WordPress.com Review (2019): For Hobbyist Bloggers and Those Who Want to Practice WordPress

WordPress.com is one of the most popular content management system choices in the world. Not only is WordPress responsible for the world's leading CMS, but it's also one of the best-known web hosting companies too.

Everywhere you go, it seems like eCommerce brands and online businesses are talking about WordPress hosting, building their WordPress website, or downloading WordPress plugins.

Today, we're going to be focusing specifically on WordPress.com, the tool intended to give you everything you need for website design, from a form-based website builder to a range of SEO tools.

Before we jump into our WordPress review and give you everything that you need to know about this web hosting platform, it's important to get a few basic facts out of the way. For instance, you'll need to know that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two completely different things.

Let's quickly run through the difference between both WordPress hosting solutions, so you don't get confused during this review.

WordPress.com Pros and Cons

👍 Pros:

  • Very easy to set up and manage for non-coders
  • Excellent free plans available
  • A fantastic blogging platform for small businesses and bloggers
  • Huge range of WordPress plugins and add-ons available
  • Access to plenty of customer support
  • Great for Google analytics and Google search

👎 Cons:

  • Limited functionality for business sites
  • Premium plans are quite expensive
  • Customization options can be overwhelming
  • Very complex admin features

What's the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

So, what's the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

This is the big question that always comes up when talking about WordPress. For some reason they decided to give the two systems really similar names, but they are fairly different.

To start, WordPress.com is more for hobbyists and beginners, or those who don't feel like paying any money for their website. WordPress.org, on the other hand, is a free software, but costs come into play with things like hosting, themes and domains names.

👉 Here are the basic differences:

WordPress.com

  • Limited support for themes
  • No plugins are allowed
  • Completely free
  • Minimal options for monetization
  • No maintenance required
  • You get traffic from the WordPress.com network

WordPress.org

  • Complete theme support
  • Plugins are allowed
  • Expenses for hosting, themes, premium plugins and domains
  • Tons of options for monetization
  • A decent amount of maintenance required
  • You must build your own traffic

How Many Sites Have Been Made With This Website Builder?

The numbers don't specify how many sites are built with WordPress.com and WordPress.org separately, but over 74 million websites are currently using the overall WordPress platform. This makes it the most popular content management system in the world, beating out the likes of Magento, Wix, Weebly and more.

WordPress.com at a Glance

If you're a blogging enthusiast, an eCommerce website owner, or just someone getting started with website building for the first time, WordPress.com is a great choice. With excellent customer support, a user-friendly website builder, and plenty of SEO tools to browse through, you're sure to fall in love with this content management system.

The biggest benefits of building a WordPress site often come down to how cost-effective it is. As you'll see in this WordPress review, the company gives you everything you need to work with HTML, impress Google, and delight your customers, without costing a fortune. You can build and publish your blog with the free plan, or you can upgrade to the premium plan if you need more advanced features for your business website.

As a blogging platform, WordPress.com is pretty much second-to-none, particularly when you consider all the WordPress plugins available to make your front-end more appealing. However, before you use WordPress, it's worth noting that it's not the right option for everyone. Some people will need the complexity and intricacies that come with WordPress.org instead.

Though WordPress powers around 30% of the internet at this point – it isn't perfect. There's a reason why the solution is open source, so you can implement as many add-ons as you need to enhance your website. Additionally, it's also worth noting that WordPress.com is generally better suited to blogging than other forms of the website. For instance, you might need a more complex range of WordPress plugins if you want to build a membership or news site.

WordPress.com Review: Features

The main benefit of going with WordPress.com is that you can create a beautiful website for free. The builder is completely hosted, so you don't have to go out and get your own host and domain name. Starting a blog is as easy as it gets. In fact, WordPress.com was built on the idea that everyone using it is going to blog at some point. Keep in mind that you do have the option to implement your own domain name, but you'll have to find that from a third party.

When constructing your site you'll notice that a few built-in plugins are provided for things like SEO and social media. These are setup so that you don't have to go out and install your own plugins. They try to give you all the essentials, considering you don't have access to the plugin store, and the theme selection is somewhat limited.

