Should You Use WordPress.com to Build Your Next (or First) Website in 2021?

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Quick Reference

Building a custom website is easier than it’s ever been.

What used to require knowledge of coding in several different languages now takes a few clicks and an eye for high-quality design. In the last fifteen years, countless website builders have popped up to help non-developers/designers build beautiful (and functional) websites.

And as a business owner, it’s more important than ever before to have a professional digital presence. Which… is much easier said than done. But the good news is… building a website isn’t the hardest part.

It’s deciding which website builder to use for your first (or next) business website.

To help you out, I created a simple site using the hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.com), not the WordPress, where you have to pick a hosting provider. In this WordPress review, I cover the pros and cons of using the platform, a deep dive into their pricing plans, and a look at their industry reputation.

So, let’s get started!

Summary: High-Level Pros and Cons of WordPress.com

Note: WordPress.com isn’t the same as WordPress.org. The .com version is a paid platform and includes hosting plus a basic website builder whereas the .org version is free but requires you to purchase your own hosting services.

I built a basic website using WordPress.com (the paid version with a built-in site builder and editor) to see what it’s like. As I went through the process, I took note of everything I thought was great and the things I didn’t like.

Here’s an overview of my experience in a nutshell (in case you don’t want to read the full review –  no judgment, here!).

What I like (AKA the good stuff):

  • Thousands of plugins to add functionality to your site
  • Hundreds of themes to choose from
  • Mobile app for managing your site on the go
  • Free domain name with paid plans
  • You can get started for free

What I don’t like (AKA the not-so-good stuff):

  • It’s not user-friendly (paired with a steep learning curve)
  • Best suitable for bloggers – not business websites
  • Essential features aren’t included in lower-priced plans
  • Ecommerce functionality is very expensive
  • Limited customization and design capabilities

Overall, WordPress.com offers a lot of features at reasonable prices. However, the eCommerce plan is very expensive and a lot of essential features aren’t included in their lower-priced plans.

If you’re interested in getting serious about blogging and using that as your main source of revenue, WordPress.com may be the perfect solution. But, this platform (especially the cheap plans) isn’t suitable for most business websites.

Furthermore, the interface isn’t easy to use or learn and is very limited in customization and design capabilities. So, if you’re familiar with other website builders (or WordPress.org), you’ll feel restricted by the WordPress.com platform.

What I Like About WordPress.com

While WordPress.com isn’t the easiest platform to use, there are a lot of redeeming qualities and features. As I built my website, I took note of the things I liked about my experience. So, I want to walk through those things and talk about why they matter.

1. Thousands of Plugins to Add Functionality to Your Site

Note: plugins are only available on the Business ($25/month) or eCommerce ($45/month) plans. This is a major downfall of the WordPress.com platform because a lot of essential features are missing on the lower-tiered plans and you can’t install plugins to make up for that lack of functionality.

If you choose the Business or eCommerce plan, you can access thousands of free and paid plugins to add additional functionality and advanced features to your website.

From SEO, advanced analytics, and customizable eCommerce features to enabling multiple languages, plugins help make your site more accessible and easier to use. If there’s something you need to add to your website, odds are there’s a plugin that’ll help you do it.

Most plugins are easy to install and include instructions on how to use them.

2. Hundreds of Themes to Choose From

Like most website builders, WordPress.com offers both free and paid themes you can use to get started building your new website. Starting from a blank screen is hard, so these themes help kickstart the process and make it a bit easier.

There are hundreds of themes to choose from, but some of them are dated or poorly designed. However, there are quite a few great free and paid options you can use. Plus, you can customize them to make your website one-of-a-kind.

Note: your customization options are limited compared to Wix (a truly drag-and-drop interface) or Shopify. They’re more in line with the capabilities of Squarespace and Weebly except WordPress.com is much harder to use.

3. Mobile App for Managing Your Site on the Go

WordPress.com’s mobile apps let you edit and manage your site from your phone or tablet. It’s available on both iOS and Android so you never have to worry about missing important contact form submissions or replying to comments while you’re away from your computer.

Furthermore, you can use their mobile app to:

  • Review your analytics
  • Publish or edit blog posts
  • Manage sales (eCommerce plan)
  • Add and update site pages
  • Reply to comments

4. Free Domain Name with Paid Plans

On WordPress.com’s free plan, you can’t connect a custom domain. But on all of their paid plans, you can. Plus, you get your domain name for free for the first year.

