If you're looking to create a website for your business, blog, or online portfolio, the easiest option is to use an open-source platform.
Using an open-source platform frees you from having to know HTML or any other coding language. Instead of building your site from scratch, you can design and customize any of the templates already provided by your chosen web builder.
There are a variety of website builders out there, but to help you narrow down the choices, we've put together this comparison of three popular open-source platforms - WordPress, Ghost, and Discourse. We'll start with a quick overview of what each builder offers, then dive into individual comparisons to help you decide which one is best for you.
WordPress is an amazingly easy-to-use open-source platform. It’s built with a clean interface and minimal clutter, allowing you to make a site that’s great for both you and your visitors. And because it’s so flexible, you can try out lots of different styles and designs as you learn how to use the platform.
There are incredible WordPress features that can help boost your blog to the next level. You can give yourself or your readers the ability to add comments or leave social media sharing buttons without any coding knowledge. You can even get extra features like automatic updates or premium themes designed by WordPress experts.
Themes for major brands like New York Times, The Economist, and Time Magazine are available for purchase on the official WordPress website. Most premium themes have been developed by small designers or businesses looking to make a name for themselves with creative design work.
The best place to find premium themes is ThemeForest or Elegant Themes. These marketplaces contain thousands of high-quality WordPress themes from both large companies and small designers.
To start using WordPress for your blog or e-commerce website, all you need is a domain name and web hosting. Once you have these two things, installing WordPress on your website is as simple as clicking a button in your dashboard.
Ghost is an open-source blogging platform. This means that you can freely download the code, modify it as you like, and upload it to your own web server. It also means that you can host your blog on a third-party service provider, such as Ghost.org or Heroku, and use the hosted version of the software.
The Ghost hosted platform is easy to use and has a clean, minimalist design. It’s a popular choice for blogs that don’t need more than the most basic of blogging features.
You can get started right away with Ghost if you know how to find and install WordPress plugins. The learning curve for using Ghost is much steeper than other platforms such as WordPress because there are fewer tools to help you along the way.
Ghost also offers a hosting service called “Ghost Pro” that provides some additional features for bloggers who don’t want to set up their own server or deal with setting up plugins.
Ghost is designed with developers in mind and comes with multiple features out of the box, including:
Ghost’s cheapest plan is the Starter plan. You have to pay $11 per month, paid annually. This might be the best option for you if you’re just getting started.
Discourse is a great open-source platform for hosting public conversations. It is easy to use, has tons of features, and the interface is responsive and user-friendly. Discourse seems to be a great alternative for WordPress.org or Drupal forums, without the headaches you may get from customizing a forum on those platforms.
Discourse allows you to create a community around any topic of interest. All Discourse sites are automatically part of the Discourse network, which means you can easily connect with other communities to share users and ideas. Users in your community can ask questions, start discussions and connect with each other.
The open-source platform is built on Ruby on Rails and includes a wide variety of features that are sometimes lacking in other forum platforms.
The founder wanted to build a forum platform that wasn't just a discussion board but also included:
It's not as easy to use as some forum platforms, but it offers many new features that forums often lack.
Discourse can handle any number of users with its strong analytics and gamification features. The analytics track every move made by users within the forums. Users earn points for participation (upvotes on posts) and can level up their accounts based on those points.
One of the most important things you can do before starting a project is to get to know the open-source platform very, very well. You need to read the documentation, watch tutorials and play with it. Don't worry about making your website look good or work perfectly at first - just get familiar with how it works.
If you want to make sure that an open-source platform is right for your project, it is vital that you spend time during the early stages of the development process researching it, testing it, and getting to know how it works.
Choosing open-source platforms like WordPress, Discourse or Ghost is not a simple matter. It's easy to get caught up in technical considerations, but before you make your decision, it's important to consider whether the software fits the kind of site you're trying to create.