Other than that, WordPress.com works well from the backend. It has a bit of a learning curve, but making a page or post is completed within a few clicks. Besides being free, a primary reason people go with WordPress.com is because you gain access to the WordPress network, so people are able to discover your site without you putting in any work.

You'll notice during this WordPress review that there are a lot of different components to this content management system. For instance, you'll have access to plenty of great WordPress themes that you can use to design your site from scratch, or you can check out your customization options by using free themes from third-party developers. There's also plenty of WordPress plugins available too, so you can add things like timers and pop-ups to your front-end, as well as social media buttons, and video tutorials.

The more you use WordPress, the more you'll discover that there's a lot more to this tool than just website design.

👉 Some of the features you get with WordPress.com include:

  • Free plans and premium plans
  • Contact forms and a complete blogging platform
  • A custom domain and domain name
  • Website building tools like a form-based website builder
  • SEO tools for better management of your Google position
  • WordPress plugins and add-ons
  • Web hosting
  • User-friendly business website features
  • Expert customer support

WordPress.com Review: Pricing

As we've stated before, WordPress.com is completely free. You don't have to pay a dime unless you plan on bringing in your own domain name. However, you do have the option to go with one of the premium plans. Personally, I feel like you're better off choosing the self-hosted WordPress.org if you're thinking about paying money, but let's go over what the premium plans have to offer.

  • Free – For no charge you get unlimited pages and blog posts, a custom WordPress address, hundreds of free themes, 3GB of space and community support.
  • Premium – For $8.25 per month you receive unlimited pages and blog posts, your own custom domain, free themes, advanced design customization, 13GB of space, no ads, and email and live chat support.
  • Business – For $24.92 per month you get everything from the premium plan, a selection of over 50 premium themes, unlimited space and Google Analytics.

Each plan has a short free trial, or you could just test out the free plan for as long as you want.

Just keep in mind that the premium plans from WordPress.com obviously come with a lot more functionality than you're going to get from the free plans. If you're a small business, you can probably get away with the basics for your WordPress websites. However, if you want to build an eCommerce site with lots of payment options and integration with things like PayPal, and Square Space, then you might need to pay a little more.

The higher-tier plans from WordPress.com are ideal if you want to track your performance online with Google analytics and search engine insights.

WordPress.com Review: Ease of Use

WordPress.com probably isn't what you think of when you hear WordPress. When most people think of WordPress, they imagine the open-source content management system (CMS) and blogging platform that comes with access to various features to enhance your website building experience. There's a lot of differences between the experience you get on WordPress.com and the one you get from WordPress.org.

For instance, when it comes to user-friendly functionality, the interface on WordPress.com is very different. This tool is a lot more similar to what you would expect from a standard website building tool.

wordpress.com backend

As mentioned above, WordPress.com has a bit of a learning curve. However, compared to WordPress.org, it's much easier to pickup. Making a new blog post or page is simple and intuitive. The tabs on the left hand side include options for your blog, categories, tags, featured images, sharing and more. The general dashboard provides personalization for themes and menus, along with tools for sharing, domains and settings.

Overall, the functionality is limited, but it has one of the cleanest interfaces for people who are simply looking to get their thoughts onto the internet. That's exactly why we recommend it for hobby bloggers.

One major downside of WordPress.com, is that it's not a traditional WYSIWYG drag-and-drop website builder. Instead, the interface is designed to use forms to separate the content of the pages from the design process. Although some people prefer this form of website building, most find that a drag-and-drop website builder is much easier to use.

When it comes to creating the perfect blogging platform for your website, a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, gives you the freedom to see exactly what you're changing in your pages as you go. This means that you know where to move your contact form, social media buttons, and other features without having to know a lot of coding.

Compared to WordPress.org, it feels as though this content management system hasn't been built with user-friendly experiences in mind. With WordPress.com, the hosting provider seems to have just built extra functionality on top of WordPress.org as an afterthought. There's no preview, you just have to guess and test as you go. Because of this, many people think that Squarespace, Weebly, and even Wix are better choices.

WordPress.com Review: Themes and Templates

wordpress_themes

The templates are not close to any of the premium solutions you'd find through WordPress.org. However, many of them are built primarily for blogging, and they have clean and modern interfaces for a decent amount of customization.

I like the Business plan because you still have access to some premium themes. However, WordPress.org still crushes it considering so many premium theme dealers have options for you to choose from.

