My Ghost Experiment – Simple but…

I’m a perfectionist. I’m never fully satisfied with the tools I use. The same goes with the end results of the things I put out there, on my blogs. As you can see in my blogger workflow, I depend on WordPress for my long posts and Micro.blog for shorter ones. There is one area where I’m looking to improve things: publishing a small set of pictures.

I’m currently using 500px (read about my experience) as a way to publish most of my pictures online, but the style of what I want to publish doesn’t fit this platform. I’m also using Adobe Portfolio (see my portfolio) as part of my photography plan from Adobe, which is great, but I’m not entirely happy with the design. I can change the layout, but it a tedious task. I want something simple to use with the least management possible. When I read people mentioning Ghost on Twitter, and looking at site examples, I was pleased. Here is one such example.

An example of a visual theme on ghost
An example of a visual theme on Ghost

So I decided to try it and enter the 14-days trial period to see if it would be a good fit for me. This blog post is about my experience with Ghost from a photographer perspective, looking for a small place to share a few pictures. Let’s see how well it fared.

A broken promise

My first moments into Ghost environment felt disorienting. Simplicity is what Ghost is all about but I quickly found out that it comes at a cost. If you know Medium, then you’ll feel at home with Ghost’s text editor. They both look and behave the same way. It’s not a bad thing per sue. It’s definitely simpler than WordPress’s Gutenberg block editor. Each post can be tagged but not categorized. Tags have a twist though; you can assign private tags to each post. Private tags help classify posts but are not visible to visitors.

I also found out that I take for granted the availability of a mobile application for any serious web services these days. Ghost doesn’t have an app on iPhone or iPad. How can this be possible in 2020? Ghost is an open-source platform with open APIs for developers to create native applications. The lack of iOS application baffles me1. Sure I can use the website from my iPad, and it is working fine, except for inserting a picture while editing a post: the insert picture button does not work. This is a deal-breaker for me. I think I prefer Micro.blog’s approach here: it’s not an open-source platform but published content is created using open standards, on the open web and there is an API and many iOS applications are available.

On macOS, the situation is a bit better but their application is obviously a non-native one; it’s mostly a wrapper around their website. And speaking of supporting the Apple ecosystem, Sign in with Apple is not supported either, which is yet another strike.

Not photographer friendly

I’m sorry to say that, in many ways, Ghost is not photographer friendly. Galleries cannot have more than nine pictures in them. Managing images is limited as you cannot change photo dimensions; the only arrangement within the gallery can be modified. Speaking of pictures, contrary to WordPress, there is no media library available to insert pictures into a post. If you want to use the same picture in two different publications, you need to upload it each time. I don’t get it.

Finally, Ghost relies on Zapier for automating basic things like cross-posting from Ghost to Twitter, for example. So I had to open a free account on Zapier. It’s probably one of the most positive things about this whole experience. I’m a big user of IFTTT, but now I’m discovering Zapier. It’s great. Unsplash is also supported by allowing me to insert any pictures from the service into a blog post. In this particular case, it wouldn’t be of much use as I’m looking to publish my own pictures.

A bad ending

Very early in the experiment, I knew Ghost wouldn’t fit my needs and meet my expectations of a modern, complete yet simple CMS. For many of the reasons exposed in this Ghost reviews, my initial excitement for the service simplicity quickly changed to a series of bad surprises. Considering the money they charge for hosting, it is more expensive than my Adobe photography plan, which includes Adobe Portfolio. Now you know why It makes me think more than twice. My conclusion is simple: Ghost is not for me and doesn’t bring more value than what I’m currently using.

If you are curious about the type of pictures I want to share, you can find a sample on my Adobe Portfolio.

  1. In fact, there is one application and it is Ulysses which I use for my writing needs. That being said, I wonder if the lack of applications demonstrates the lack of popularity of the platform.

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