Starting a Blog - Again

Every once in a while I want to share projects, experiments or my experiences and think about creating a blog. To be honest, I've already created a few blogs in the past, but it was difficult to keep posting new entries: Sometimes I wasn't happy with the software, or I didn't find the motivation to customize the theme to my needs and so it wasn't fun to write and present my content at all. But why is it so hard to find the perfect blogging platform?

Every time I decide to create a blog, I have to try many blogging solutions to find the best software fitting my needs. In the past 10 years, I tried to stick with Wordpress, Ghost, Anchor, Grav and even Hugo but nothing worked for me as expected and I lost my motivation due to technical limitations, problems or a difficult usage. Now, a few years since my last try with Anchor, I am going to start again with the ultimate target to chose the one blogging platform fulfilling all my needs. Or at least: A software that works for me most of the time. As you can already see, I found one solution I'm happy with. Let the journey begin...

My Requirements

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I may be a little bit picky, but my ultimate blogging software has to

  • be simple. I don't need much complexity. I just want to blog.
  • be lightweight. I don't want to have too many dependencies.
  • look good by default. I'm not a designer.
  • be built on a tech stack I know. For example, I like to work with Go or PHP, but not Ruby. If bugs or limitations occur I would like to have the possibility to solve it on my own without struggling with a language barrier.
  • have Markdown support. Markdown is awesome and it's easier to write new posts without even leaving the keyboard.
  • be GDPR compliant or at least has to have excellent plugins to assist me.

How to pick the right software?

Since my last attempt to start a blog happened a few years ago, I had to start all over with picking a software. I've picked the following ones to try out as Docker containers: Wordpress, October, Ghost, Hugo, Anchor, and Grav. I already know all of them so I'm curious to find out what's changed since my last experiences with them.

Wordpress

Let's begin with the rock-solid solution to build blogs and even websites with many free themes available. Well, as I set up Wordpress for my girlfriend a few months ago, I can say I don't like it. It is easy to use but in my opinion slow or just clumsy. There are many plugins, but too many for me: I don't want to try out 5 different plugins until I find a solution I can stick with. The settings feel overloaded since the possibilities may be endless, but as I know what I want I don't need it. Sorry, Wordpress. But as it is easy to use for beginners, it is excellent for my girlfriend. :)
wordpress.org

October

This is a classic CMS but I wanted to try it anyway because I liked it in the past. It is still too heavy for a simple blogging platform, but if you want to build an entire site around your blog, this may be a suitable solution for you.
octobercms.com

Ghost

A fast and simple NodeJs blog but the possibilities are limited in the free version and you have to buy most of the themes. Worth a try, but I felt too restricted.
ghost.org

Hugo (and Jekyll)

You almost can't use simpler software than this. The static site generators are extremely fast, but lack of support of fancy user interfaces. I am a developer but still don't want to write all my stuff in a shell or text editor. Maybe good for a static site, but it didn't feel right for a blog.
gohugo.io
jekyllrb.com

Anchor

Anchor fulfills most of my needs, it is simple, lightweight and I can write in Markdown natively. There are a few nice themes available and some basic plugins and it is easily customizable. I like it and used it before, but it didn't win this time since I found a solution without the need for a database...
anchorcms.com

*drumroll*

And the winner is... Grav <3


Grav is an easy blogging solution to start with. You can just download and unzip it on your PHP supporting web server and are ready to go due to the fact that Grav is a flat file CMS and doesn't need any database. The metadata is defined in the head of each page or blog post and each page has its own directory with all the data it needs. You can even select one of the predefined skeletons fitting your needs to kick-start your next project and everything is written in markdown. But you can also use HTML if you want to, for example, to embed a video or iframe for the tracking-cookie opt-out.
getgrav.org

Grav itself has no admin user interface, but they offer a download with the additional admin plugin on their site and it's absolutely worth it. Otherwise, the handling is similar to Hugo or Jekyll and not that easy for beginners.

Themes and Plugins

There are only a few excellent working themes available, some are outdated, but I already love the default theme. Just added a few customizations and plugins and was ready to go. It's pretty easy to edit the TWIG templates. If you need extended functionality, I'm sure you will find a plugin for that. There is a plugin for everything, but since most of them are open source there is no need of 10 plugins for each use case compared to the number of plugins that exist for Wordpress. If you need an additional feature just request it or implement it yourself. There is even a GDPR privacy setup plugin available handling the cookie consent and blocking external sources.

And I have to mention: The documentation of the project is awesome. You can do so many things with Grav if you want to, you will be surprised.

And now?

Wow.

  • I've found software I am very happy with,
  • the blog is set up
  • and the first post is written.

In the future, I want to share my home automation projects and other technical stuff with you. Interested? This is the perfect moment to subscribe to my RSS-Feed. <3

blogging Grav Wordpress Flat File CMS

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