Absolutely Do Not Change Your Blogging Platform (unless you have to)
The image at the top of this post shows a general timeline for this blog in terms of what blogging engine I used for it over the years.
The Years of Chaos
The first 5 years of this site was absolute chaos. I moved from host to host and platform to platform, constantly drawn to the new hotness. I used WordPress.com for a while, tried Ghost way back when it was in beta, used Squarespace when I didn't want to deal with anything, and then used Statamic when static site generators were all the rage.
These early years were good for me because they got me a foothold in the Apple community, but I was way too focused on the tools and not on the writing back then. As a result, I have literally nothing I wrote from before 2013, with my earliest post being the first thing I wrote that went anywhere close to "viral". This hit the front page of Hacker News and got somewhere between 5-10k views in a week, which was insane at the time, and thanks to the general decline in personal blogging, would still be insane today 😂
I was constantly losing things and losing time that I could have spent writing on migrations and technical challenges. Yuck.
On the other hand, I probably learned a lot of technical knowledge and learned how to troubleshoot server issues because I was causing them all the time. Those skills have helped me grow, so it wasn't a total waste, but I do think that it's not what I'd like to inspire upcoming bloggers to do today.
The WordPress Years
For 4 years, Birchtree ran on a self-hosted version of WordPress. I got a DigitalOcean droplet set up and used their one-click installer to get up and running. That's actually the same droplet I'm using today, and I've been very happy with DigitalOcean.
From 2015-2019 WordPress was good to me, as it was stable and since WordPress was so popular I was always able to find a plugin or tutorial helping me do something on the site. But I never loved WordPress; it was the utilitarian choice, and while I think it's a great choice for most people, it wasn't quite right for me.
I spent a year or so hemming and hawing about what to do, and I didn't make a change until I was confident I could stick with it for a long time. After all, changing is painful for me (especially with the thousands of posts I now have to move), and I really want to do it as little as possible these days.
Oh, and just a piece of advice to fellow bloggers looking to change, absolutely do not make a change that will force your followers to change anything. Don't make them learn a new URL…don't even make them get a new RSS feed. If you're okay losing a good chunk of your audience, then go for it, but remember two things:
- Nobody reading your site cares what platform you're using.
- Getting someone to subscribe once is super hard, but once they're subbed they'll stick around for years. Getting them to subscribe again is nearly impossible.
The Ghost Years
In late 2019 I migrated very successfully over to Ghost, and I haven't looked back since. I'm nearly 3 full years into the migration and things are going great, and Ghost has made some great updates in that time that make it a better product today than it was a few years back. And unlike WordPress updates which felt like they were all aimed at people who weren't me, Ghost's updates routinely make me go, "oh, I can use that!"
No, Ghost isn't as feature-rich as WordPress, but it's better at the things I actually want to do in my blogging platform, and that's all the difference in the world to me.
My point here isn't that Ghost is the best platform for you and you should switch to it today, it's actually quite the opposite. I think if you have a blog today, you should almost certainly keep using whatever your back end is. If you have a really good reason to switch to something else, then go for it, but really think about what that change would do for you, and for the love of god don't make your change your readers' problem.