Settling on the perfect website platform to build out your new website with confidence can be elusive. There are so many services out there, each with their own pricing plans and things to consider. Chances are you’ve already come across WordPress, which is probably the most recognizable content management system in the world.
Lured in by the big name, you might already have set your sights on it with your finger hovering over the signup button. However, just because it’s the right option for so many others doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one for you.
In this article, you’ll see the most important aspects of WordPress.com that will affect whether or not you should use this platform to build your website.
If putting together a website with an attractive and functional design quickly and easily is one of your priorities, then no doubt the templates on offer by a website builder is very important. With almost 300 (just under 100 free and 200 paid) themes total, WordPress would definitely seem like one of the better options.
However, the quality of the themes can vary dramatically, especially among the free themes. It’s worth saying though that this is improving with time, as they’re tightening their curating requirements. You can find pretty much any type of theme, although blogging themes are definitely in the majority.
Many of the best premium WordPress.org themes offer lite versions on WordPress.com, such as the Olsen theme. These are usually higher quality, have more design flexibility, and more features than most other templates. Although all themes use the same customizer, they differ in the range, extensiveness, and type of options and settings they provide. Themes may or may not come with theme-specific support, which you’ll have to check per theme.
Mobile responsiveness for templates are handled in three ways on WordPress:
- Mobile-ready themes display mobile versions of their desktop templates on all phones
- Non-mobile-friendly templates display the default WordPress.com mobile template on newer phones
- Non-mobile-friendly templates display a plain text version of the website on older phones
WordPress uses these three methods in a bid to make sure that templates always load fast on mobile devices, no matter their level of mobile optimization.
Once again, how well it translates to mobile devices might depend on the quality of the theme you choose. Generally, I haven’t experienced any serious problems with the themes. However, you get the occasional awkwardly positioned element, etc.
One of the best features in terms of mobile responsiveness is that you can switch between desktop, tablet, and mobile views when editing your themes. This allows you to see whether the design works on all devices before launching your website. As the customization settings aren’t extensive, it’s more about seeing what works and what doesn’t (for example, using images) than actually fixing issues or making it work. You can also disable mobile display if you wish.
Another important feature for modern website builders is to offer some form of SEO so that you can rank your webpages on search engines and make your website “findable.” On WordPress.com, this is especially important, as it’s mainly a blogging platform. That’s probably why you get the Jetpack Essentials features with any pricing plan (even free ones).
Jetpack Essentials provide some SEO and social-sharing tools as well as performance tools which have become an important ranking factor. You won’t have much more control over your SEO unless you have the business plan and can start installing other SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO.
WordPress.com purports to do 80-90% of your optimization for you, which includes things like automatically generating and submitting sitemaps, etc. You do, however, have access to the basics like changing your URLs, adding tags to webpages, and writing excerpts.
The biggest obstacle if you want to have any type of e-commerce website on WordPress.com is that there’s no way to accept payments or sell items unless you have either a Premium or Business plan. Even with the premium plan, you’re limited to accepting simple payments with only a PayPal button.
The built-in WordPress.com payments are the same on the Business plan. However, on the Business plan, you can also start installing plugins, some of which provide e-commerce capabilities. The most famous and extensive is the WooCommerce plugin, which allows you to set up a complete store with many payment options, more advanced product-creation tools, and in-depth store management. Some of these are additional features purchased at extra cost. The same goes for some of the other e-commerce plugins.
So, in short, you can run a complete online store using WordPress.com, but you’ll need a Business plan and leverage some of the free or premium plugins from the repository. Anything other than that, and you’ll be limited to very simple transactions as well as PayPal. Even then, WooCommerce doesn’t provide the same level of e-commerce tools as websites like Shopify with its point-of-sales integrations, advanced shipping calculators, and other business tools.
There are four pricing plans available on WordPress; one is free and the others are paid. They are comparable to the Wix pricing plans in terms of cost and lower than most others like Squarespace, BigCommerce, etc.
Here are the most important features/additions of each plan:
- com subdomain
- No professional support
- No plugins
- com advertising
- No WordPress.com advertising/branding
- Custom domain (one included with plans)
- Email and live-chat support
- Premium templates unlocked for free
- Advanced customization, social media
- Simple payments and website monetization
- Unlimited storage space
- Install/buy plugins
- One-on-one help services
- Google Analytics integration
Although the free plan is unlimited in duration, you’ll need to be okay with hosting on a WordPress.com subdomain as well as having WordPress branding on your website. You can also upgrade or cancel a plan at any time, but it depends on your 30-day billing cycle. You’re eligible for a refund for the first 30 days.
Is WordPress the Right Website Builder for YOU?
Hopefully, you’ve already identified either some key opportunities or limitations that will determine whether WordPress.com is the right website builder for you. Arguably the most vital factor is how extensive you need the features or functionality of your website to be. You’ll be very limited with any plan except for the Business plan that unlocks the full power of WordPress.com through plugins.
However, if you’re building a full-on online store or a large e-commerce business, then WordPress.com simply doesn’t measure up to e-commerce-specific platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, or even Squarespace.
Maybe the best use of WordPress is to build your blog. The whole platform is streamlined to make creating content a cinch. It’s also a very quick and easy platform to sign up with and has almost no learning curve. Most of the templates are also geared toward bloggers or websites that rely heavily on their blogging aspect.