Furthermore, they have an intuitive tool to help you decide on a domain name as well if you don’t already have on. All you have to do is enter a few keywords, and their domain name tool gives you several available domain names to choose from.

Their domain names include a free parking page (what shows up before you launch your site) and DNS accessibility. After the first year, domain names renew at WordPress.com’s standard price (usually between $18 – $40/year depending on the extension).

5. You Can Get Started for Free

WordPress.com offers a free plan with limited features so you can get started and learn how to use the platform before giving them your payment information. This is great because you can try it out as long as you need to decide if it’s the platform for you.

You can watch their tutorials and read through their guides to learn how everything works. From there, you can start building out the framework of your new site. Then, when you’re ready for advanced features and capabilities, you can upgrade to the right paid plan for your business.

Note: their free plan doesn’t include a custom domain, plugins, customer support, or any marketing tools. Furthermore, your site displays WordPress.com ads and branding. So, I recommend starting here to get a feel for the platform and upgrading to a paid plan before launching your website.

What I Don’t Like About WordPress.com

WordPress.com isn’t my favorite platform. And, despite the redeeming qualities and features, there are several downfalls and total deal-breakers for me. So, let’s take a look at what these downfalls are and why they matter to business owners interested in DIYing their website.

1. It’s Not User-Friendly (Paired with a Steep Learning Curve)

One of my least favorite things about WordPress.com is how hard it is to use. Now, if you’re familiar with WordPress.org, the hosted version is much easier. But, compared to other all-in-one website builders, it’s one of the hardest platforms to learn.

Even after spending several hours inside the dashboard, I still had a hard time finding everything I needed. It’s not intuitive whatsoever. And it’s not actually a drag-and-drop page builder. Its core functionality is for blogging. Not building beautiful websites.

Furthermore, your dashboard is packed full of different navigation menus. It’s not clear what you should do next and it feels like there are way too many options (especially if you’ve never built a website before).

Lastly, their page editor lacks functionality and feels like an afterthought (because it is). It’s clunky and overly complicated despite a glaring lack of customization capabilities and functionality.

2. Best Suitable for Bloggers – Not Business Websites

Adding, optimizing, and customizing blog posts is simple. But, adding new pages, customizing your theme, and editing those pages is overly complicated for no apparent reason.

So, if you plan to focus on blogging, you’ll be fine using WordPress.com. However, there are better options (i.e., more affordable, easier to use, and easier to customize) out there for business owners interested in DIYing a website for their company.

Lastly, their themes are built for bloggers (not businesses). So, you may have a hard time finding a theme that works for you.

3. Essential Features Aren’t Included in Lower-Priced Plans

Unless you’re comfortable spending at least $25/month (for the Business Plan), you won’t have access to essential features and important capabilities. Most website builders include these in all their plans, so this is a huge downfall of WordPress.com.

On the Premium Plan ($8/month), you can’t install plugins to add functionality to your site. You can’t access your internal database. You can’t upload your own themes and your website showcases WordPress.com branding so it appears less professional.

Furthermore, you can’t access their built-in SEO tools (and you can’t install a plugin for it, either). This makes their low-priced plans (anything less than $25/month) virtually unusable for business owners.

Compare this to:

  • Squarespace — $18/month for these features + eCommerce capabilities
  • Wix — $17/month for these features (and more)
  • Weebly — $12/month to access these capabilities

4. E-commerce Functionality is Very Expensive

If you’re interested in selling products online, you have to pay $45/month. You can add PayPal pay buttons on lower plans but this isn’t sustainable for most online shops. And, this is a lot of money, especially for new business owners just getting started.

Furthermore, this is a very steep price to pay for lackluster customization and design capabilities. Plus, this massive expense doesn’t come with any added value, especially when you compare the price and number of features to other website builders.

With WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan, you don’t get a lot of bang for your buck. So, if you’re interested in selling your products through your website, I recommend going with:

  • Squarespace — $18/month for basic eCommerce features
  • Weebly — $26/month for eCommerce functionality
  • Wix — $23/month for basic eCommerce capabilities
  • Shopify — $29/month for everything you need to sell online

5. Limited Customization and Design Capabilities

WordPress.com’s theme customizer does let you see your changes in real-time but it’s not a true drag-and-drop page builder (like Wix). And aside from being difficult to use, you don’t get a lot of design and customization flexibility.

You also can’t remove WordPress.com branding unless you’re on the Business Plan ($25/month) or higher. This is a very steep price to pay for a white-label, professional business website.

