysing my options.
So why Ghost?
“Launch your creative business. Content, newsletters, members, payments - all in one place.”
Sounds good to me. Put simply, I like the cut of their jib. Open source, and focused on publishing.
This is a membership site with a free tier and a paid tier. I intend to publish my books independently, right here to my members. I think Amazon has enough money already. If you like the sound of that, sign up either to the free tier, or if you are able to, to the paid membership.
In many ways, Ghost is more constrained than Wordpress. Custom features are possible, if you are prepared to code them yourself. Otherwise, you’re pretty much stuck with how the platform works. That’s perfect for me. I want to focus on the writing, not the “webbing”.
Migrating was a pain. There are nearly 500 posts totalling 170,000 words on this site. The Wordpress site had thousands of images. Some huge, some tiny. Some were upside down. Ultimately - I made the decision to leave many of them behind. This made for some repetitive reformatting of old posts, and I daresay there are plenty, that I still need to fix. Some services don’t fall over themselves to help you leave them (unsurprisingly), and at times, it’s easier to simply walk away than argue the toss.
Support has been excellent both from the team at Ghost and at GBJ solution, from whom I purchased the theme used here. They have been patient and understanding, as I fired off volleys of questions at them.
I’m still in my free trial*, and it’s very early days, but so far, I’m impressed.
*Edit - As of September 1st, 2020, I am signed up to an annual plan.