On the plus side, all of the WordPress themes you have access to on WordPress.com are responsive. However, when you start editing them, it's difficult to tell the difference between what's part of the theme and what's part of the content, because you're working with HTML and short-codes rather than a WYSIWYG editor.

Additionally, there's a lot to work through when it comes to customization options, to the point where you may feel overwhelmed if you're not used to using a website builder. For instance, in the menus portion of the editor, you can swap menus, choose different menus for specific locations, and more. The level of abstraction in the tool is just too much to handle for someone looking for a user-friendly experience like the ones you get from Wix or Weebly.

The upside to the confusion of the WordPress theme interface is that you do have a wider range of design options available if you are familiar with HTML and coding. This means that you can take a basic free theme and turn it into something incredible for your small business, without having to spend a fortune. It's a great way to give something unique to your custom domain.

However, overall, I'd much rather have a more simplified interface to work with.

WordPress Review: Blogging Platform and SEO Tools

As a blogging platform, WordPress.com really stands out from the crowd. In fact, for blogging, most people recommend this option over WordPress.org. You can access the blogging functions on this tool by clicking into the articles tab on your content management system. Once again, you may need to be a blogger that knows a little bit about CSS and HTML if you want to make your front-end look amazing. However, the great thing about the blogging platform for WordPress.com is how immersive it is. You can create drafts, custom links, and even unique profiles for your writers.

The tags, metadata, social media interactions and post categories on your blogger posts are all customizable, which gives you a lot of control. Although it's not as user-friendly as the experience that you get from WordPress.org, it is a lot easier to use. Additionally, you can only get the search engine optimization editor if you have access to the premium plan – which is a shame for those using the free plan.

That being said, you're not totally out of SEO tools in the personal plans either. You can modify a lot of the data in your settings tab to help you improve your ranking on Google search. What's more, you can also access solutions that allow you to add snippets and star ratings to your descriptions on Google, so you stand out more for browsers too.

When it comes to SEO tools, WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO can also make managing your impact on Google analytics easier too. If you're willing to compromise on a drag and drop website builder and a user-friendly interface, then WordPress.com makes up for a lot of its bad points with its blogging platform.

WordPress Review: Add-ons and Plugins

Over several years, WordPress.com has carefully cultivated a vast ecosystem of WordPress plugins and website building add-ons intended to transform the performance of your blogger site. There are hundreds of options to choose from, whether you're looking for a free plugin that connects you to your social media channels, or a review plugin so customers can leave their opinions on your site.

Unfortunately, to figure out how to configure all of your WordPress plugins, you're going to have to deal with a lot of complicated elements like CSS and HTML, and you might find that you end up damaging the performance of your entire website just because you've accidentally placed the wrong text on the wrong line somewhere. Everything needs to be handled within WP Admin, which is a tool really only intended for professionals with a lot of coding knowledge.

Life would be a lot easier for the small businesses using WordPress.com if you could just see what you were doing on the page while it was happening. There's a reason why the drag-and-drop website builder format has grown so popular over the years. WordPress's inability to perform in this area is one of the reasons some customers have begun flocking to Weebly and other providers instead.

WordPress.com Review: Ecommerce

The only solution for selling online with WordPress.com is with the Business plan. Therefore, if you go with the other plans, don't expect to be selling anything in the near future.

The Business plan provides connections to places like Ecwid and Shopify, but it's a strange setup. Honestly, if you're going to sell products online, you might as well just make the full site on Shopify.

Ultimately, WordPress.com's eCommerce system is relatively well-rounded, with a handful of basic product review options, editing features and more. You can set prices in different currencies, add star ratings to your top products, and upgrade your content to improve your chances of appearing on Google search. There are also options to set up payments via things like Stripe and PayPal.

Unfortunately, WordPress.com isn't perfect when it comes to eCommerce either. You can't go the extra mile and design custom thank you pages, or automate email responses after a purchase unless you have the right add-ons in place. You'll need to add something like WooCommerce into the mix if you want to take your strategy to the next level.

👉 Read our WooCommerce review here.

Ultimately, if you want to build a immersive business website, WordPress.com just doesn't have the user-friendly performance to offer that you'd get from other tools like Shopify, for instance.