Furthermore, each theme has different capabilities and features. So, you could spend hours customizing your theme only to find it doesn’t actually do what you need it to do. With that said, I’ve seen other page builders do this as well. So, it’s not solely a WordPress.com downfall.

However, if you’re on the Business Plan or higher, you can pay for a third-party plugin that gives you advanced customization capabilities. But, when you think about it… these capabilities are included with other page builder platforms out there.

WordPress.com Plans & Pricing

WordPress.com offers four standard plans as well as a free plan and two advanced plans for enterprises and agencies. While their low-tier plans are affordable, they’re not suitable for businesses or building a professional website.

That said, they’re fine for personal use (if that’s what you’re looking for).

The Free Forever Plan — $0/month

This plan is perfect if you’re just getting started and interested in learning how the WordPress.com platform works. It’s free forever and you’ll never be charged for anything. However, there are several limitations to this plan.

You can’t use your own domain name, your site displays WordPress.com ads and branding, and you can’t install third-party plugins to add functionality to your site. There are a lot of other limitations as well, but these are the big ones that make it unsuitable for long-term use.

The Free Forever plan includes:

  • The Jetpack plugin with essential features
  • Free and pre-installed SSL certificate
  • A wide selection of basic themes
  • Yourdomain.wordpress.com domain name
  • 3 GB of storage space

Essentially, you can build the framework of your website on the free plan and upgrade to a paid plan when you’re ready to start installing plugins and doing advanced customizations.

Tier 4: The Personal Plan — $4/month

This plan works if you’re building a personal website or don’t mind a bit of WordPress.com branding. However, I don’t recommend it for most businesses because it’s very limited. You can’t install plugins, integrate with Google analytics, or access any of their business tools.

Furthermore, you can’t add custom CSS code or do advanced customizations. With that said, this plan includes everything in the Free Forever Plan plus:

  • Free domain name for the first year
  • Email and basic live chat support
  • 6 GB of storage space
  • Connect a custom domain
  • No WordPress.com ads
  • Ability to accept recurring payments
  • Limit content to paying subscribers
  • Create a paid newsletter

Tier 3: The Premium Plan — $8/month

Don’t let the name of this plan fool you. To be honest, it doesn’t feel “premium” at all. Even on this plan, you can’t install plugins to add functionality to your site. And you can’t remove WordPress.com branding, either.

Plugins are essential in creating the designs and functionality you want your website to have. Without them, you’re stuck with basic capabilities. Because of that, I don’t recommend this plan to business owners.

The Premium Plan includes everything in the Personal Plan plus:

  • 13 GB of storage space
  • Access to premium themes
  • Advanced design customization
  • PayPal buy button
  • Ability to earn ad revenue
  • Advanced social media management
  • Upload and host unbranded videos
  • Integrate with Google Analytics

Tier 2: The Business Plan — $25/month

If you’re set on using WordPress.com and don’t want to sell products online (or don’t need advanced eCommerce capabilities), this is the most affordable plan I recommend for businesses.

It’s the cheapest completely unbranded package that allows you to install plugins. Plus, it comes with various other features you’ll need while running your business. It includes everything in the Premium Plan plus:

  • 24/7 priority support
  • 1-on-1 expert support
  • 200 GB of storage space
  • Access to SEO tools
  • Plugin installation
  • Upload your own themes
  • Remove WordPress branding
  • Automated site backups
  • SFTP and database access

Tier 1: The eCommerce Plan — $45/month

I highly recommend using a different website builder if you want to sell your products online. However, if you’re set on using WordPress.com, this is the right plan for you. It includes a full suite of eCommerce features to help you sell more online.

It includes everything in the Business Plan plus:

  • Accept payments in different currencies
  • Integrate with top shipping carriers
  • Unlimited products
  • eCommerce marketing suite
  • Premium starter themes

For Enterprises: WordPress VIP — $1,700+/month

There’s not much information on their website about this plan. But, they say it includes everything you need to create world-class customer experiences on a large scale. You have to get in touch with their sales team to learn more about it.

For Multiple Websites/Agencies: Pressable — $25 – $155/month

If you’re interested in building and managing multiple sites on the WordPress.com platform, Pressable makes this affordable and easy. You can manage your different websites from one easily-accessible location.

These plans range from one website to 20+ unique websites. These are most suitable for agencies and freelancers who need more than one website or build and manage websites for their clients.

