Question

What is the best CMS for a personal blog on a custom domain?

Looking for something easy to set up, that looks good, and preferably not VC-backed because I want it to be around for a while.

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#WordPress #Ghost #Webflow #Websites #Dropbox #HostGator #Craft
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nathansnelgrove's avatar
almost 3 years ago
It depends.

Are you a developer?

If you're not a developer, the answer should be Wordpress. It's open source, and the community is great, so if you need to make a quick and dirty change, you'll find a solution somewhere. There are lots of themes available. Virtually every web host has a one click install, even the ones that suck.

If you are a developer, the world is your oyster. If you just need a virtual blog, then start simple. I like Jekyll. It's simple. It's fast. It has no database, which doesn't really matter, but it's trendy to say it doesn't have a database and nerds like us will think you and your website are cooler for that reason. You can host it with Github, if you like (although you certainly don't have to, if you'd prefer to avoid Microsoft's involvement in your web hosting).

From there, ramp up complication as necessary. Want more than just blog posts? Kirby seems nice. (I haven't used it, but enough have that it's easy to recommend.)

If you really want to build something unique and treat this an experimentation centre, seems to me like your best bets are Ghost (non-profit) or Craft CMS (not venture-backed, but they'd love your money in exchange for a good product. I think that's a fair business model). They both excel at different things. I like Craft, but I typically build for clients, and clients find Craft pretty easy to use. Philosophically, though, Ghost will likely align closer with what your values are, based on what you've said.

You'll note that I haven't mentioned Wordpress. If you're a developer, I say skip it. Wordpress is nothing less than a tremendous pain in my side. It has its use cases, but call it a last resort. It'll make your life easier.

9 points
awwstn's avatar
3 years ago
Let's break this down a bit:

Ok, this is a complicated question. I think step one is to figure out what type of platform you're looking for.

Here's how I'd categorize your options:

"classic self-hosted CMS"

These are open-source CMS products, and you'll need to manage everything from domains to the codebase, to hosting. With the more established products like Wordpress.org, this doesn't require a ton of technical knowledge as long as you're patient and willing to read documentation when you get stuck.

The biggest advantages of these are 1) that they are endlessly customizable and 2) that you manage everything, so your site will have zero existential dependency on outside organizations (e.g., if your hosting platform goes away, you can just switch).

Products in this category: Wordpress.org, Drupal, Joomla, Jekyll, Ghost, Magento, CraftCMS

My thoughts: I'd probably suggest Wordpress. It's the easiest to use, has the most robust ecosystem of plugins and themes, and is here for the long term.

If you want to try something new and flashy, CraftCMS has some super cool features.

"SaaS CMS"

This is probably the category I'd point you toward.

These are hosted blogs that you pay a monthly fee to maintain. They are much more "one-click" to set up, and still come with a lot of the benefits of owning all your content and having full control over everything on the site. They can be a bit more limiting in ways you can customize look and feel, but for most general use-cases they are more than sufficient.

Lots of services like HostGator offer hosted/SaaS versions of the popular open source CMSs, so your options are fairly similar to the ones above.

In this category, I'd suggest Wordpress.com if you want lots of customizations.

If you just want to start writing, Ghost is probably the easiest way to have a slick CMS up and running immediately.

"blogging platform"

These are the fastest option to get up and running, and they come with the advantage of built-in distribution. But, if you want your own domain and to have ownership/control over your content, these sites are probably not your best bet.

I'd suggest posting to your own blog and syndicating to one of these sites.

Popular examples are Medium, Tumblr, and Blogger.

My suggestion if you are going down this route would be Medium, because they have a huge distribution channel, the design is great, and you can even make money off your traffic on Medium.

"website builder"

These products are likely better suited for websites that have stores or other functionality beyond a simple blog.

Popular examples are Webflow, Wix, and Squarespace.

If you do want to go this route, I'd definitely suggest Webflow...but for a blog you're going to have your work cut out for you. Webflow is a really powerful product that will let you customize everything and build lots of slick, responsive design elements.

6 points
maguay's avatar
3 years ago
Kirby, Ghost, or WordPress

Kirby is a more geeky option—but also the easiest to customize, and easier than most other CMS to install on your own hosting (huge plus: You don't have to set up or manage a database). It's a flat file CMS where you write posts in Markdown-formatted text files, save them to a folder, and Kirby automatically turns them into blog posts on your server. If your site's on a VPS, you can install Dropbox CLI then write blog posts and save them to Dropbox to automatically publish them. It's a neat alternative to more feature-filled content management systems.

Then, for either self-hosting or a managed site, WordPress and Ghost are both good options. With either one, you could start your site with their hosted options with a subscription, or could run their software on your own server (and easily migrate from the hosted to self-hosted and vise versa if you want to switch). WordPress is older and more feature-filled; it's best if you want a full site including static pages and even things like forms and eCommerce features. Ghost is focused on the writing and publishing process, much more like Medium, and so is likely better if you want an easy place to write.

5 points
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