Giving Up the Ghost: Using Hugo for Blogging

Earlier this year, I started using Ghost for my blog. After a few months, I’ve decided to make another change in platform, this time to Hugo.

Why Switch?

I have a handful of reasons for migrating away from Ghost.

Hiding Markdown

The biggest reason I had to distance myself from Ghost was that they have started making Markdown harder to use.

Typically, I write my posts in Markdown using Caret, sync them in iCloud Drive, and then paste them into the Ghost editor.

Why don’t I use the built-in editor? Portability, mainly. Having dealt with a migration from Jekyll to Ghost, I found that keeping my posts in a more-or-less universal format was nice. I also just enjoy writing prose using Markdown.

When I started using Ghost, the editor just used Markdown, which made things simple. The Ghost 2.0 update introduced a new editor that mimics Slack’s annoying post editor1, and banished Markdown to a “dynamic card” menu a few clicks away. This change has me wondering how long it’ll be until Ghost kills off Markdown support entirely.

Questionable Practices for Self-Hosted Instances

Ghost primarily sells their managed blog instances, with a self-hosting option provided as what feels like a happy accident stemming from Ghost being open source.

Ghost’s only officially-supported configuration has you install Node through the Nodesource APT repository (meh), followed by globally installing Ghost-CLI with sudo npm (bleh). NPM is not an amazing piece of software in my experience, and I’d rather not run it with sudo if I can help it. They’ve already demonstrated once what can happen.

The Catalyst for Leaving

I had been planning to leave Ghost for a little while, I just didn’t feel the need to rush it. Then I started having random 502 errors after a Ghost update.

The behavior was pretty strange:

  • My reverse proxy VM would start having issues connecting to the Ghost VM (hosted on the same physical machine)
  • I’d SSH into the Ghost VM and do literally nothing else
  • Suddenly the reverse proxy could connect again

I didn’t feel like restoring a backup of the Ghost VM, nor did I wish to spend a lot of effort debugging the issue. Instead, I decided that it was as good a time as any to just change over to another platform.

Why Hugo?

I wanted to go back to using a static site generator, and I wanted to try out Netlify for hosting it.

I decided I wanted a static site generator that was available as a standalone binary, which ruled out the Ruby gem hell of Jekyll, and the node_modules hell of Gatsby, Next, etc. (besides, I deal with JavaScript enough at my job).

I looked around to see what some other people were using, and found that 1Password recently starting using Hugo, and that Quad (who I mentioned in my article about Ghost) recently switched from Ghost to Hugo. (I promise I’m not just trying to copy Quad!)

I liked what I saw about Hugo: I can get it as a standalone binary via Homebrew, it works well with Netlify, it has good support for syntax highlighting, and I like how they handle content organization with things like taxonomies.

I decided to give it a whirl.


The “how” of the migration was actually rather simple. I used this tool to deal with my older posts and grabbed whatever static assets I needed from Ghost. I configured Hugo to have permalinks similar to Ghost to avoid dealing with redirects for now. I chose a theme that I liked.

Then I just had to set up Netlify. I built the site locally and manually deployed it to Netlify just to make sure it worked. It did, so I pointed CNAME record over to Netlify, let it set up Let’s Encrypt automatically, configured a redirect for the site, and set up automatic deployment from GitHub. It was all straightforward and works very well.

Overall I’m very happy with Hugo and Netlify for my blog. It should be able to handle more traffic than the puny VM I had it on before (not that I anticipate my blog will ever see much traffic). It’s more pleasant to work with than Ghost or Jekyll. It’s all in Git again, so I can drop the iCloud Drive portion of my workflow.

I hope to stay on Hugo for the foreseeable future, since jumping between blogging platforms is not how I typically like to spend my weekend. At some point I might even get around to updating my main website with Hugo and Netlify, too…

  1. Seriously Slack, just let me write Markdown in posts ↩︎

See also