We recently redesigned our website from the ground up for the v4 of www.mäd.com. We moved from the fantastic Webflow platform to Ghost CMS. This move is not in any way due to issues with Webflow, which is great, but to the fact that we like to get hands-on experience with a different CMS each year, and also that the requirements and goals of our website had changed.

Previously, we focused on long dynamic landing pages full of animations and effects, to showcase our design and development prowess to potential customers.

However, over time we’ve changed as a our company, and our service offerings have expanded and moved in a direction where fancy animation and design effects were not the most important thing to showcase — our thinking is.

So, we wanted to create a new minimalist website that had a strong focus on long-form written content that would enable our readers to truly understand our type of thinking here at Mäd. As you’ll see, Ghost is the perfect choice for such an initiative because of the focus it places on content.

If you haven’t previously heard of Ghost, it’s a CMS (Content Management System) that is open-source and bills itself as “fiercely independent, professional publishing platform”.

Ghost the software is open-source, and it’s backed by the Ghost Foundation which is a non-profit that actively manages and develops Ghost, and earns revenue via providing Ghost as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform for companies that want to abstract away their server and IT management — almost always a good idea.

See below seven key reasons why we use Ghost, and why you may also want to consider it for your publication.

1. A Truly Content-Driven CMS.

The beautiful thing about Ghost is that it is really made with publishers and content writers firmly in mind. Unlike Wordpress and other more complex CMS systems, Ghost really only focusses on the writing experience.

The editor itself is on par with the best desktop writing applications in terms of ease-of-use and the pleasure to use, and we have found that this actually makes us want to write and publish more often.

In comparison, the Wordpress editor is really only a place where you go to add the final version of your content that you have written elsewhere, because it’s not a writing experience that enhances your creative or analytic mindset when using it.

2. Simplicity.

Constantly managing and updating the software than runs our publishing platform is low on our list of priorities. We would rather spend time advising clients, researching and writing insightful pieces, and speaking with industry experts.

So Ghost was a natural fit in this regards, because it is extremely simple to install and maintain, and it has an overall philosophy of simplicity which works great when onboarding new team members into the platform.

We've found that simply inviting new users is all that it takes, and that they do not need any additional training on how to use Ghost and navigate the various modules as it is essentially self-explanatory.

3. Speed.

Out-of-the-box, Ghost is very fast. There are essentially no customizations or configurations required to build a fast website with Ghost. Our own website scores extremely well on Google’s PageSpeed Insights, and we didn’t need to spend the time optimizing for that:

Additionally, Ghost can achieve these fast speeds both on the SaaS version or even if you self-host on a simple infrastructure setup like a DigitalOcean droplet for $10/month. Obviously the server size and configuration depends on your expected traffic volumes, but for your typical company publication, this would be absolutely acceptable.

4. Great Out-Of-The-Box Tools.

Ghost has a lot of useful features that are built right into the platform itself. For instance, there is no need to install and maintain separate extensions or plugins to manage the various SEO meta data for each article, as Ghost has that completely built in.

Additionally, it can sometimes be difficult to find the perfect image for an article, and again Ghost shines here by providing a built-in integration with Unsplash which allows you to find the perfect image for you article, and rest assured that you are using it legally.

Another great example is the "Post Cards" supplied by the Ghost editor, which essentially allow writers to seamlessly add rich content to their posts such as images, galleries, Youtube videos, code snippets, and more.

Additionally, you can also browse a significant number of third party integrations to extend the functionality of Ghost to best suit your organizational needs.

5. Front-End Separation

Making a website match your brand is of the utmost importance, and so this means that you want the designers developers that are working on the CMS to have the full freedom to create. Many CMS systems have very strong opinions on how the front-end should look like and what technology it should use.

Ghost uses "handlebars" style themeing, which means all you need to do is replace the text in your front-end with the template tags, and the dynamic content will automatically be shown. For instance, instead of actually writing the authour name and hard-coding the author image, you would just add "{author-name}" and "{author-image}" and that would work with each different article, pulling the right information from the Ghost CMS backend.

6. Flexibility.

The beautiful thing about Ghost is the fact that you are not locked into the CMS with some proprietary file formats. We’ve seen first hand the struggles that our clients have had migrating thousands of articles from systems like Joomla or Drupal to Wordpress, and going with Ghost will greatly minimize any future migration problems.

All your content can be export as a large, beautiful jSON file that can be imported to other systems, and because Ghost can also be set up as a “Headless CMS”, you can even serve your content to other systems purely via the API:

Ghost also has native Mac and Windows applications, and one of our writers even managed to get the web application set up on their iPad! The beautiful thing as well with Ghost is that you're not locked into a particular host or database, so you can choose between multiple supported databases and storage modules.

Additionally, you can completely abstract the hosting and server management to the Ghost Foundation itself, and leverage their global network:

7. Open Source

Because Ghost is open-source, this means that changes can be made to the software and that there are no license fees to be paid. Not only does this lower the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the CMS, but it means that, if required, you and your team can take a proactive approach and actually customize Ghost to your requirements.

The software itself is well-written and highly documented, and our developers have called it “a pleasure to work with.”


Like every software system, Ghost is not perfect. We’ve enjoyed seeing new features like automatic photo gallery layouts, an improved (and beautiful) article editor, and a highly efficient image optimization algorithm put into place.

That said, there are certain areas where Ghost is lacking compared to other CMSes.

  • Media Management. There is no centralized media management module in Ghost. This means that you cannot reuse images across posts or pages without directly linking to the previously uploaded image, and you cannot change image names, or browse all previously uploaded images. Wordpress does a fantastic job at this, and we hope that in the near future Ghost goes and does something similar.
  • Link Management. Ghost’s link management is rudimentary at best. You need to remember to cross-links posts in a relative manner vs an absolutely manner (i.e. /page vs www.example.com.page) as if you update your URL none of your links will update automatically. Additionally, when you are creating a link you cannot search for a particular post or page directly within the editor, so you must visit your own site to find the URL of the post or page that you are looking. This is quite distracting and breaks up the flow of writing.
  • URL Routing. While Ghost does have a very flexibility and powerful URL routing system, it is a shame that custom permalink structures (i.e. the structure of the URLs themselves) cannot be modified on the fly by administrators, but must be changed by the developers themselves.
  • Search. There are ways to enable search via the Ghost API, which can return results as you type, but there is no native Ghost search function which can be easily used. This is a shame, because sophisticated search is something that many larger publications absolutely require, and it can be a deal-breaker for many organizations searching for their next CMS.


We hope that this overview of why we decided to use Ghost for the latest redesign of our website as been helpful in understanding why Ghost may be a good choice for your publication needs.

We have always had the philosophy at Mäd that technology should be an enabler of innovation and organizational agility, not an end in itself. To this effect, we don't believe that the right approach is to find technology and see what can be done with it.

It is far better to start with a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and only then pick and choose the right technology to ensure you can achieve your plan. This same strategy should be applied to finding the right CMS. Deeply understand your requirements and business needs, and then compare CMS options on that basis.

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If you would like to #workwithmad then send us an email at hi@mad.co and let's Make It Happen.™