I’ve been raving about Ghost for a long time. I loved it so much, I specially signed up on Kickstarter to back it. It recently open its doors to the public and I have to say, I have never vacillated so quickly between delight and disappointed in my life.
It was my personal failure for making assumptions and having unrealistic expectations. So it was a great learning exercise. I learned two things:
The Difference Between UX and UI
I’m a sucker for minimal, subtle designs. And early mock ups of Ghost were absolutely gorgeous. It’s simple, functional and embodied a certain Zen-ness.
Fast forward to the launch, and I realized I overlooked a few things or rather made poor assumptions. I had expected that the simple, clean, intuitive interface would equate to a simple, clean, intuitive experience of the product.
But it didn’t.
The installation process is way too difficult for the average person. If you tried installing on local drive, you’d need to use command line. If you installed it to your shared host….well, you wouldn’t be able to. It runs as a node.js app and needs a virtual private server or cloud service.
I felt slightly betrayed by this. The pitch was all about simplicity. It said WordPress, as it is today, is was way too complex, so it was going to fix it. I had imagined 10 year olds or 70 year olds being able to start a blog on such a beautiful platform with a click of a few buttons. But unless that 70 year old had picked up a thing or do about app development, she’s not going to be able to. And that’s when I learned the importance or distinguishing beautiful interface from beautiful experience.
A good experience needs to take into account how the user thinks and behaves. It needs to consider the whole experience — from the moment the user downloads the application, install it, and all the way to how the user posts an entry. A good interface only needs to look cool. This the crucial difference between user interface and experience.
With that said, Ghost will eventually have a hosted platform like WordPress.com, so I hope that would redeem it from its current complexity.
The Importance of Separating Emotion from Data When Investing
I’ve never seen myself as an investor. But I was quite excited to see what it feels to back someone’s idea as an investor. Of course, as a Kickstarter backer, I don’t lose anything from a bad investment except a few weeks’/months’ worth of Starbucks.
Nevertheless, it was interesting to see what my natural tendencies would be, had I been a real VC or angel investor.
My mistake was that I probably let my emotion get the better of me. I was so wowed by the founder’s street cred, the concept and the mock ups, I had not seriously thought about the technology used to build this thing. I assumed a good interface could conquer all.
But now that I have hindsight, this would have been a pretty bad investment from a business perspective because of the technology it’s built upon.
As a self-hosted product, it’s more difficult than WordPress to implement, with significantly less options, this would essentially cut out all use as content management system.
Yet as hosted blogs go, it’s not ready yet and by the time it is, it would not only have to go up against established behemoths like Blogspot, WordPress and Tumblr, it will need to contend with new players like Medium, where it is just as beautiful and even comes with a ready audience.
So where does Ghost fit in this blogging ecosystem? Aside from the tech elite and the design enthusiasts, I’m not quite sure what market Ghost can corner. And while it builds its hosted service, its main rival, Medium, just keeps getting stronger.
But as I’ve said, I’m no investor. I don’t really know. It’s all speculation, partially driven by disappointment at this point.
After all I’ve said, I still want to see Ghost succeed. I’m still hoping that later versions of Ghost would compel me enough to eventually port to a cloud service that’s running Ghost.