WordPress.com is often confused with WordPress.org. In fact, the two are different but related platforms. WordPress.org is a free, open-source content management system that powers more than one-third of the world’s websites. WordPress.com is a commercial website builder that runs WordPress (the content management system) behind the scenes.
WordPress.com can make the process of launching a new WordPress website significantly easier for first-time creators. It offers a drag-and-drop editing interface, help with SEO, and support for everything from blogging to eCommerce. In fact, WordPress.com is one of the best website builders for bloggers. However, this platform can be prohibitively expensive for setting up a business website.
So, is WordPress.com right for you? In our WordPress.com review, we’ll take a closer look at everything this builder has to offer.
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Plans and pricing
WordPress.com offers five subscription tiers including a free plan. The Free tier is a great option for getting a basic portfolio site or blog up and running, but you’re limited to 3 GB of storage and you cannot connect your own domain. A Personal plan costs $4 per month and offers a free domain for one year, an ad-free experience, 6 GB of storage, and access to technical support.
The Premium plan costs $8 per month and adds some critical business features. You get access to premium templates, 13 GB of storage, Google Analytics integration for your website, PayPal payments, and integration with WordAds for generating revenue from blog posts.
Online stores will need either a Business plan for $25 per month or an eCommerce plan for $45 per month. You get 200 GB of storage, JetPack SEO integration, automated backups, and the ability to install WordPress plugins and use custom templates. The eCommerce plan also adds shipping integrations and marketing tools. Notably, the eCommerce plan is significantly more expensive than similar eCommerce plans from competitors like Wix, Weebly, and GoDaddy, all of which offer unlimited storage options.
The vast majority of users, and particularly free users, will turn to WordPress.com for its blogging abilities. WordPress.com adopts the WordPress blogging editor, which offers a straightforward interface and an uncluttered writing space. The experience is similar to using Microsoft Word Online, except that you can also drag and drop headings, images, and other content around the page.
Even better, you have a tremendous amount of control over the ancillary details of your posts. You can require users to provide an email address in order to comment, for example, or turn on a spam filter that automatically prevents bots from gunking up your post replies. You can also opt to moderate all comments, which is particularly helpful for writing about controversial subjects.
Business and eCommerce users get access to JetPack Premium features, which include SEO monitoring for every post. If you’re over- or underutilizing keywords in your writing, the software will let you know. JetPack will also help you write SEO-friendly meta descriptions and add tags to your content to help you get found. You can also integrate your blog with WordAds, which displays targeted ads on your blog to generate revenue based on your monthly viewership.
Interestingly, WordPress.com also offers tight integration between your website and Google. WordPress.com uses Google Analytics to track visitor stats, but it also coordinates with Google’s G Suite products. For example, you can write blog posts in Google Docs and then save them as a blog post draft within your WordPress.com account from inside Docs. You can also access images and videos from Google Photos for your pages and posts. This can end up saving you a lot of time on uploads if you already sync your image library with Google.
The big catch to WordPress.com is that Free, Personal, and Premium users don’t get access to these tools or to any plugins at all. There are tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress that enable you to customize your website, accept payments, and run a complex online shopping operation. While Business and eCommerce subscribers can install plugins, the selection is limited to several hundred extensions supported by WordPress.com. Businesses users in particular will want to make sure that their most important tools can be integrated with WordPress.com before creating a website with this platform.
Interface and in use
The process of creating a new WordPress.com account starts with choosing a theme. There are around 90 of these available for Free and Personal users, but higher-tier subscribers get access to around 100 more premium templates. Business and eCommerce users can also import their own third-party theme from a WordPress theme marketplace.
From there, you’re taken to the WordPress.com page editor. You can drag and drop content elements anywhere on the page as long as it’s within your theme’s pre-defined layout. Some templates have unique content placements, but most just use a standard grid for displaying content elements. The elements available aren’t particularly noteworthy, but all the basics are available including images, videos, maps, block quotes, and more.
The process of customizing your site’s content and template is straightforward, if a little clunky. Many of the customization options are contained in sidebar menus rather than on the elements themselves, which means there’s a lot of back and forth across the page. For better or worse, nearly all theme customizations are global. This makes the design process quick, but it also limits your ability to create unique content elements within your site.
WordPress.com offers 24/7 email and live chat support for all paid users. Business and eCommerce users take priority, but we found that email responses generally arrived within one day even without priority support.
The platform also has an online knowledgebase for users, although it isn’t easy to navigate. The articles are arranged according to whether or not you have an account rather than according to subject matter. Still, many of the articles are accompanied by video guides to make them more helpful. WordPress.com also has its own community support forum, which Free users have access to, that is separate from the massive WordPress.org forum.
One of the biggest advantages of using WordPress.com over running your own WordPress.org website is that security is handled for you. WordPress.com automatically updates the WordPress software underpinning your account to eliminate known vulnerabilities, and the templates are all updated simultaneously so that you don’t have to worry about your site breaking.
Notably, only Business and eCommerce users get access to automatic backups with WordPress.com. WordPress.com claims that all users’ sites are backed up regardless of your plan tier. However, it’s not clear how often these backups are made or users are not given access to the backup files.
One additional thing that we liked about WordPress.com is that it supports two-factor authentication for your login. This is something we haven’t seen implemented by many other website builders, even for eCommerce sites.
WordPress.com’s most significant competition is from WordPress.org. WordPress the content management system is free and most web hosts offer one-click installers to make using it easier.
While WordPress doesn’t come with a drag-and-drop editor like WordPress.com does, you can very easily download free design software like Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Page Builder. Critically, when you use WordPress instead of WordPress.com, there are no limits on how many plugins you can install or what templates you can use. The main reason to choose WordPress.com is that maintaining your site is easier. You don’t have to worry about software updates or incompatible plugins, for example.
If you want a fully-featured website builder, you might also consider Wix or Weebly. Both of these platforms are cheaper than WordPress.com for business and eCommerce websites. They also offer a much wider range of capabilities, including email marketing campaigns, advanced visitor analytics, and more flexible design tools.
WordPress.com is an excellent choice for blogging websites since the website builder offers a user-friendly wrapper around WordPress’s famed blogging interface. The Free and Personal plans at WordPress.com are affordable while still offering all of the features you need to run a basic blog.
However, we wouldn’t recommend WordPress.com for most other types of websites, and especially online stores. The Business and eCommerce plans in particular are prohibitively expensive, and many of the features you are paying for are available for free with WordPress. Setting up a hosted WordPress site is fast and inexpensive, making it a better choice for most users than WordPress.com.