Self-hosting Ghost as simpler WordPress alternative

Hi everyone,
I’ve done a little bit of web development over the years but am just getting started as a freelancer. One of my first clients is a friend who wants a portfolio/blog site on a custom domain. He’s tried WordPress and found it overly complex (I agree). He’s not interested in monetising it, so is shying away from site builders or anything with a relatively high monthly fee like Wix, Squarespace, or Ghost(Pro).

The thing is, although my friend has some experience with HTML, he doesn’t want to have to deal with it every time he writes a blog post. He wants to be able to go into a backend, choose from 2-3 templates, and just write and upload media in an editor. For example, he does translations of ancient Latin texts as a hobby, so one template he’ll need is like a 2-column page. We would also want simple templates for poetry and travel writing/photos.

In looking for platforms, I keep coming back to Ghost. I’m wondering if I can sign him up for hosting, install Ghost, and create/tweak a theme to have the templates he need. I’ve read Hosting a Ghost publication - Fully-managed PaaS & self-hosted and How hard to self-host? and it looks like there are some good options hosting wise. But how much work am I looking at to create the backend he would want, or is this even possible?

I haven’t used Handlebars, but I’ve used Django and Liquid, and I’m pretty confident I could learn it.

Thanks in advance for any help or tips!

I’d encourage you to sign up for Ghost and try it out. offers a free two week trial, so that’s a fast option for kicking the tires. You could play with layout options without needing to work out the hosting first, that way.

Templates affect content layout, but there are no custom fields. So the two column layout with translation will be a little tricky. I describe one way to do that here: How I built that: Layouts for Ghost (last part of the article), but in brief, I’d use html cards to make an opening and closing Div tag around each pair of language paragraphs, and use css to get them side by side on big screens. (Snippets for opening and closing tags would help.).

Another option would be to italicize one language and use css only to accomplish layout correctly. I think that can be done, but it’s going to be fragile and fussy.

Self hosting here. After a long time with Digital Ocean I switched to PikaPods and never looked back.

Thanks for the tip! That looks easy to use and very reasonably priced. We’ll check it out.

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Hi Cathy,
Thanks heaps for the detailed reply, and sorry it took me a few days to get back to you. I made a Ghost pod on PikaPods and have been playing around with it a bit and reading more articles. Your design with the cards is really clever. But it sounds like most of these solutions will require my friend to modify HTML and/or CSS each time he wants to write a post? There’s no way I can set it up so that he sees multiple columns to type in within the Koenig editor?

Came across this feature suggestion, and it seems like exactly what I’m after, but I’m surprised it only had 2 votes (I gave it a third :joy:)

Thanks again,

I would use snippets, so that he just had to choose “start left column” from the dropdown menu, and I’d put the css into the theme. Not as bad as you describe, but not wydiwyg either.

That would require editing the Ghost core, not theme changes.

Ah, ok I think I understand… So it won’t require him writing HTML/CSS, but it also won’t show up the way it will look on the page in the editor?

We might keep looking then and see if there’s anything that’s a little more ideal. Do you know of any other blog platforms like Ghost that I should check out?