Ghost 2.0 vs Wordpress 5.0: Which Blogging Platform Rules for Writers?

This is an attempt to do the impossible: recommend an online service using objective facts without a monetary incentive to sell you subscriptions, themes or development resources.

There's almost no decision more important for a fledgling blogger than choosing the right blogging platform. It's an agonizing decision. Some people say Wordpress, others say Squarespace, yet others say something out of the ordinary like Drupal. What should you do? In the midst of it all, everyone is trying to sell something.

This blog isn't. I'm here to tell you you want to use Ghost.

What's important to the blog writer?

I will consider this from every angle. Here are the things important to most bloggers

  • Easy to design a website: Creating a nice looking website with templates that they get off the shelf and customize/modify slightly
  • Easy content creation: Write articles and create pages
  • Extensibility: Extend the website with plugins for useful features
  • Speed: Have a really fast website
  • Ease of maintenance: Not have to maintain servers or code

Overall

I give the overall advantage to Ghost. Even though WordPress makes it easier to design an overall attractive website, the whole point of blogging is content creation, and it's so much easier with Ghost that there's basically no competition.

Ease of designing Attractive websites: WordPress 5/5, Ghost 2/5

Both Ghost and WordPress have amazing looking templates and can be the backbone of incredible websites, from simple travel blogs to full-featured company pages.

But WordPress wins easily in the domain of attractiveness for three reasons.

Firstly, WordPress has a vast array of themes out there created by developers eager to sell products and serve an audience. Ghost has a far smaller range of themes. They look nice, but they're on two or three websites tops, the best one being the Ghost marketplace, followed by Envato's websites.

Secondly, WordPress' templates are easy to customize from the dashboard. Depending on what theme you choose, there'll be a different interface, but they let you change all kinds of cool things like what goes on the front page, how the menus are configured, what fonts to use and many other things. Ghost lets you do no such thing. If you want to customize anything, you have to change the template codes and CSS. No thank you, not for most bloggers.

Finally, modifying Wordpress' themes is way easier. Because you can use page builders to build main pages, it's simple to take a page and make huge changes like put an email capture form right up front, or put an "About Me" section somewhere random. Not with Ghost. Again, you'll have to modify code, and some things you'll just be S.O.L.

Basically Ghost is fine if you're OK with themes as you get them, or are OK with coding.

Easy to create Content: Ghost 5/5, WordPress 2/5

When it comes to writing articles and pages it's far easier in Ghost.

The Keurig editor, now a standard part of Ghost 2.0, is pure joy to use. You type, and what you display is basically what is published—just like typing in Medium, for example.

Ghost 2.0 has such a nice interface that is such a pleasure to use that I'll sometimes draft articles in Ghost and then copy-paste them into WordPress.

The Gutenberg editor, part of Wordpress 5.0, is totally shambolic. It's laggy, and very unresponsive even on a modern computer and browser (in my case, a brand new MacBook Air with 16GB RAM, using any browser). I don't know how it made it into production. Often I'll type an entire sentence and only see it displayed on the screen about ten seconds after I'm done typing. Editing is painful. I've tried this on clean installs and it's the same.

Blogging is all about creating content, and so while Ghost wins on this, it's also weighted more highly. If your website is infrequently updated, and you're fine doing that updating from another interface, then it's a different story. But if you write a lot—Ghost is an easy choice.

For me, this is what wins me over to Ghost.

Extensibility: WordPress 5/5, Ghost 2/5

WordPress has so many plugins its ridiculous. I've been shocked at how much choice I have for plugins for things like

  • Automatic backups
  • Reformatting the comments system
  • Debugging code conflicts
  • Injecting header code
  • Filtering comment spam
  • Analytics dashboards

So many things. None of the above are available for Ghost.

Ghost does have extensibility via its API and emerging plugins platform, but it's sparse right now.

The main reason Ghost doesn't get 1/5 is that many of the reasons you extend WordPress are the reasons you choose Ghost in the first place. Firstly, many Ghost users simply choose to eschew the complex beast that WordPress has become. Secondly, many things come out of the box with Ghost, like

  • A nice editing interface (as mentioned above)
  • AMP support
  • Image compression and optimized delivery
  • Image library (doesn't even show it to you; takes care of that behind the scenes)
  • Fast platform that requires no optimization

Still, it has a long way to go. For example, Ghost users are very limited in choice of comments. It's really Discus (if you're OK with free, but them harvesting your comments), Discourse (if you want to pay) or nothing. Not that great. Or take analytics. With Ghost, you can integrate third party analytics dashboards like Google Analytics of course. But there's no built-in dashboard, like Jetpack. Some websites are trying to launch their own analytics platforms, but they cost money and I haven't tried them.

Speed: Ghost 5/5, WordPress 3/5

Ghost is fast. For many reasons. Firstly, it runs on JavaScript, which is much faster than PHP on which WordPress runs. Secondly, the whole thing is more lightweight, not bogged down in plugins nd legacy compatibility. Finally, it has a lot of intelligent stuff built-in to speed it up, like resizing images on the fly.

I manage to run two concurrent Ghost instances on the smallest possible DigitalOcean droplet without it batting an eye. That's $2.50 a month of server hosting!

WordPress... it CAN be fast, but to get it fast you have to do clever things like

  • Use a CDN
  • Install plugins like AutoOptimize and boosters, to minify JS and do some other crazy stuff
  • Install plugins to optimize images
  • Have a fast hosting service
  • Have a nicely optimized theme

That's a lot of dependencies for a fast website. All my Ghost-hosted websites get a rating of Excellent on Google's page speed test and Pingdom. Again, this is on the cheapest server on DigitalOcean.

You can pay $29 a month from Ghost.org and probably get way faster response. Try it!

Ease of Maintenance: WordPress 3/5, Ghost 4/5

There are a number of ways of running WordPress or Ghost blogs:

  1. Self-hosted on your own server (like DigitalOcean)
  2. Self-hosted on shared hosting (like BlueHost)
  3. Hosted on WordPress.com or Ghost.org

Ghost is similar, except option 2 is less available (if at all). Option 2 is the slowest, so lets not consider it anyway.

If self-hosting, WordPress is not terribly easy to use. Ghost is slightly better. You have to optimize the server, keeping code for PHP and MySQL up to date in order to run as fast as possible. You occasionally have to dive into server settings to change things like maximum image or file size. Ghost is similar in this way, but because there's less you need to configure, there's less impetus to ever go to the server or update anything.

Hosting on WordPress.com is fine, but it completely lacks extensibility via plugins. Ghost.org is a different story. It's a manged hosting service for $29/month that lets you do whatever you like with your server—but they manage the server. I haven't used it before, but I'm tempted.