Although WordPress.com seems like a no-brainer choice for building a WordPress website, it might be more restrictive than it looks at first glance. There is a forever-free plan, but you can’t do much nor have access to as many themes as you may want. On top of that, you can’t even use plugins until you opt for the Business plan.
Who should choose WordPress.com? Individuals and small businesses that don’t have complex needs.
WordPress.com Pros and Cons
Although WordPress.com is a popular choice as an all-in-one solution website builder and web host, it may only work for a few select groups. It’s an affordable choice, and it even offers a free plan, but it lacks a lot of functionality to be a suitable option for growing businesses or serious e-commerce entrepreneurs.
What we like about WordPress.com
- Web hosting included: WordPress.com lets you build a website on the popular WordPress.org CMS, but you don’t have to find your own hosting. This is a huge plus for those who want a turnkey solution for a personal or business website.
- Accept payments: I was a bit surprised to see I could accept payments even on the Personal plan. It’s one of the cheapest website builders that lets you make money with your website.
- Popular freemium plan: I had my own WordPress.com blog back in the day, and the good news is, you can still get a free hosted website. There are limits, but if all you need is a place to share photos or stories, WordPress.com’s free plan works.
- Simple to use and maintain: I’ve used a lot of website builders, and WordPress.com is one of the easiest to use. There’s nothing to install or maintain — WordPress.com has the CMS pre-installed and ready to use. Plus, it automatically updates the software for you.
- Jetpack Essentials: Every plan includes Jetpack Essentials, which is a pack of features that help you add functionality to your site. You can add different types of photo galleries, set up automatic backups, add a contact form, and display a block with your business hours, for example.
- Decent customer support: I appreciate that the WordPress.com team updates its blog (and platform) often, which is a big part of support. There are multiple articles in the help center, so you can find most answers to your questions. Otherwise, there are community forums for everyone or live chat for the high-tier paid plans.
- Mobile responsive themes: Many of WordPress.com’s themes are mobile responsive, but not all.
What fell flat
- Limited functionality: I always forget that WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to do all that you can with WordPress as the self-hosted version. So, you’re stuck with the themes and plugins WordPress.com does allow, meaning limited design and functionality overall.
- WordPress.com branding: A free site includes WordPress.com ads and branding on the footer, which is expected. However, the branding remains on all sites and plans until you upgrade to the Business plan.
- Higher-priced plans almost required: Although there’s plenty you can do with the native functionality of WordPress.com’s site builder, there’s a lot locked behind higher-priced plans. Adding Google Analytics to your site isn’t allowed until the Premium plan.
- Few themes: You get limited choices because WordPress.com makes all the themes available on most WordPress.com plans. So, you won’t have the same options if you were to find a web host with WordPress installed.
Hosted vs. Self-Hosted WordPress
There are two ways to use WordPress:
- Self-hosted: You can download the complete platform from WordPress.org for use on any web hosting environment you set up and control. With this option, you get the greatest control over your site but have to manage all the technical elements independently.
- Hosted: If self-hosting isn’t for you, you can sign up at WordPress.com to use an online-only version of the same application. You can access your WordPress dashboard online, and you don’t have to worry about the infrastructure powering your site.
Digital.com’s Editorial Review
WordPress.com is an average web host and website builder. It has approachable pricing and is easy to customize with integrations, but you’ll likely find it restrictive.
According to real users: WordPress is a content management system that is free to download and use. It is popular for its customizability and the number of plugins and extensions available for it. It is easy to integrate with other tools and applications. However, it can be difficult to find immediate help with problems, and site maintenance and security can be a challenge.
Like most other website builders, WordPress.com offers multiple channels of support. You can use the help center to find articles with instructions, but not everything gets regular updates.
Live chat and email support are available, but only for paying customers.
WordPress is almost constantly upgrading and updating because it’s open-source software, and WordPress.com tries to stay on top of those updates. The company posts news often about what changes, so you can follow along by going to its website.
Plans and Pricing
Beyond WordPress.com’s popular free plan, there are four paid plans plus an enterprise tier that offer more advanced features. Here’s a look at what the website plans offer:
- Good for: trying out WordPress.com
Personal–starts at $9 per month
- Good for: Hobbyists and personal sites
Premium–starts at $18 per month
- Good for: New ecommerce businesses
Business–starts at $40 per month
- Good for: More complex and customized websites
Commerce–starts at $70 per month
- Good for: Growing and established ecommerce businesses
Enterprise–starts at $25,000 per year
- Good for: Enterprise businesses
WordPress.com’s features make it easy to build a website regardless of your technical skill. You get a simple drag-and-drop site builder, but WordPress.com limits its plans to encourage you to upgrade, and even then you might not be able to do what you want with your site.
