How can we incentivize the creation of more Ghost themes?

I don’t plan on ever using WordPress again, unless for some reason somebody puts a gun to my head and orders me to do it. At that point (gunpoint) I might consider using WordPress.

But jokes aside, there is one thing that occasionally pulls me towards WordPress, and that is the relatively huge number and variety of themes that are available, which are at least visually pleasing (and by that I mean, I haven’t looked at the actual code, and I don’t know how easy or pleasant these themes actually are to work with or try to customize, if necessary).

Some of the most popular WordPress themes are advertized as being provided with dozens or even hundreds of different skins, styles or layouts that are intended for different purposes. There’s also a relatively huge number of purpose-built themes designed specifically for certain niches or audiences such as healthcare, personal trainers, musicians, legal professionals etc.

Many of the most popular and best themes that I’ve seen can be purchased for around $25 or less.

In comparison, Ghost has a very small number of themes, and many of what are the best themes (in my opinion) are priced at around $150. And I want to be really clear here: I’m not suggesting that these themes are not worth every cent of $150. The developer of these themes is a wonderful asset to the Ghost community and I’m very grateful that he is developing themes for Ghost (in addition to publishing tutorials and such for the Ghost community’s benefit as well).

I can see that $150 is a very easy or reasonable expense for any business or commercial project with funding that wants to use one of these premium themes on their website.

But unfortunately, $150 is beyond the budget of my personal projects, which are mostly just me playing around with different Ghost themes and ideas for websites relating to hobbies and interests of mine, or personal blogs for friends. The majority of these ideas for websites that I play around with will likely never see the light of day.

And because of the expense, I find myself using Casper (the default theme, of course) 99% of the time, and customizing it a lot. Sometimes to the point where people would probably no longer recognize it as Casper.

Onto my next point. I could be wrong, but there does seem to be only 3 or 4 developers actively creating new Ghost themes, and if anything is holding Ghost back a little from moving in the direction of its enormous potential, I think it’s probably this.

So I’m wondering… is there some way we can incentivize the creation of more Ghost themes?

Is there something we can do to lure WordPress theme developers away from the dark side? Short of blackmail, extortion, kidnapping and such. (I’m not ruling these things out. I just think we should explore legal options first.)

All jokes aside, I am very interested in hearing anyone else’s thoughts or ideas relating to this topic.


Thank you @DonaldH for initiating this conversation. I agree with what you have said, and asked…

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Ditto, I agree, about WordPress!
Let me add that the problem is that you CANNOT, even if you wanted to (which was my case, and I almost got caught buying a theme because it’s not explained on the themes page), buy a $150 theme if you only have the Starter Plan.
In this case, you can ONLY use the official themes, which are … 14 !
And none of these themes allow you to create a real homepage (= without having to rewrite the theme code (if I understood correctly), which is quite complicated (for me, at least!)

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If you’re using Ghost Pro and on the Starter Plan can only use the official themes (which is something I didn’t realise) that would mean you can’t rewrite the theme code anyway, since you wouldn’t be able to upload a zip file with your “custom” theme, I presume? So yes, you’re kind of stuck, there.

I just looked at the pricing difference between “Starter” and “Creator” (which allows custom themes) and that makes it now impossible for me to recommend Ghost (Pro) to anyone. I will keep recommending Ghost to people who are able to self host on DigitalOcean or somewhere else. I’m hosting my sites at a cost of around $7 (per site) per month with no restrictions on themes etc.

I took a look at ghostpro and passed. Self hosting.

I agree. I was just thinking that there is a genuine need for theme developers. Ghost is perfect for a booming industry of content creators that use recurring subs. They could keep more of their money and have a lot more branding and customization than they would get in other places.

After trying ghost for a time, I can see that it really lacks some good open source templates that are kept up to date. That’s going to take many people getting involved.

I don’t know how many people are using this. Not even a ballpark guess. If there is enough though, they could hold a fundraiser and gather some prize money for a theme building contest. Where all submissions must be licensed MIT and freely available to the public.

It’s a chicken and egg problem though. You need great themes, paid and free, to attract users. Yet you need users to attract the great devs. So maybe the way around that is getting the community to put up some cash to crowd fund some themes and maybe attract more devs.

On a side note, if you are constantly spinning up and taking down sites, I would check out linode if you haven’t. You can get $100 credit for the first couple of months. You can spin up small vps that cost $5 a month to run full time and one click install cloudron on ubuntu. Cloudron is free for 2 apps and you can 1 click install ghost. It’s not cheap when you start upping the vps specs but for cheap and super easy way to host docker, or ghost or whatever. Also, with KASM, you can do some really interesting stuff.

@gsf where are you hosting if you don’t mind me asking?


I’m not sure at all, but I thought you could edit your theme and then upload it.
But I didn’t try it, I only used the injection code feature. Yes, the price difference between Starter and Creator is really significant…

I use the “native” Ghost(Pro) hosting. I didn’t want to bother.
With the Starter Plan, it’s cheap and therefore worthwhile. With the Creator Plan, it would indeed be a different matter. To tell the truth, for the moment I’m on standby, I haven’t invested completely in the layout of my site, I’m hesitating, because I’m not so satisfied with what I can do at my level. (being a simple user, not a coder or developer). However, I find the lightness and simplicity of Ghost’s editor and platform very pleasant.

The code injection feature will only let you make style changes with CSS etc.

I mean theoretically you could also alter the HTML or layout of pages/templates with JavaScript injection but that would be more work than just self hosting and also just a less than ideal way to go about things.

