When you’re browsing the web and hopping from one site to the next, you got a one in three chance to visit one that is built with WordPress. Depending on which hosting provider you cite, at the time of writing this review, it can even be that 40% of all websites are running on this popular content management system (CMS).
If you look at the history of blogging, it began in the late 90s, but it was something obscure. Only in the early ’00s did it really take off and that’s largely thanks to WordPress.
In 2003, WordPress wasowner created because the development of a then-existing blogging software, b2/cafelog, was halted. Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little saw the need for a more elegant personal publishing system and developed WordPress.
WordPress is open source which means it can be used for free and modified by anyone. There are two versions of WordPress
- WordPress.org is the open-source content management system
- WordPress.com is a paid-for blogging platform
You can download WordPress.org for free, but you need to find a hosting provider and are responsible for everything including security and maintenance. On the other hand, you have the freedom to customise everything to your heart’s content and it offers a myriad of plugins to extends its functionality. In one word: You have complete control over everything, your content, domain name, look and feel of your website, and so forth.
WordPress.com is the software as a service (SaaS) website builder, where you pay a monthly subscription. All hosting aspects are taken care of for you.
For this review, we’re looking at WordPress.com. It can give you a taste of how it is working with WordPress and when you’re ready to take over control, you can move to self-hosting. From here on, when you read WordPress, we mean WordPress.com.
- Pros and cons of WordPress
- Who is WordPress for?
- How easy is WordPress to use?
- WordPress design and themes
- How to manage your ecommerce store in WordPress?
- WordPress integrations
- What marketing and SEO tools does WordPress have?
- Payment options
- WordPress security
- WordPress customer support
- WordPress pricing
- Is WordPress the right tool for you?
Pros and cons of WordPress
WordPress.com is a paid all-inclusive website builder. It’s a powerful, flexible, and efficient tool. You can use it to build blogs, websites, and online stores with minimal to no coding.
Even though we called it a website builder because you can use it as such, WordPress is so much more than that. For all intent and purposes, it’s a CMS and thus offers a level of power and flexibility that run-of-the-mill website builders such as Wix may never provide.
- Free forever plan
- Best option for content-driven website
- Easy to set up and manage
- Vibrant ecosystem for themes and plugins, although you can only install plugins on the top-tier plans
- If you’re coming from a traditional website builder, you may have a learning curve
- SEO tools only for Business plans and above
- You can test the shopping cart for free
Who is WordPress for?
If you planning a content-heavy website, WordPress is great, especially if you intend to use one of its top subscription plans. As WordPress is versatile, it’s suited for many and you can create anything with it. Especially for bloggers and freelancers who want to showcase their work, it’s a great choice.
WordPress has a free plan so that you can dip your toes with having an online presence and then move through the price planes as your site and business grows. You can accept payments using all plans, but if you want to include a shopping cart to your site, you’ll need to subscribe to the Business or Ecommerce Plan. Then you can install WooCommerce and run an online store.
How easy is WordPress to use?
When you create your account, you’ll be guided through each step way a wizard. The main difference between Worpress.com and WordPress.org is that the paid service is designed to be more beginner-friendly. The interface is less cluttered, the menus and the language are simpler to understand.
The interface of WordPress.com is more like the standard website building tool. It’s easy to create a new blog post or a page. When you add a page, you can select one from the gallery and then add your content. Note though that since WordPress is a CMS, it separates content from the design process. This means that it’s not the traditional WYSIWYG drag-and-drop you might be used from other website builders.
WordPress design and themes
WordPress has a plethora of themes, paid and free. When you first create your account, you get to choose a theme, but you can always change it later. All the themes are mobile-ready and optimised for ranking on search engines by design.
The themes are not limited to change the appearance of your site. They can also extend the functionality of your site, similarly to plugins, and the ecosystem is similarly dynamic.
How to manage your ecommerce store in WordPress?
If you have subscribed to the Ecommerce plan, then WooCommerce comes pre-installed to your site. If you’ve chosen the Business plan, then you can install any plugin you want to include a shopping cart to your site. This means there are plenty of plugins that will add an online store to your site.
If you want to get a taste of how it is to run an online store with WordPress.com, you can do it for free. Considering its price of $45 per month, it seems an expensive test.
Only when you subscribe to a top-tier plan do you get the option to install plugins. WordPress.org has a wonderfully vibrant ecosystem of plugins that help you do whatever you wish.
If you shouldn’t find a plugin that covers your needs, you can always as a WordPress developer, or anyone with PHP skills for that matter, to create one for you.
What marketing and SEO tools does WordPress have?
As growth is in the DNA of WordPress, you can expect it to offer quite a nice rate of marketing tools to get your store going, attract and convert customers.
The built-in SEO feature is limited to the top-tier plans. Nonetheless, some metadata can be still edited in the settings tab on every plan. Still, if you really want to optimise your website, you’d need to install a plugin, so that you can edit all the required meta tags and get full control.
Since its conception, WordPress may probably be the best way to get a free blog up and running with almost no hassle. It’s the de facto standard and so, it offers all bells and whistles you could wish for.
You can receive payments with all paid plans. This way, you can still sell your services or products, you only need to manage everything yourself as you don’t have the shopping cart function.
You can set up your site to receive payments with Stripe or Paypal. If you’ve subscribed to the Business plan, you have more choices and can install a plugin for your payment gateway of choice.
WordPress.com doesn’t take a transactional fee. Are levied from the payment gateways.
To secure all sites running on WordPress.com, you can’t add custom code on the lower plans. If you have one of the top-tiers plans, you can run custom code and so have to take steps yourself to harden your site. Although both come with the security features of the plugin Jetpack pre-installed, it still means you have to take all precautions.
All plans including the free plan automatically install an SSL certificate for the site. The Jetpack plugin includes backing up your site.
WordPress customer support
As it’s often in the website builder space, the more you pay, the more options to contact support you get. That being said, we suggest WordPress without hesitations to anyone unsure about how to go about creating a new website. It’s a well-matured, well-loved, and well-supported platform.
So, you find support in all kinds of ways. There are
- Support centre
- Setup checklist
- Community forum
- Support forum
- Video tutorials
- Blogging university
WordPress wants to make it easy for anyone to set up a website, so it offers including the free plan, 5 options to subscribe to. The pricing is reasonable. You can always start with the free plan and when you get to grips with WordPress upgrade to a higher subscription. With the Business and Ecommerce plans, you have access to SEO functionality, can install plugins, run an online store, and of course more support.
Is WordPress the right tool for you?
If you’re just starting out, but know your site is going to be content-driven, try WordPress.com. For a small business owner who just needs a site and doesn’t plan or expect to grow quickly in a very short amount of time, you have all the tools at hand with WordPress.com.
You have so much room to grow with all the offered plans. Once you feel confident and want to have full control, you can graduate to self-hosting a WordPress.org site.
Should you want to run an online store, down the line, no problem. Just get cracking with WordPress.com to start your site, and once you feel at home, move to self-host a WordPress.org website.
For medium to large websites, WordPress.com is not really a suitable tool. Even if you can subscribe to the top-tier plans, it’s more advisable to find a suitable hoster and self-host WordPress.org so that you can do everything just as you need.
If you enjoyed reading about WordPress, I’d be hugely grateful if you could create a link to it on your website or blog.