In this WordPress.com review, I’m going to talk about this powerful website builder, and help you decide whether this is the right choice for your blog or a business website.
When people talk about WordPress, they think about one of the two things – either the highly customizable, somewhat scary, and very powerful WordPress CMS, or WordPzress.com – a quick, and easy to use website builder that makes the whole WordPress thing simple even for complete beginners.
I’m going to talk about the second one here.
WordPress.com includes all the great things about WordPress, such as plenty of templates and brilliant customizability. On top of that, it also gives you an included website hosting service – therefore, turning into an all-in-one package for bloggers, and small business owners looking to build a functional website.
The whole WordPress.com experience is all about straightforward tools for building a website, including an editing interface that allows you to add many different types of content. WordPress.com also gives you access to a variety of themes and plugins so you can further customize your website.
That said, WordPress.com isn’t a drag-and-drop editor in the vein of Wix, Squarespace, or other modern website designers. The website building tools are somewhat clunky and limited in scope. So, site owners looking to create a complex website may find themselves frustrated by WordPress.com
Instead, WordPress really shines for bloggers. Every WordPress.com site comes with a ready-to-go blog page. The post editor is straightforward and works just like a desktop document editor. Plus, WordPress.com makes it simple to categorize your work and for readers to like, comment on, and share the blog posts.
There are some eCommerce features available as well – but they’re pretty expensive and the customization options don’t shine too bright either.
Long story short – WordPress.com is an excellent choice for bloggers looking to make a great website. The integrated blogging tools are second to none. However, site owners looking for advanced site customization or to set up an online store will likely want to look elsewhere.
And if you’re looking for long story….long – keep on reading this WordPress.com review. I purchased the plan and tried it out. Here’s how it all went down.
WordPress.com plans start for free, although you cannot use your own domain name. If you want that, plans start at $4 per month, with premium plans available for $8 or $25 per month. An online store through WordPress.com requires an eCommerce plan, which costs $45 per month.
For most bloggers, the Personal ($4) plan will be the most interesting option. A free domain and basic blogging tools are enough for most situations. However, it’s still pretty limited in terms of templates, storage space, and customization tools.
For an $8 Premium plan, you get 13 GB of storage space, premium themes, and access to all of WordPress.com’s website building tools. More important for many bloggers, you can monetize your site through ads and install a PayPal button to sell basic products. Premium plans also add advanced social media management tools for publicizing your blog.
Business plans, for $25 per month, offer unlimited storage and include SEO tools as well as Google Analytics integration to your site. On top of that, this plan also allows you to download all of the thousands available WordPress plugins.
Finally, an eCommerce plan priced at $45 per month is designed for operating online stores. You get the ability to accept payments directly through your website and to sell an unlimited number of products and services. You also get themes and marketing tools designed specifically around eCommerce.
However, the Business and eCommerce plans are extremely pricey compared to what most other popular website builders charge for similar services. If you are looking specifically to establish an online store rather than a blog, this high pricing makes WordPress.com rather unappealing.
During this WordPress.com review, I found the platform to be a mixed bag when it comes to ease of use. The website editor and customization features are relatively limited and even slightly complicated compared to other popular website builders. However, WordPress.com offers one of the best and most intuitive blogging platforms available.
Getting your site up and running with WordPress.com is simple. You create an account and right after you’re done, the setup wizard simply asks what the goal of your website is and what type of industry you’re working in.
Then, it presents you with a ready to go site. There’s no need to pick a template or any custom pages at this point.
There’s no need to enter your credit card details, too – everything can and should be done after you already have your customized website. Speaking of which…
Once your site is there, you have a reasonable degree of flexibility to customize it. WordPress.com’s site editor is intuitive and offers a wide range of customization options without feeling overwhelming.
You can start out by changing the default template that WordPress.com gave you. We’ll talk more about templates below, but there are hundreds of aesthetically pleasing and modern-looking choices. You can also change themes at any time without losing style options you’ve already set.
Site-wide settings that modify your template are easily accessed from the ‘Customization’ menu in your dashboard. You don’t have a lot of options here – mostly just things such as your logo, website name, and menu options. For additional changes, there’s a CSS editor. But that requires knowledge of how to code.
When it comes to creating custom content on individual pages, you have a lot more freedom. There is a huge diversity of content blocks available, including creative blocks like block quotes, media players, and embed frames. Text and images can also be changed on a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor, making it a pretty simple option for beginners.
What I found less than intuitive about the WordPress.com editor is that some content can be dragged and dropped and other content must be moved manually. For example, you can drag text boxes around, but combined media and text blocks have arrow buttons to move them up and down on the page.
This also felt a little restrictive since the overall structure of your page is controlled entirely by your template.
