If you spent some amount of time on the internet in the last decade then you’ve probably heard the name WordPress. Launched in 2005, WordPress.com (which should not be confused with similar WordPress.org) is a popular freemium blog hosting service that is used by some heavyweight names like BBC, Reuters, and Sony. There are over 50 million users on this platform, or at least that many people tried to use it. It’s hard to say how many people are actively using this platform, but it’s definitely a popular choice. But is it all hype?
Creating a profile
First things first, you will need to think of your blog name, a.k.a. a domain that will automatically get a free “.wordpress.com” extension (that means a blog name will look like this username.wordpress.com). After that, you will need to provide email, password, and a username (your username will automatically be the part of your blog name as shown above). You have an option to search for a custom domain name, which for some reason did not work fully for us. While it gave options for some domains, for others it did not respond at all, which either means it works when it wants to or some domains were already taken. If that is the case, it would be nice to get a “not available” message.
Once you pick a custom domain, you will automatically see its pricing next to it. However, you can proceed with free .wordpress.com version (which we recommend you to do to test the system first). After you pick the design theme for your blog, the only thing left is to choose your plan. You can either go free or pay, but every paid plan offers a two-week free trial. You will need to provide your credit card information, but don’t worry, everything is handled professionally.
User friendliness and the dashboard
The homepage is divided into five sections, but that isn’t very obvious at first. In the header, you will find two icons on the left, and three on the right. In order, they are – My Site, Reader, New Post, Profile, and Notifications.
- On “My Site”, you will get a quick access to all essentials for the smooth operation of your blog. Some of the options will take you directly to the dashboard, named WP Admin (we’ll revisit that section later). For now, you need to know that the dashboard is the center of the blog administration. It provides access to stats, posts and pages, themes and menus, users setting, account management, and more.
- The “Reader” is where you manage your subscriptions for other blogs. You can see what is on your list(s), who is recommended, you can search by tags, or you can find your friends from social networks. You can also track comments you made and posts you like.
- The “Posts” section has every basic function that an editor should have. From formatting tools to tags and categories to the publishing schedule, and more, you are covered. For those that are more adventurous, you can edit your post in HTML.
- The “Profile” section is self-explanatory, and you can manage your account settings, billings, security and other things related to your account. Notifications are also literal and help you manage all of your comments, follows, and likes.
- The “Notifications” section is where you will find all the stats, here you can see who did what on your blog. Stuff will be happening on your blog, you will be blogging, commenting, and following a lot. And you will be able to watch the numbers from in this section.
If you mean serious business when it comes to blogging, you will most definitely want to use the WP Admin panel, which is basically a fully fleshed dashboard. You will get everything you have on your homepage, but with more professional and more advanced options. Media library? Check! Polls and feedback? Check! Widgets? Check! Mobile apps? Check! Importing and exporting? Check! You get the picture. While the dashboard will have a learning curve, it will most definitely play like a fine instrument once you get the hang of it. Just bear in mind the free plan has some limitations, although it is fairly powerful.
Themes and tools
When it comes to design themes, they are numerous (over 300) and there are some good ones. While you can search them by categories, popularity, and date of publishing, you will probably search them by free or premium (paid) category. There is no discrimination between these two types when it comes to design and there is a wide pricing range when it comes to premium ones. If you browse through the library, you can see prices going from $18 up to $175, but most of them will be in the $60-80 range.
No matter which theme you pick, you will be able to customize it to an extent, depending on the design and the plan you pick. However, the drawback is that you cannot upload your own themes. There are many widgets and menus that you can add and adding them to your blog is only a few clicks away.
Storage room, reliability, and uptime
When it comes to reliability and uptime, WordPress.com means serious business. It is constantly in the top, if not on the top place, no matter what plan you’ve chosen. However, your storage room will depend on it. The free plan gives you 3GB of space, Premium 13GB and Business is unlimited. While this may seem like OK deal when it comes to Free plan, bare in mind that in this multimedia-heavy world, 3GB is merely a cookie crumb, and if you need a multimedia blog, you should either look elsewhere or upgrade your plan.
Help and support
Depending on your plan, you will get various levels of help and support. While the Free plan only gives you a community support, essentially their articles knowledge base, which is huge and very helpful. There are also official forums where you will probably find someone who already shares your problem and potentially has already solved it. However, with Premium plan you will get direct email support and Business plan will get you live chat support. While this may seem like an extra, if your blog is your business, it is crucial to fix any problems in the fastest time possible.
Hosting and pricing options
WordPress.com is essentially a free blogging provider, but it has some limitations. The free plan gives you a blog that is enough for amateurs. You will be restricted with – .wordpress.com domain, only 3GB of space, and it may show some ads. If you need a blog for professional or commercial reasons, you would want to remove those limitations. A premium plan costs $99/year and it will remove ads, give you 13 GB of space, and a custom domain, among other things. A business plan costs $299/year and it will give you unlimited space, e-commerce, and other advanced things. Depending on your needs, a free plan may seem too limited, but keep in mind that if you need a personal blog, you will get a nice one.
Content management is easy, but it depends on your plan. This review was done with the premium plan, but there are variations within. While there are no major flaws with any option, the more you pay, the more you can get. Basics like spam filtering, comment moderating or metadata handling are available in all options, but customizable themes, CSS editor, or Google Analytics are available only in paid plans. It is nitpicking, but when you mean serious business, nitpicking is what will prevail in your decision. Having said that, content management on WordPress.com is quite nice, even on the free plan.
HTML and CSS knowledge
HTML and CSS knowledge are not necessary for having a WordPress.com blog. Everything is functional without it, but if you want to take things to the next level, you can. In its paid plans, you can tinker through code, and it is done in a nice and developer- friendly way. It presents and gives the best of both worlds, no matter if you are amateur or professional. However, if you want total control over your site, perhaps you should look into WordPress.org.
Promotion and monetization
Search engines love WordPress and WordPress loves search engines. There are dozens of widgets that you can use and everything is SEO friendly. However, bear in mind that the more you pay, the more you can access to. A free plan may not be enough for you if you need an online shop, but a business plan will give you all you need. The negative side of WordPress.com is that you cannot use third party advertisement solutions.
- highly customizable
- hundreds of beautiful (free) designs
- dozens of widgets
- excellent all-in-one solution
- some confusion for domain names during set-up
- in comparison, Free plan is quite limiting
- the moderate learning curve
When it comes to WordPress.com, there are very few things that aren’t in favor of this blogging provider. It has been around for quite some time and its community is big. Handling it is easy for everyone no matter how educated in blog hosting they are. Unlike its fraternal twin WordPress.org, this is a hosted service, so you don’t have to worry about downloading and installing a software. However, when it comes to hosted solutions, you don’t always have a 100% control over your blog. If you want to own your content and perhaps cut down some costs, along with a custom domain (that you don’t get in free WordPress.com plan), perhaps you should look into WordPress.org or other providers.