It Took Me a Decade to Find the Perfect Personal Website Stack — Ghost+Fathom

The first post on this personal blog dates back to December 2012. It’s been more than a decade! As with many others, I’ve always struggled with how to setup my personal website. It is just too enticing to build it “from scratch”, which usually means using a static site generator. As such, my website has been powered by Hugo at some point, and before that by Jekyll. I’ve dabbled with a few other things as well, including building it entirely from scratch in raw HTML/CSS. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t writing a lot of blog posts back then as I was too busy with getting the website to work properly across a myriad of devices and browser technologies.

In 2019, I just gave all of this up and adopted Ghost. And to embarrass myself further, I’m not even self hosting it from a Raspberry Pi or a home server. I actually pay Ghost roughly 200 euros per year for them to manage everything for me! I’ve been a happy customer for four years, which is much longer than any previous iteration of my personal website ever lasted.

How does Ghost work? And is it actually “perfect”?

When it comes to writing new blog posts, it’s really straightforward. I just write them in Notion, and then I copy-paste them into the Ghost editor and hit “Publish”. I tried using the native editor a few times, and it is pretty decent, but Notion’s is simply better (plus, Notion works on mobile which is a plus for me).

I have a custom theme which is a fork of one of their default themes, and every now and then I have to hack some CSS together to fix some bugs. For some reason, the theme can only be compiled with an ancient version of npm and the code is really messy, so at some point I won’t be able to maintain it any longer. Moreover, images don’t work very well with my theme, so I might have a look at Ghost’s marketplace soon to purchase a better theme.

Besides this, I don’t have many other interactions with Ghost’s admin panel. I also use it to edit my non-blog pages, and that’s about it!

And what about analytics?

For many years, I was using Google Analytics to track how many people visited my website over time, as well as where they were coming from. The UI/UX for the Google Analytics dashboard is really not very good, and I definitely have some concerns over its privacy implications. So, I recently decided to adopt a proper analytics service called “Fathom”.

I first heard about Fathom because they’re a SingleStoreDB customer, but I’ve been following Jack Ellis (co-founder & CTO of Fathom) on Twitter for a while now too. From reading his tweets over time, it seemed to me like he’s obsessed with his customers and building a great product for them. But when I actually tried Fathom for the first time, I was mesmerized — the onboarding experience is phenomenal. The time it took from signing up to having access to its dashboard with a full import of my Google Analytics history was under 8 minutes.

The UI/UX is really nice, and exploring all the data is very easy. Furthermore, they’re extremely privacy-focused, and no cookies are used at all! Here's a sneak peek into the Fathom dashboard UI:

My view of the Fathom dashboard

So, all in all, I’m paying almost 400 euros per year to host a personal blog (.com domain + Fathom + Ghost). That’s quite a lot, but I see it as an incentive to get me to write my more, so it’s all good.

Feel free to reach out on Twitter!