With this blog post I am completely changing my website!
Blah blah blah, long story short: I loved Ghost. It's a great platform, but it's really only built to be a blog (a very good one), and I need much more out of my website.
Ghost is the best platform for blogging. Period.
I have nothing bad to say about Ghost whatsoever. For what it's meant to be (a platform for hosting blogs), it's damned near perfect. I chose Ghost in the first place because it:
- is easy to get started with,
- does all the hard work of building a blog and website (the right way) for you,
- makes you a website that is fast, good-looking, and built to modern web standards,
- is better than WordPress in every possible way (ugh, just the thought of WordPress makes me want to 🤮).
In my opinion, Ghost is the best platform for anybody who just wants to get a really good blog up and running fast. With Ghost, you don't have to worry about doing anything "the right way", because everything is already done "the right way" for you.
You just pay Ghost to manage everything for you or install it on your own server and you're ready to blog your heart away.
Ghost is the god of low-maintenance blogs. End of story.
If you somehow found your way to this page because you want to start a blog and don't know what platform to use... you don't have to read anymore of this post. You don't have to read any more posts. Ghost is the best platform for blogging. Period. Don't even think about using anything else. Go to their website and start using it. Thank you and goodbye.
Why Ghost wasn't enough for me
A Ghost website is (no offense intended) just a blog. But I need much more from my website.
- highly and quickly customizable static pages for a constantly evolving list of special projects I'm working on,
- highly and quickly customizable dynamic pages for a constantly evolving list of special projects I'm working on,
- an easy-to-manage, custom database that flawlessly integrates with my website,
- the capability to add an online store to my website (in the near future),
- a no-compromises HTML editor that allows me to do anything I want with the design of my website.
...and I need to be able to edit everything quickly, easily and effectively.
I thought the only way to get everything from the list above (short of paying a professional a lot of money) was to do it all by hand, by myself with the raw HTML, CSS, JS, dynamic templating code, Git, and my favorite web stack (Ubuntu, NodeJS, MongoDB, Nginx)...
... until I found Webflow.
Why Webflow is great
Webflow allows you to do just about anything you could do by hand, faster. Webflow:
- already has a powerful CMS built into it (that can be used for more than just blog posts),
- has a graphical interface (an extremely well-made and full-featured one) for quickly designing HTML and CSS,
- allows you to abide by DRY principles by reusing elements and only editing one instance to change all instances,
Webflow basically allows you to visually build a website and database from scratch and make them dance together perfectly, without writing any code.
But I actually like coding... 🙁
Personally, I really like working much "lower to the metal" with the aforementioned software (Linux, NodeJS, Git, et al.), but from an efficiency standpoint... that's the wrong thing for me to do.
My aspirations are not to become a world-class web developer. Writing all the code for everything I want to do would take FOREVER (especially with how often and dramatically I change my mind).
When I want to launch a new project (and website or web page to accompany it), I don't want to be weighed down with endless hours of coding the "perfect" website (which would have a ton of flaws anyway) and then trying to perfectly optimize it for all browsers, devices, etc.
I just want to quickly transfer the ideas in my head onto pixels on screens all over the world, and Webflow lets me do exactly that.
If it isn't clear already: I absolutely love Webflow.
Webflow is not right for beginners
I wouldn't recommend Webflow for complete beginners in building websites. It's extremely helpful for me that I had a solid background in the fundamentals of databases, HTML, CSS and JS, and I see how it could be hard to manage for someone who knows nothing... and just wants to build a website (there are other tools for people like that: Squarespace, Wix, etc.)
But if you are at least generally good with web technologies, then I don't see how it could get any better than Webflow.
Webflow isn't perfect (but it's damn close)
Of course Webflow isn't perfect... I already have some minor issues that are basically unresolvable, but that's a far cry from the issues a website I would build by myself from scratch would have (not to mention how much longer it would take).
The only real "downside" of Webflow is that it's a paid service, but that has its own gigantic benefits, namely:
- you don't have to worry about keeping a server running and up to date,
- you don't have to worry about staying on top of constantly changing web standards, and
- it's being actively improved and developed by people smarter than you without any intervention from you.