WordPress.com Review: SEO and Marketing

Marketing comes in the form of your blog, social media buttons and a few other simple plugins that are packaged into the website builder. I wouldn't get my hopes up for expanding too much, because your access to marketing plugins is completely cut off. Your best marketing tool comes in the form of the WordPress network.

seo

SEO is done automatically, but you have the option to change around a few items manually. For example, the slug, meta data and description are all there for you to customize.

WordPress.com Review: Customer Support

Whether you're using WordPress.com for Website design, hosting plans, or a just as a blogging platform, it's important to know that you can rely on the company's team for help when you need it most.

The best part of WordPress's customer support seems to be its knowledge base, which is packed full of information for the average user. If you're on the free plan, this is going to be the best source of knowledge that you have for your website building process.

Another great thing about the WordPress website builder is that there's on-screen chat available to help you out too, or you can get in contact with the developers for the site by submitting a standard support ticket. Unfortunately, personalized support and in-depth assistance are limited to those with a premium plan.

The free version of WordPress.com has a huge amount of community support, but this requires you to do your own research. The higher plans give you tools for live chat and email support.

WordPress Review: Analytics and Extras

There's more to being a successful blogger and website owner than just designing a great site. You also need to make sure that your website is driving the right results over time. Fortunately, WordPress does come with in-built analytics available to view on the “Stats” tab.

The in-built analytics feature for WordPress is a helpful way to get an overview of your site's performance at a glance, with a complete breakdown of all the valuable data you might want to share with your team. If you want a more in-depth insight into your WordPress website's performance, then you'll need to upgrade to a premium plan instead. This will give you integrations with Google Analytics, so you can check the outcome of each of your campaigns.

To help you make the most out of your analytics, the WordPress knowledge-base also has a guide on how to use things like Google analytics to optimize your performance.

There's also a selection of other handy features for your business website on WordPress too. For instance, there's a robust security system in place to keep you feeling safe and sound. All WordPress websites are automatically encrypted and equipped with an SSL certificate. There's also firewalls and consistent monitoring to defend you against attacks.

As the biggest website building platform in the world, WordPress knows that they need to be serious about safety and security. As well as the solutions built into the content management system, you can also access a guide on how to protect your data and yourself online.

What's more, if something goes wrong and your site crashes for some reason, you can recover it from any point in time by simply accessing your Admin settings. This can make it easier to get your business website back up and running  lot faster. What's more, all your data is backed up, so if you lose a connection at any point, you're still protected.

WordPress Review: Who Should Use WordPress.Com?

So, who exactly should be considering WordPress.com for their website design strategy?

Well, in our opinion, WordPress.com works best as a blogging platform. As you've probably already noticed during this WordPress review, this platform was specifically built for bloggers, and that focus really shines through.

You'll be able to access all the features you need for a great blog here, including Google Analytics, display categories, archiving, social media buttons, search features, RSS feeds, and more. WordPress also really stands out from the competition with a range of intuitive settings to choose from. For instance, you can use the first image in your post as a cover photo.

With such a wide variety of features and functionality to choose from, it's fair to say that bloggers can really flourish when using WordPress.com as their blogging platform. However, this tool won't be perfect for every kind of website. If you're looking to design an eCommerce site with plenty of business functionality, this might not be your best option.

There is a business plan available for WordPress.com users, which is priced at around $300 annually. However, you are going to need to pay a lot more to access the kind of experience you'd get from Wix or Squarespace.

Conclusion

Who is the WordPress.com website builder made for? It's for hobbyist bloggers and beginners who are trying to figure out how to make a site. I wouldn't expect much in terms of scaling up a site, but I do like WordPress.com for those who are practicing for when they would like to upgrade to WordPress.org.

If you're looking for a version of WordPress.org that's easy to use and brimming with great content management system functionality, then WordPress.com is a excellent choice. However, if you want a drag-and-drop website builder experience, it's best to steer clear and try something like Wix or Weebly instead.

WordPress.com Rating: 3.5 - Review by

Bogdan Rancea

Bogdan is a founding member of Inspired Mag, having accumulated almost 6 years of experience over this period. In his spare time he likes to study classical music and explore visual arts. He’s quite obsessed with fixies as well. He owns 5 already.