First, I wanted to familiarize myself with the WordPress.com dashboard. The left-hand menu includes all the main menu categories for managing your site. For example, this is where you’ll manage pages, comments, plugins, and settings.
WordPress.com takes every opportunity to upsell if you’re on a free plan. It’s like the company is trying to point out how limiting the free plan is every chance it can. I also noticed that WordPress.com tries to help you with pop-up tips — for example, I added my site title and tagline and got a notification that I need to save any time I make changes.
When you’re ready to edit your site, you have the option of diving right in or taking WordPress.com’s tour, which I suggest doing to help you navigate the site editor. Although the site editor doesn’t have a steep learning curve, it is a bit different than most easy-to-use website builders.
The site editor isn’t a true drag-and-drop editor, and it certainly isn’t in the what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) style — at least, not at first. You have to click on the page to bring up a menu that includes blocks or elements to use. After a few misguided attempts, I figured out I could view all blocks and a left-hand menu popped up with all the blocks and patterns I could use.
Although this menu made it easier for me to design a page by dragging and dropping blocks (also known as elements) onto a page, I found a lot of those blocks aren’t available on the free plan. Once again, WordPress.com gets an opportunity to upsell.
Also, I noticed that a lot of blocks had errors and there were no suggestions from the editor on how to fix them. I just had to work around them and employ a trial-and-error method of design. The good news is that most blocks are mistake-proof.
For example, when I added an image and text box to one column, I tried to change the size of the image and the textbox changed with it, keeping everything relative. This could be helpful if you have zero design experience and you don’t want to get into the backend to change things by pixels. WYSIWYG editors seem much more user-friendly than
I spent more time trying to figure out how a group, pattern, and block differed from each other and didn’t design as much as I intended the first hour. You do have the option to use a code editor, so if you know HTML, this might be preferable for you.
At first, I thought there was no built-in image search, but I finally figured out that if you choose “select media,” you could get free stock images from Pexels. I also stumbled upon “Styles,” WordPress.com’s way of letting you set your typography, buttons, and colors across the site, but it’s still in beta.
You won’t be able to use any plugins or upload themes unless you choose the Business or eCommerce plan. This severely limits what you can do with your WordPress.com site — even if you know how to code.
Overall, I found WordPress.com’s site editor somewhat easy to use, but ultimately frustrating. I ran into so many inexplicable errors and no guidance on how to fix them. It feels disorganized and more like I was designing in the dark.
Security is a priority for WordPress.com. All sites get an SSL certificate and there’s a security team in place to monitor activity on all servers. To ensure Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), you need to choose a shopping cart plug-in and payment processor that has it.
The first step in security for any website is an SSL certificate. Thankfully, WordPress.com includes one for every website — even free sites. WordPress.com also actively monitors its servers for malware and dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
To combat data loss, WordPress.com gives you the ability to back up your site at any time. Some paid plans can set up automatic backups, which is better for hands-off security. And automatic WordPress (the CMS) updates help, too. The other benefit to using WordPress.com is that you don’t have to worry about server settings as they’re all set up with firewalls to protect you from the aforementioned attacks.
WordPress.com’s support channels include a help center, community forums, social media, email, and live chat. There is no phone support, and wait times for any support varies. Live chat support is available 24 hours per day, but only Monday through Friday.
- Chat: I didn’t test this personally because I used the free plan but based on my research, live chat can be helpful. Generally, you can expect an answer within 24 hours, but that’s not always possible if support requests are numerous.
- Email: WordPress.com offers email support, but like live chat, you must have a paid plan. It’s also generally handled in 24 hours, but no guarantees.
- Documentation: Most of the articles I read were helpful for walking me through a specific task. A few I came across hadn’t been updated since WordPress.com changed its plans (there’s no longer a Pro plan, but that language was throughout some articles and the WordAds site).
- Community: One of the best ways to get help for WordPress.com issues is to go to the community forums. There I found many answers to questions (or better explanations) that weren’t in support documents.
I was a little annoyed that I couldn’t reach out to any live support as a free plan user, but I guess that’s fair. What isn’t fair, in my opinion, is that live chat isn’t available until you reach the Premium plan. Not having phone support is a bit frustrating, as well.
Given that support is so limited, I wouldn’t choose a free WordPress.com plan if I were to run an e-commerce website or grow a business website. I want more immediate access to help when I need it. So, I’d probably look into one of the best e-commerce website builders for more specific online store functionality and support.
