An Introduction to Ghost

Ghost LogoIf you have been involved in web development, you have used at least one open source content management system.

The market is filled with many options, including 3 market leaders in WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

There are also simpler, hosted options such as Tumblr and Squarespace.

Ghost is a new open source blogging platform that is situated between those two alternatives.

Ghost is designed to be a platform is required that allows bloggers to easily publish their content with almost no learning curve. Ghost also aims to provide useful statistical insights into your content and give a real time preview of how your posts would appear on a live site.

Is there a room for a new CMS?

In this overly saturated market, is there a room for a new CMS? Many would argue that instead of creating a new one, developers should simply contribute to an existing CMS. A fair argument, however most of these existing CMS’s were created using older technologies such as PHP and have now become too complicated in their efforts to do lot more and to add features to cater to a wider user base. WordPress which originally started as a blogging application, has now grown into a full fledge content management system.

How did Ghost get started?

On November 2013, John O’Nolan posted on his blog an idea for a new blogging platform that focussed only on one thing, blogging. The post generated a lot of buzz and many acknowledged the need for a new blogging platform that reduced the steps to getting started and made digital publishing quicker and easier.

What started out as an idea to create a simpler and more focused fork of WordPress, turned into a huge project of its own and made its way to Kickstarter. The project received £190,000+ in backing and version 0.3 was successfully made available on 19th September 2013 to the early backers before releasing publicly few weeks later.

What makes Ghost different?

A strong focus on just blogging

Ghost is created with a vision to allow digital publishing easily, beautifully and more efficiently. This focus will perhaps stop Ghost from feature creeps which plagued many other CMS’s. This also helps the core code remain lean without worrying about features such as comments for which specialized companies like Disqus, Livefyre, etc. already exists.

An awesome dashboard

The Ghost dashboard similar to Geckoboard will provide the user a useful insight into their blog such as top content, traffic, social media stats, etc. and will avoid the need to login and check multiple sites.

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Use of latest technology

Ghost is built using Node.js. JavaScript has been around since ages but it’s only now that developers have finally started using it on server side. Ghost uses the latest technology to create a platform that outperforms its competitors in speed and also makes it more ready for the future. The clear separation between presentation and functionality will ensure more stability and security and will also prevent theme developers from stuffing functionality inside their themes.

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Thoughtful features and a beautiful user interface

Ghost is created using the latest technology and might sound too technical, however it’s also the best looking CMS. Every screen is beautifully designed and is responsive. One can also check the contents of a post without going to its edit screen.

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A better writing experience

Ghost offers a smooth writing experience using Markdown. Basic formatting can be done without needing your mouse and you also get a live preview of your content right next to your editor.

The organization and team behind Ghost

Initially started from the idea of John O’Nolan, the project is now organized by a Non-Profit organization called the “Ghost Foundation”. The core team behind Ghost software and the Ghost Foundation are John and Hannah Wolfe with 10+ members and many other contributors.

Is it time to migrate to Ghost?

Ghost has come a long way since the initial idea, however whether one should migrate from WordPress or any other CMS to Ghost depends only on your requirements. CMS like WordPress and Joomla can be used to create complex sites with complex data structures such as e-commerce sites, real estate portals, etc. Ghost, on the other hand, is created for the single purpose of blogging. It has come a long way, yet it’s far from realizing its vision of a complete publishing solution as highlighted in its Kickstarter campaign.

Current challenges

Ghost version 0.3 was first released to the public 6 months ago. Since then many features have been added and many changes done to make it faster and better. Despite all the effort, it still faces few challenges that can only be overcome with time. The 5 main challenges are:

  1. Technology : The number of developers who are proficient with Node.js are far less compared to the once who are expert in PHP. This could result in slower development and will take much longer for new features to become available.
  2. Hosting: Ghost is based on the newest technologies such as Node.js which is not a widely adopted technology by shared hosting companies. WordPress also faced similar issues in its early days, however it still is a major issue for general end users who wish to use Ghost today. To tackle this, users can decide to host with “Ghost Pro” - the official Ghost hosting platform or similar other companies.
  3. Updates: Currently there is no auto update feature for Ghost. It involves more than just updating files. One also has to SSH into the server and run some commands.
  4. Media Management: Ghost was not created to be a full-fledged CMS, however it still needs to way to allow users to manage their uploaded images.
  5. Features and Extendibility: The current version of Ghost is a stable version that outperforms many other CMS’s in terms of speed. However the feature that caught everyone’s attention; the dashboard is still months away from becoming a reality. The API’s to extend Ghost are also under development and until they are completed, Ghost could not be considered as a viable alternative to WordPress.

The progress so far

  • Development
: Since the first publicly released version 0.3, Ghost has been a pleasure to use. It still lacks many features, but the things that are developed so far, work perfectly. Latest version 0.4.2 has had lot of changes to further improve the software and to provide theme developers more ways to get creative. Some of the highly anticipated features to be made available in version 0.4.2 are support for tag archives, custom page templates and ability to check which tags are present for a post which could be used for styling posts similar to Tumblr.

  • Multiple dedicated hosting platforms: Hosting companies have been great in terms of working with the Ghost team to help users setup Ghost on their platform and users also have the option to go with the official hosting platform “Ghost Pro” created by the theme behind Ghost, and few others that help you get started with Ghost in just few clicks.

  • Community Involvement and Input: 
The team behind Ghost have been great in communicating with the users and developers. Users in the official forum and the Ghost community on Google Plus have also been helpful and quick to reply to each other’s query.
  • Resources and ecosystem
: Ghost has not been around for more than 6 months yet there are hundreds of Ghost related articles and many sites dedicated to Ghost such as DiscoverGhost.com, AllAboutGhost.com, etc. Involvement from companies like Envato also helped made many Ghost themes available.

Read more about Ghost


About the author

Harish is a designer & WordPress developer from Mumbai. He runs a web design agency "Dreams Media" and writes about random stuff on his personal website HarishChouhan.com.