Here’s an example: you can’t have two columns on one page and three columns on another, for example. Other WordPress.com reviews also note that changing the layout of your pages is challenging at best.
On the whole, WordPress.com’s editor was easy to use and doesn’t require much of a learning curve. The options for styling content blocks and restructuring your page are somewhat limited, but this is partially overcome by the availability of so many different template options.
Blogging is WordPress.com’s bread and butter and the focus of many WordPress.com reviews. So, it’s well worth taking some time to explore the blog features of this platform.
Every WordPress.com site comes with a blog built in. All you have to do to start sharing content is click the ‘Add New Post’ button in the ‘Posts’ section of the dashboard.
From there, the post editor is extremely intuitive. At its most basic, it functions like any word processor. You can just type and paragraphs will automatically be separated into text content blocks. All basic formatting options, including bolding, font controls, and more, are available directly over the text block you’re working on at the moment.
And believe me – it’s good. So good, that I’m actually typing this very sentence using this editor.
Another good thing about this editor is that it essentially behaves just like the page editor. So when you learn to edit your site – you already have all the basics to do some creative blogging.
You’ll find the same plus symbol appearing in between paragraphs, giving you the option to add images, multimedia, embeds, or any other type of content block you could add to a website page. That makes it extremely simple to create rich, aesthetically pleasing blog posts.
When the time comes to publish your blog, the menu on the side of the editor has everything you need. You can add tags and categorize posts, as well as add a featured image and excerpt for SEO. Clicking the simple ‘Publish’ button is all it takes to share your content with the world.
The blog page of the dashboard allows you to keep track of all your published and drafted blogs. While you can search for old posts, there is no way to easily sort posts based on the tags and categories you’ve created. That’s a surprising feature to find missing, although it won’t affect most bloggers.
WordPress.com offers dozens of free templates, many of which set the bar for stylish design. In addition, Premium and Business plan users get access to additional high-end templates. However, most WordPress.com templates are tailored to blogs and there are relatively few options for eCommerce sites.
At first glance, WordPress.com’s selection of templates is lackluster compared to other website builders. There are just over 100 templates available for free when a builder such as Wix offers a few times more.
However, there’s something to be said about the quality of WordPress.com’s templates. The free templates are stylish and feature modern designs. You can even set the mood of your site by choosing from themes based on their aesthetic categorization (for example, ‘Bright’ or ‘Colorful’).
Notably, the vast majority of free WordPress.com templates are centered around blog content. These templates automatically highlight the most recent blog posts on your homepage and encourage users to navigate to your blog at every turn. These templates are great if your website is primarily a blog, but they can fall short for static websites.
WordPress.com also offers around 180 premium themes. These are included with Premium and Business plans, but free and Personal plan users will need to pay for them.
While you’re likely to find a theme you like in the premium category, there’s nothing that particularly differentiates them from the available free themes. There’s just more to choose from.
Where WordPress.com really falls short on themes is for eCommerce sites. Selection is extremely limited and you can’t preview these themes before signing up for an eCommerce plan. Moreover, while it’s advantageous to use an eCommerce theme if you have an online store, the design of these themes is not as nice as for standard WordPress.com themes.
WordPress.com offers many tools for business, including the ability to add an online store and track visitors with Google Analytics. However, these tools are expensive and limited in scope compared to other website builders. Thus, WordPress.com is generally best for businesses that focus on monetizing blog content.
Only Premium plan (and up) users have the ability to sell products and services on their websites. For those plans, you can add simple payment buttons that allow you to accept payments through PayPal or another payment provider.
Note that adding these buttons requires some coding, although it’s not particularly difficult using WordPress.com’s guides.
If you upgrade to an eCommerce plan, you can establish a full-fledged online store using WooCommerce. Now – I used WooCommerce myself for a while, and if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that getting used to it will take some time. For instance, adding products on the back end is somewhat clunky, and it’s not exactly offering a dazzling user interface. If anything, it’s pretty basic and might not appeal to regular users.
Considering the price of WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan, we were disappointed that there wasn’t more to it than WooCommerce. This plugin is free for WordPress.org users and, while it’s the standard for WordPress websites, it’s not the best eCommerce platform for regular users.
Bloggers are the primary beneficiaries of WordPress.com, so it only makes sense that the platform offers the WordAds advertising program. WordAds is automatically available if you have a Premium, Business, or eCommerce plan. For free and Personal plans, you’ll need to pass WordPress.com’s visitor traffic requirements to gain access to WordAds.
Note that WordPress.com does allow third-party advertisement programs like Google AdSense, BuySellAds, and Lijit. However, you can only use these on your site if you have a Business or eCommerce plan.
Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over ads when using WordAds. If you turn on WordAds, every post on your site will have an ad at the bottom of the page. In addition, you don’t get to decide what ads run on your site or whether they match your site’s content.
Still, this lack of control does take the work out of hosting ads on your site. You don’t need to make any changes to your site in order to run ads and there’s no need to worry about customizing ad content. If you want to opt out of WordAds, you can turn it off at any time from your site’s Dashboard.
SEO is one of the strong suits of WordPress.com. The platform takes care of the majority of SEO in the background, since all of WordPress.com’s themes are designed to be accessible for search engines. That means that you don’t have to do anything special in order for your website or blog to be found.
Business and eCommerce plan users get access to additional SEO controls, which can be used to control what information about your website appears in search results. In particular, WordPress.com gives you access to the Yoast plugin to monitor content SEO optimization in your blog posts.
The analytics tools provided with every WordPress.com website are very capable. In my opinion, they represent one of the platform’s strongest features.
The main analytics screen gives you a high-level overview of visitors to your website. You can monitor website views, visitors, likes, and comments over a variety of timescales. Better yet, the analytics dashboard gives you the ability to dig into these same statistics for any page or blog post on your website.
We liked the ‘Insights’ page of the analytics dashboard even more. Here, you could draw correlations between visitors and posts to your blog, as well as see what days and times people are looking at your website. While it would be nice to have information about who is visiting your site right inside the WordPress.com analytics suite, you’ll need to integrate a Google Analytics account to get this information.
WordPress.com stands out for performance thanks to its highly optimized templates and capable servers. Page loading speeds are fast and WordPress.com websites remain responsive even when bombarded with web traffic.
For this WordPress.com review, I built a test website and ran it through GTMetrix (to see website optimization) and LoadImpact (to check server capabilities) tests.
The same website demonstrated extremely consistent responsiveness in a load test with LoadImpact. Even with 50 users on the server, the response time remained both low and stable.
WordPress.com offers excellent performance, ensuring that your website won’t slow down when a blog post goes viral. The platform’s servers are highly responsive under load and all WordPress.com templates are streamlined for fast loading.
WordPress.com is a versatile website builder that bloggers will absolutely love. It strikes a good balance between ease of use and customization, there are plenty of great analytics and SEO tools, too. And the text editor is so good, it’s actually my own personal choice for writing and publishing content.
While doing this WordPress.com review, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the visual side of this builder. But actually, it’s doing a very solid job here. There are a lot of beautiful themes coupled with an intuitive content editor.
However, advanced web designers may run into trouble since page structures are entirely dependent on your theme and site-wide settings are somewhat restrictive.
Speaking of restrictive – business owners and online retailers may find WordPress.com quite limiting. Accessing the WooCommerce and Yoast SEO plugins requires expensive plans that can be cost-prohibitive for many business owners.
out of 10
For people looking to sell online, and build a serious business presence, this platform might be just a little bit too restrictive and expensive. But if you're a wordsmith looking for a place to call home and make a bit of money - definitely give WordPress.com a try. It might just be what you're looking for.
WordPress.com offers incredible features for blogging and is an all-around strong website builder. However, if you’re looking for superior website customization and features for business owners – have a look. These options might be just what you’re looking for.
Wix is easily the website builder of choice for static websites and online stores in comparison to WordPress.com. Wix offers several hundred free themes and the level of customization allowed within the Wix editor is unparalleled. Plus, Wix offers integrated eCommerce features for a fraction of the cost of WordPress.com.
That said, Wix’s support for blogs doesn’t come close to WordPress.com. While you can make a blog in Wix, it takes significantly more work to get it up and running. Plus, Wix themes aren’t designed around blog content in the same way that WordPress.com themes are. It’s a cheaper, feature-packed, failproof solution that many (including myself!) will love.
Squarespace not only gives WordPress.com a run for its money when it comes to template design. It pretty much dominates the niche.
While WordPress.com’s templates are of high quality, they lack the pop and attention-grabbing flair of Squarespace templates. For that reason, many artists and designers tend to prefer Squarespace’s options.
In addition, Squarespace allows designers more leeway to edit template attributes. For example, you can change the way that content blocks look and the organization of individual pages without having to change templates.
BoldGrid is a drag-and-drop editor that, like WordPress.com, is built on top of the WordPress.org content management system. The difference is – it’s cheaper, and it allows you to choose a third-party provider to host your website in.
Much more a learning curve towards fully mastering WordPress.org, and much less a website builder of its own, BoldGrid is a great middle option between WordPress.com and a full-blown CMS. Looking for a business-grade upgrade over WordPress.com? Here it is, right here.