Here are some of the most recent WordPress.com improvements:
- Six new themes added to WordPress.com: WordPress.com creates its own themes for its website editor, seemingly a couple of times a year. In August 2022, WordPress.com released six new themes, including a travel blog theme, a portfolio theme, two e-commerce options, a simple business theme, and the news-like blog you see above.
- New block theme design tools: WordPress.com consistently improves features in its site editor to make your life easier when designing your website. In August 2022, the team introduced a few new features, including custom borders in columns, rows, and blocks. WordPress.com also made it easier to find patterns, which is the site builder’s version of predesigned layouts.
- You can now lock blocks: One of the reasons you may prefer using a website builder like WordPress.com is for the themes or predesigned layouts because it makes design easier. If you’ve ever accidentally clicked on part of your design and moved it just an inch, you know how frustrating it can be to get everything back on track. WordPress.com added this feature so you can design on top of block groups or sections and not worry about messing up a layout you have in place.
Compare WordPress.com Alternatives
WordPress.com is a popular pick for a lot of new users who want help with designing a website, but it may not be the best choice for you. While WordPress is one the most robust, widely used publishing platforms on the web, that’s a very different animal than what you can expect with WordPress.com.
That distinction is an important one. If you’re looking for more theme or template options, freedom to add your own plugins, or better e-commerce support, you’ll likely find that in the chart below.
Pricing + Basic Plan Features
What You Need to Know
Is WordPress a good website builder?
WordPress.com is a good website builder because it offers a pre-installed copy of the open-source CMS WordPress along with features to make it easy to build a site without the need for coding knowledge. There may be other website builders that could be a better fit, depending on your needs.
What is the difference between a website builder and WordPress?
In the traditional sense, a website builder is an app full of features, elements, and pre-built templates to help you create a website without knowing HTML or CSS languages. WordPress is a CMS that lets you easily manage content for that website. You’re getting a very stripped-down version of that CMS with WordPress.com
Is WordPress.com any good?
WordPress.com is good for those who want an all-in-one answer to building a website, hosting a website, and buying a domain name. There are limitations to what you can do and it isn’t just based on which plan you choose — WordPress.com doesn’t support all the plugins or themes others build for the CMS.
What is the difference between WordPress and WordPress.com?
WordPress is an open-source CMS and you must find a service to host WordPress and your website for you. WordPress.com is a website builder and web host that is built on the CMS, so there’s no need to find a separate web host.
Can WordPress.com delete your website?
WordPress.com has the right to delete your website if you violate the Terms of Service agreement, as any web host does. However, you do own your content.
Does WordPress host your website?
WordPress.com acts as a web hosting service and it does host your website. And WordPress.org is the self-hosted option that requires you to find a web host yourself.
Do I have to pay WordPress to use my own domain?
Yes, you do have to pay WordPress.com to use your own domain. Alternatively, you can use your domain on another web host, but again, you’ll have to pay for that hosting.
Can I build a WordPress site without hosting?
Technically, you can build a WordPress site and host it yourself if you have a server and internet connection strong enough to handle the content and traffic. It isn’t suggested you do this on a home computer because you’re likely to have a lot of downtime and open yourself up to more security risks.
How We Reviewed WordPress.com
At Digital.com, we know how important it is to test products thoroughly and compare how they measure against the industry leaders. I spent hours familiarizing myself with WordPress.com’s dashboard, setup process, website builder, and all of its features. While my definition of “easy to use” may differ from others, I approached this as though I was new to website builders and compared it to my experience with some of the top site builders we’ve also reviewed.
This comprehensive overview of WordPress.com can quickly answer whether it’s the right website builder for you. We also drilled down to specific features, so you can have a more detailed look at features or services. I gave more weight to some parameters, including features, security, support, pricing, ease of use, and how WordPress.com has improved since our last review.
I test website builders based on the following factors:
- Customization options: Can you change the look and feel of a template or add your own code?
- Ease of use: Is the navigation intuitive with built-in tools, such as an in-app photo editor?
- Value: Can you get a free plan or trial to give the builder a test drive? Are there extensive features on paid plans that justify the cost?
- Security: What does the website builder do to keep your site and your customers’ data safe?
- Templates: Are the templates attractive, updated, and generally high quality? Can you find many to choose from?
- Support: Can you get help when needed, whether it’s from a human or support center articles?
- Recent improvements: Has the builder done anything lately to step up its offerings?
Learn more about our review methodology.