Is WordPress.com Easy to Use? The Short Answer Is No

However, if you’ve used the self-hosted version of WordPress, the hosted version is much easier to use. But it falls short in comparison to other page builders out there. Plus, you have a lot less flexibility than with other builders as well.

In theory, the WordPress.com site builder is easy to use. But actually using it is another story, especially if you’ve never built a website before. First, the admin dashboard is confusing and overly complex.

At first glance, this is what your dashboard looks like:

It’s immediately overwhelming and hard to understand. There are too many navigation menus and no clear flow for how to get started.

Furthermore, there are several different dashboards to learn. Adding blog content is different than adding pages. Editing pages is different than editing your theme. It’s hard to keep track of which dashboard you’re in which makes the process very confusing.

Other website builders present a clear path from start to finish and the same functionality for editing and creating any type of content on your website. However, WordPress.com severely falls short.

It’s actually one of the most difficult (and least flexible) site builders I’ve used. And their designs and overall vibe aren’t as professional or sleek as the other page builders I’ve tried.

Exploring WordPress.com’s Reputation

WordPress has been around for 14 years so they’re certainly not new to the game of web hosting and content management. However, they’re not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and have a D- rating (the worst rating I’ve seen so far).

Furthermore, they’ve had 40 customer complaints filed against them in the last three years. Most of them mention terrible customer service, unnecessary complications, being charged after canceling an account, and not receiving refunds. You can read the full list of complaints here.

To make matters worse, WordPress.com hasn’t responded to any complaints made after September of 2019. And the responses prior to that seem vague and unhelpful. Which… further leads me to believe their customer support team isn’t all the great.

WordPress.com Reviews: BBB

WordPress.com has ten one-star reviews through the Better Business Bureau. However, none of these reviews are from 2020, and most of them are several years old. So, it’s hard to know what recent users think of the platform.

You can see a full list of these user reviews here. Take a look at what the most recent customer review says:

“Support is unreliable and unimpressive. Our company employee site was set up on WordPress, and the entire site is gone. Company has a good product only to be undone by poor customer service. The downfall of so many great companies.” – Steve (September 4, 2019)

WordPress.com Reviews: TrustPilot

On TrustPilot, WordPress.com’s reputation is significantly better. They have an average of 3.7 stars out of 3,000+ reviews. Furthermore, 79% of those reviews rate them better than average. With that said, the most recent reviews are a mixed bag.

Some of them are glowing reviews, while others mention a severe lack of functionality and terrible customer service. Several reviews also mention how difficult it is to learn and use the platform. Definitely not things you want to hear about your website builder.

You can read a full list of TrustPilot reviews here or take a look at what some of their most recent customers have to say about their experiences:

“Great Website hosting and themes BUT….. You are limited in what you can do to improve your SEO – you need a Plug-In to do anything other than building the basic pages. You can’t even add a Meta Tag without a plugin? It’s a whopping £240 annual subscription !!!” – Kenny Mac (June 9, 2020)

“The latest version with the block layout is so restrictive and “simple”, its annoying. It’s complicated to merely implement a background image. It’s also really hard to find empty blocks located somewhere and delete them, and it’s impossible to adjust their width and height manually. Congratulations on screwing simple things up so hard.” – Bitstamp Fan (May 11, 2020)

“Great web hosting, convenient and easy. Customer support is adequate.” – Morino (April 25, 2020)

TLDR: WordPress Review Overview

Despite a terrible BBB rating (D-), WordPress.com seems to have a decent reputation with their customers. However, recent updates made the website builder harder to use, and some customers struggle with reaching their customer service team.

While most businesses improve their services over time, it seems like WordPress.com took a few steps backward in terms of functionality. It also seems like their customer service department has a lot of room for improvement.

Furthermore, their premium plans severely lack functionality despite costing more than other page builders I’ve used. And it’s no surprise their other customers feel the same way.

Final Thoughts on the WordPress.com Website Builder

I’m not a huge fan of WordPress.com. However, if you’re interested in building a simple website that doesn’t require a lot of advanced functionality or customization, their Business Plan ($25/month) may work well for your business website.

With that said, there are more affordable options to choose from (with more features, too), especially if you’re interested in selling your products online. Shopify, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace all offer affordable (high-quality) eCommerce functionality at much lower prices.

But, if you’re set on using WordPress.com, be prepared to spend several days getting used to the platform. And, don’t be surprised if you have to wait a while for customer support.

Click here to take WordPress.com for a free test drive.