It also has its limits... it's not really a practical platform to build the next YouTube or Amazon (i.e. a gargantuan database of organized data). But for small projects (read: most projects) with data sets of under 10,000 items... even the early stages of the next YouTube or Amazon etc. it's as close to perfect as it gets.
If you need the ultimate platform for building a small, no-compromises website quickly and neatly, it's Webflow.
Things I wish Webflow did better
Here are some things that I expected Webflow to have and that I want to employ on my website, but that they haven't implemented an elegant solution for yet:
- Multiple language support (i.e. being able to post content in multiple languages on my website, with an easy and intuitive way to switch between languages for viewers).
- A much better built-in search engine for site users with real time sorting and searching.
- A much better lightbox for images. Their current one just puts the image on a user's device screen as big as possible while still showing the whole picture. That's not bad, but users should really be able to easily zoom into lightbox images.
- Better managed time-related meta data in CMS items (especially the "created", "modified", and "published" dates)... for some reason Webflow manages these dates and times in a very weird way. The "published" date is always the last time an item was published... which, sure, is data worth having... but much more important to me is the first time an item was published. Also, there is no way to manually override these dates/times. That's also not a terrible policy to have, but when importing old data, for example, in Webflow's eyes everything was created, published, and edited when it was imported. I manually added override fields that I have to use to manage these dates because Webflow's built-in system just doesn't cut it... it's sad. I don't understand Webflow's reasoning in this system and it's probably the only thing I am actually disappointed in Webflow for not addressing.
That said, I still think Webflow is awesome because as I said: it's a paid service and is actively developing new features.
Not only that, but they actually listen to their customers... they have a special portion of their website dedicated to allowing customers to post and vote on suggestions for features they want, and Webflow works on the most popular suggestions (god, I just love the way Webflow works as a company — if their financials are as good as their customer service and they had a stock, I'd buy it).
So I wouldn't be surprised if by the time you're reading this (months or years after I've posted it), all these issues were solved by Webflow.
Nobody paid me to say any of this
I was in no way paid by Ghost or Webflow to write this article (but I'll gladly take their money or free hosting from Webflow, feel free to HMU, reps). Everything I wrote are my real opinions.
My old website vs. my new one
For documentary (and reminiscence) purposes, here are some screenshots of my old and new website.
Improvements made over old site:
- Blog posts include the date they were last edited (where applicable).
- Attribution for images is much clearer and in most cases: includes links to original sources.
- Signing up for my newsletter is much simpler.
- Links to all of my social media profiles are easily found.
- Contact forms were added.
You could technically do just about anything you want in Ghost, too... just like you could technically build a house out of only toothpicks, but it doesn't mean it's the best way to do it. You would have to create your own theme (basically from scratch) and your own CMS for non-blog-related items... at which point you are basically creating your own website and CMS from scratch. So while I could have done everything on my old Ghost site too, it was much easier and it's going to be much more maintainable with Webflow.
What I will miss most about Ghost
Writing blog posts with Ghost was a dream, and Webflow just isn't quite there yet.
With Ghost, everything works the way it should. You could write with markdown, the editor looks amazing, previewing posts was easy, scheduled posts were great...
That's not to say Webflow is bad... it just isn't as good as Ghost when it comes to writing blog posts (which is to be expected, Ghost is first and foremost a blogging system).
Will I use Webflow forever?
As I said, Webflow is the king of website-building platforms right now.
One day it may lose its' crown, but I don't imagine that will happen any time soon. That said, I am completely ready for it to not only lose its crown, go bankrupt and offline at any second.
All my CMS data is exportable from Webflow, so I'm backing it up on a regular basis and I'll be ready to move to another platform if need be (and regardless of what you use to build your website, I recommend you do the same).
But ideally, none of that will never happen. As long as Webflow keeps being awesome, I will probably use it (if not for all, then as least for some of the websites I may or may not have in the future).
I've been planning this change since even before I started my Ghost blog (before I knew Webflow existed), but I've been dreading it because I couldn't find the right tool. Thank you Webflow, for being so amazing.
I've known about Webflow for almost a year now, but I only really started working on this website about 2 months ago. I started completely from scratch. By rough estimations, I've spent 120 hours on it. That includes designing all the pages, configuring the site, migrating all the content from the old site, creating and adding new content, touching up old content, etc.