Ghost users unite

How I ended up on Medium after installing Ghost

Review of (Complaining about) the Ghost blog engine

The blogging platform Ghost has been generating lots of buzz ever since their Kickstarter inception and, me being one of those obsessive early-adopter types with a bit of time on hand, I had to have it.

Installation was a pain since its built on Node.js. I have server-side experience so the learning curve for me was relatively gentle but I can’t see anyone used to the one-click installs of CMSes like Wordpress or Drupal getting their head round this. I might be wrong about this but installation also seemed reliant on you having SSH access into your webserver since you’d have to install a couple of dependencies and start the Node server via command line.

Still, I pushed on, enticed by their gorgeous Dashboard interface and what seemed like a great UI philosophy based on distraction-free writing. An admirable direction for a web-based service since the internet is basically an endless stream of distraction.

Look at that Dashboard!

So, I spent a couple of hours installing and configuring it (a lot more time than I would’ve spent on a PHP based application or basically anything that doesn’t use Node), fired it up and logged in, only to be greeted with:

Wait… what?


Where’s the wonderful Dashboard you promised me?

What I got instead was an incredibly basic blogging system which had very limited functionality. I could write posts and tag them and also enter some profile/blog information.

The profile information didn’t seem to appear anywhere, there was no built-in commenting system (or options to include an external commenting system for that matter) and no widgets or views for archives and the like. It’s literally CRUD for one content type. A blog post.

Still I soldiered on. I’d gotten this far already and the UI for the editing page looked good. Having been contemplating the purchase of my first RBA, I got to work writing a short post on common questions people ask me about my vape.

The design of the edit page was extremely enjoyable, I have to say. The large fonts and using Markdown was pretty relaxing. I also really liked the live preview.

Perhaps this experiment could be salvaged after all?

Or maybe not?

Ghost also somehow managed to be the only blogging system without autosave. Yes, you have to click ‘Save Draft’ every time you want to save. For something so focused on UI, they somehow to neglected to include one of those ubiquitous functions that has evolved from years of blog use and improved the blogging experience tenfold.

Pretty ridiculous but maybe I could overlook that. After all, clicking ‘Save Draft’ every minute might make me more involved with the interface. At this point I’m really having to jump through quite a few mental hoops to ensure that this could still work. I kept typing.

After getting through about a hundred or so words, I noticed that spellcheck did not work in the edit panel. Now, I’m a fairly good speller but I do rely on spellcheck for some Achilles heel words like:

  • Achilles
  • Diarrhea
  • Bureaucracy

And so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, this wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. Although it was quite possible that I was at the bargaining stage of grief, I thought perhaps I could get around it by highlighting the text, right-clicking and manually spellchecking with Chrome.

I continued writing.

Now, since I’m writing this on Medium and not Ghost, you can probably see where this is going. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? After all, Autosave and Spellcheck are both incredibly stupid things not to include in your blogging engine.

Well, sometimes its the little things that set off the school shooting. Or in this case, an extremely long blog post on Medium about my terrible experience with Ghost.

After about two hundred words in, I noticed that some of the words I was typing into the left-hand edit pane were not appearing on the right-hand preview pane.

As can be seen here - edit pane goes down to ‘E-liquid’ and preview pane is at ‘Metal Ming vase drip tip’

What. The. Fuck.

This means that the entire writing experience comes completely unglued and disorientates the shit out of you. After being used to seeing what you type appear immediately on the edit pane, this is ripped away from you leaving you in a state of confusion as to whether you’ve actually typed anything or not.

No, really.

This was when I decided to leave Ghost to the bearded fixie riders and reboot my Twitter account so I could get on Medium. A place that achieves exactly what Ghost set out to do UI/UX-wise. It’s completely unacceptable that a company built on redefining a great blogging experience fails miserably on all fronts.

I understand that its still in beta and early adoption is always fraught with disappointment but something like the eventual disjoint between preview and edit panes is something easily noticeably and easily fixable.

Well, too bad for me, too bad for Ghost and good for Medium. I enjoyed writing my little rant here far more than writing on Ghost and I think it’s going to jumpstart me into actually taking up blogging again. Mission failure leads to mission accomplished?