One of the main reasons to choose a website builder like WordPress.com is for its ease of use. So, I found it a bit surprising that WordPress.com’s site builder is a bit confusing to use at first. Despite its lack of intuitive design, it ends up being simple to use — it just takes a while to learn everything.
Customization is severely limited, even if you choose one of the high-tier plans. WordPress.com doesn’t give you access to all the themes and plug-ins built specifically for the open-source WordPress.org CMS. You may be better off choosing one of the best web hosting providers that include one-click installs of the CMS instead.
Still, WordPress is the most popular CMS used even today — 43% of all websites use WordPress as of 2023. Is it worth it to use WordPress.com to use the most common CMS? Keep reading to find out more about what WordPress.com has to offer, its pros and cons, and our list of WordPress.com alternatives.
|WordPress.com standout features|
|Best for||Bloggers or small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that don’t need to scale their site much|
What Are the Pros and Cons of WordPress.com’s Website Builder?
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. Here are the pros and cons of WordPress.com:
Pros of WordPress.com’s website builder
- 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.
Cons of WordPress.com’s website builder
- 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 plug-ins 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 kind of expected. However, the branding remains on all sites and plans until you upgrade to the Business plan for $25 per month (paid annually).
- 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. Even 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.
WordPress.com may be the best website builder for: Individuals and SMBs that don’t have a complex website or e-commerce needs.
|Price (paid annually)*||$4 per month||$8 per month||$25 per month||$45 per month|
|Best for||Hobbyists||Solo entrepreneurs|
|Small to midsized businesses||Online stores|
|Reporting||Standard reports||Standard reports||Standard reports||Standard reports|
*The free plan includes 1GB storage, SSL certificate, a WordPress.com subdomain with WordPress.com branding and ads, and access to free themes.
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, plug-ins, 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 WordPress.com, though.
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 plug-ins or upload themes unless you choose the Business or eCommerce plan, which when paid annually cost $25 or $45 per month, respectively. 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.
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.
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, 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 plug-ins, or better e-commerce support, you’ll likely find that in the chart below. We here at Digital.com research and test all the best website builders on the market to help you find the best for you.
See the WordPress.com alternatives that we recommend for different use cases:
Frequently Asked Questions About WordPress.com
Is WordPress a good website builder?
What is the difference between a website builder and WordPress
Is WordPress.com any good?
What is the difference between WordPress and WordPress.com?
Can WordPress.com delete your website?
Does WordPress host your website?
Do I have to pay WordPress to use my own domain?
Can I build a WordPress site without hosting?
How I Rated WordPress.com’s Website Builder
My score for WordPress.com came down to several factors and subfactors. I considered the audience most likely to read a WordPress.com website builder review because they want an all-in-one solution. That drove me to focus on pricing, features, support, and security as the most important considerations.
I created a WordPress.com account and built my website. Although I stuck to the free plan, I got a good feel for the site builder. Based on my experience and comparing WordPress.com to similar website builders, I found it to be a less-than-stellar option.
With that said, WordPress.com’s pricing for its plans is attractive, the mobile app is excellent, and security is strong on all plans. I liked that WordPress.com updates its blog with regular site builder improvements. WordPress.com is a good option for those who want to use WordPress but don’t want to find hosting and a domain name on their own.
While WordPress.com can work well for beginners, it has its issues, mostly for anyone with big plans for a small business website or an online store. To scale effectively with WordPress.com, you need many plug-ins for better functionality. This can slow your site, and it’s likely to get expensive.
WordPress.com gets a generous 3.6 out of 5 stars thanks to its simple site builder (even with its slightly steep learning curve), affordable plans, and good product support. It’s a viable option, regardless of what you want to do with a website, but it has many limitations and restrictions, so it’s not a top pick for me.