I think you could look into self-hosting. I use DigitalOcean and am happy with them. They have a $100 credit for new customers. Costs around $6 - $7 per month with weekly backups of your site, and full control over editing your code and uploading whatever theme templates you like. And generally people will be happy to help you with CSS and HTML or JavaScript even, if you ask nicely :slight_smile: Feel free to DM me.

As others in this thread have alluded to, the fact that you can’t use custom themes on the Ghost Pro Starter plan is a major disincentive for anyone on the starter plan to buy a third party theme. Having to pay $25/month just to use a custom theme is just too much, especially for a personal blog that isn’t likely to make any money for a long time, if ever.

Allowing third party themes on all Ghost Pro plans would provide an additional batch of potential customers for third party theme developers to sell their themes. Not sure how many customers this is, but the more customers that can use and have a reason to purchase third party themes, the more incentive developers will have to create them.

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Just checking in - new theme player in town :slight_smile:

Coming from a WP background one thing that I noticed when I started to play with the development of Ghost themes is that end-users will probably find it hard to do everything and customize things like on WP. I will mention a few things from my experience that comes from the WP ecosystem.

If you are serious about your website and you are willing to pay for a theme, new updates and support you will probably need some sort of customization of the template to suit your needs.
Most of that customization is done via additional CSS but it would be nice if we could have some sort of a child theme option like on WP - It would make life much easier.

One more thing that the WP ecosystem was doing unintentionally was “success stories of the devs” that drove a lot of other developers and designers from different backgrounds to that ecosystem.


@IrisThemes Thank you for joining us and providing some valuable insights! I very much appreciate your contribution to this discussion.

Would you mind if I sent you a DM with an invitation to a chat group we use? And by “we” I mean some of Ghost’s most avid enthusiasts, users and theme developers :blush:

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@DonaldH yes, I would be more than happy to join.


Where we can follow the progress of this initiative?

I’m curious because we are working on custom theme - (based on ease).

We have doubts on:

  • how to open sources it
  • making the theme paid
  • visibility of theme - if it’s valuable for other people
  • best practices in creating themes - we see that ghost is evolving but are there guidelines on that

So far the information found on the points above is a bit chaotic.
Hoping to find a place which answers those questions.

I have several thoughts about this, and I divide this question between the community and the Ghost foundation itself.

At this point, I see Ghost divided between developers and professional users.

Developers hate WordPress because it is complicated, and Ghost is a bliss to use. But they self-host and recommend self-host to new users (more on this later).

Professional users come from Substack, avoiding 10% in commissions while having a better product in Ghost. These users might use Ghost (Pro) or not.

My take on the Ghost Foundation

IMO, Ghost (Pro) is the best way someone can experience Ghost. It’s less trouble with maintenance and configuring Mailgun.

I don’t use Ghost (Pro) because I wanted to use a custom theme, and $25 per month was not an option 1 year ago, and I’m using a 3rd-party managed hosting because of it.

I want to reinforce the point that others make in this post: not allowing custom themes on the Starter plan is shooting yourself in the foot. For example, I’m spending $6 more than if I used Ghost (Pro) only for the privilege of experimenting around as a content creator using Ghost.

Another point, I think the Ghost Foundation could do a lot more to foster a community around Ghost. This forum and the subreddit lack some love for new users. Building a less technical community (I will repeat this point a lot) should be a goal for getting Ghost adopted by more users.

When I discovered Ghost, I was confused by a lot of things. Everything I read felt too technical, the site layout, the language, etc. I can imagine someone less technical quitting before learning how to enable a custom domain on their Ghost (Pro) trial.

I feel that Ghost needs more educational material with non-technical users in mind.

Turning back to the initial point of the discussion, themes need to be more customizable. Ghost themes aren’t that expensive when you consider WordPress themes are a subscription, and on Ghost, it’s a 1-time payment.

Needing to code to change a theme holds Ghost back massively. The homepage customization is also complex for someone that doesn’t know how to code.

My take on the community

There are more non-developers than developers in the world, but most of the Ghost enthusiasts and content creators are developers and talk to other developers. Especially when recommending hosting.

This isn’t a criticism to anyone advising self-hosting. Instead, I’m saying that advice without context isn’t the best thing.

If a person has to learn how to install Ghost and keep it safe, that won’t be the optimal experience. It’s not an optimal experience on WordPress, and it won’t be on Ghost.

Solutions and suggestions

My take is that we need more focus on non-developers and non-technical people. Without these users, Ghost will never hit its potential. Millions of users are underserved by using WordPress, but they don’t know better and aren’t advised better. The monetary incentive for affiliates to push WP products is huge because they can make a sh+t ton of money by recommending hosting, themes, and plugins. But the community cannot do much more against this other than keep supporting the Ghost foundation in development.

For Ghost to thrive, it would need more educational content to attract non-developers to use Ghost. That would lead to more developers creating software as they would have a bigger potential client pool.

Theme customization is optimal from a technical point of view. But it takes the ability of millions of users to get their website customized to their liking.

None of this is a criticism to anyone, it’s my opinion after lurking on this forum for a long time, writing articles, and making videos to help explain Ghost to new users.


Make some similar points in this overlong (:smile: ) piece … Working with the Ghost blogging platform: a review (

Great article, @lorcand! Definitely going to implement this feature into the theme I’m currently building.

The ability to present archive pages for blog entries - not individually listed (this won’t scale with the number of entries I have, over many years), but rather a chronological list of months and a link to a page for each month which shows the list of posts for that month.

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