The new, Kickstarter-backed blogging platform Ghost opened to the public this week.
As we reported earlier Ghost will emphasize aesthetics and usability. It aims to fill a specialized blogging need: It wants to be a lighter option than the feature-bloated WordPress CMS but more expandable and customizable than Tumblr. Whether Ghost reaches or remains in this sweet spot is yet to be determined.
Developer and designer Chris Southam told The Guardian his reasons for backing Ghost (emphasis added):
Current [blogging] systems get in the way of this [usability], with a ton of options and configurations to provide an all-singing and dancing experience, while the content is limited to typing into a box the size of a postcard. Madness!
So far, the reviews are positive. Some highlights and possible critiques:
“This is the most expected part of Ghost and believe me, it is awesome. Ghost developers made a real time preview MarkDown editor, which is, well, awesome,” enthuses Zvonko Biškup of Ghost’s full-screen content editor at CodeForest.net.
The two-pane design avoids what Southam refers to as WordPress’ “postcard” and displays a running real-time preview, too.
I would say that if you just need to add some simple text and illustrate with a few images, then this approach is way ahead of the competition. This probably goes closely with how the Ghost developers perceive blogging.
Yes, but are images and text all that blogging is composed of?
MARKDOWN vs. WYSIWYG
Lee Hutchinson at ArsTechnica comments on the content editor’s ease of use thanks to the dual pane design using MARKDOWN language instead of WYSIWYG.
Other benefits are the ease of adding images (simply drag and drop) and the responsive design. The latter makes it easier to resize the content development window and live-post to fit narrower or mobile screens.
One thing that is missing from this initial release is the much-touted visual dashboard. Of this John Pavlus of MIT Technology Review posits that it isn’t necessary, writing:
[D]ashboards assume that you want to interface with them, manage them, interpret them–when really what you’re using the software for is something else completely: ‘blogging.’ After all, what are analytics for, really? Not just monitoring them for the sake of monitoring them–but for extracting insight to act upon, when necessary.
Instead, Pavlus echoes Anil Dash, who argues dashboards should be feeds.
Summarizes Pavlus, “A dashboard shows you a weather map; a feed says, ‘It’s going to rain in 5 minutes.'” Would that be more meaningful for bloggers? It’s debatable.
Ghost is adamantly nonprofit, but this won’t prevent related monetization either directly or indirectly. Mighty Microsoft is an early backer, described as a Ghost Partner. Microsoft’s involvement includes creating a Ghost plugin for their browser, modern.IE. It remains to be seen what other involvement Microsoft may have, and whether or not that is desirable. Speculates Kris Roadruck — notably, on another new blogging platform, Medium:
Perhaps Microsoft sees a chance to reclaim some of its dwindling share of the browser market… [O]r maybe it sees in Ghost the potential to turn the blogging space on its ear.
At present Ghost requires that you self-host your blogging site. Hosting options will be available shortly and will further reduce any technical friction to starting a Ghost-run blog. WordPress may become something of the past, very soon.
Image by Ghost.org.
Katie McCaskey is SixEstate's content director. She tests real-world application of content marketing techniques using the cafe she co-owns as a laboratory. She was Tech Editor of Chief Content Officer, 2010-2011, and contributes to the Content Marketing Institute. Connect with her on Google+ or @KatieMcCaskey.