I’ve tried Wordpress, Ghost, and Hugo multiple times over the years, but none of them have been a good all in one solution to me. Currently, I've switched back to Ghost for blogging because of it's simplicity.
Wordpress Isn’t Fun To Use
Wordpress is a terribly bloated system. In fact just making a post, adding a photo gallery, updating plugins, and dealing with hosting requirements is such an arduous process that more often than not, I decide not to post at all.
Furthermore, Wordpress requires a powerful backend. I’ve tried numerous inexpensive hosting options, and while they work, if you throw too many photos into a post or upload too many photos to the media library at once, your site can crash.
Then there’s all the plugins with their money grabbing annual fee structures. Add to that the fact that certain plugins can break your site, or updates can cause compatibility issues with the rest of your site.
Not too mention that so many of the themes are poorly coded, cost too much for what they do, look awful, and require their own batch of plugins.
It also makes countless thumbnails that eat up your limited server space.
Backing up, restoring, and transferring to a new server is a complicated process and can result in loss of data.
Hugo Is An Easy Way To Get Your Thoughts Online
There's a bit of a learning curve to setting up a Hugo site, but it's not too hard to figure out. The Quick Start guide on the Hugo website is essential, but it’s not everything you need. My best advice is to find a theme with good documentation to help you as well. The PaperMod theme is a good place to start.
The cool thing about Hugo sites is that they perform very well without the need for a powerful or complicated back end. All you need is a place to serve static html files - like how the web was twenty plus years ago. You can even serve a website for free using GitHub and Cloudflare .
There are plenty of free themes available and new ones are being created by a multitude of developers all the time. They are quite simplistic though and are limited in their functionality. There are no image gallery features built in to Hugo. Nor are there any lightboxes for images. There's no integrated commenting system or search functionality either. However, many themes have a search system built in. Comments can be handled with other services like Disqus. What it makes up for in lack of features though, it makes up in performance. Although, I find that Ghost performs almost if not as well, and is easier to edit and post content.
You can use your favorite Markdown editor and export it directly to your content folder.
Backing up your Hugo site is as simple as copying your site folder to wherever you wish. There's no database, server, or backend to worry about!
All of that being said, their theme selection is quite limited, the themes themselves are quite basic and plain looking, using it means you will be using a text editor frequently, and no visual editing.
Ghost Is A Mess And The Devs Don’t Care About Improving Anything
Out of the box, Ghost is designed to be a subscription / fee based blogging system. Disabling subscriptions and hiding subscribe buttons isn’t an easy process. It requires editing the theme and adding in custom CSS via code injection.
Ghost lacks many obvious features like the ability to search, comment, have a gallery with more than nine images, a lightbox for images, a way to delete images on the backend (they literally stay there forever unless you manually delete them from the server), and by default it resizes and recompresses your images leaving many orphaned files clogging up your storage. Backing up and restoring your Ghost blog to another server while possible, isn't a straight forward process either.
Scammy, but Ghost Pro is a for profit business that operates as a non-profit. Go ahead and look into it, it’s shady.
The founder John O’Nolan has personally banned me from Ghost Pro and their forums because I’ve asked questions about the aforementioned basic shortcomings like increasing the number of images in galleries, what features their CDN (Cloudflare) via Ghost Pro actually does vs a free Cloudflare account, and how to incorporate a lightbox into the default theme which they still haven't done after many years. Fortunately, now some of the newer free themes are finally adding that feature.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and join the official Ghost forum and ask those questions. You’ll see that your posts will disappear and no answer will ever come. It’s taboo to even discuss those issues on their forums.
Organization and lack of features aside, there’s a lot to like about Ghost though. It’s relatively lightweight, there are some nice free themes that are customizable, it’s built-in SEO features surpass those of Wordpress, and posting/editing content is relatively painless.
Hosting is a pain though. The installation instructions on the Ghost website are deliberately broken. The developers refuse to update these instructions or even acknowledge there's a problem.
Many people use a self hosted docker installation, but as of the latest version of Ghost, this is not a good long term option because the majority of all docker based installs use either SQLite3 or MariaDB. The most recent version of Ghost works with MySQL only. Thus, if you update your docker and it's using SQLite3 or MariaDB, your Ghost blog will just stop working! If you connect a docker to MySQL, you'll get many MySQL errors. It seems to work on the front end, but if you read the logs, there are problems.
So you really have two options. One use Ghost Pro, but they want too much money and the feature set isn't worth what they are charging, or use Digital Ocean. There's some sort of connection between the two companies and I'm not sure how they share revenue between them, but Digital Ocean is the only host with a custom one click install app that uses MySQL and works. I'm currently using Digital Ocean to host this blog.
Ghost as a company and the founders are awful. They lie about their non profit, they over charge, aren't clear or honest about their revenue streams, ignore / ban users that ask questions, and withhold important information while feigning that they are open source.
I've come to the conclusion that I do not have to like the creators of Ghost to use their platform.
The same could be said about most CEOs and corporate types. You think Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerber are nice likable people?