You’ve probably heard of Wordpress before. It’s a popular CMS used for building websites. A CMS is not a website builder. A CMS is usually more sophisticated and much more technical— which means a steeper learning curve. Wordpress.com is a service built on-top of Wordpress that tries to offer a website builder experience on top of the Wordpress CMS— to mixed results.
Wordpress.com is separated into two parts: My Site and WP Admin. My Site is beautiful but simple— it’s the part that feels like a website builder. WP Admin is complex but more powerful— it’s the part that feels like a CMS.
My Site is great— the page editor is beautiful and it’s simple to understand. Pages and blog posts are created using a WYSIWYG editor (so not a drag-and-drop visual interface, which many users may prefer). Fortunately the WYSIWYG editor is very nicely done.
Here’s the problem though. My Site is really simple. As soon as you to use some of the advanced features— for example create a store or add a poll— you have swap over to the WP Admin. Having two separated interfaces for the same functions is hugely tedious. (For starters, it creates two places for you to search for specific features— a frustrating experience.)
The WP Admin is also much more complex to navigate. The interface will feel much more cluttered and disorganized. (Wordpress purists beware— this is relative. The Wordpress interface compared to other CMS’s is good, but compared to website builders it’s not.)
Besides My Site and WP Admin, there’s actually a third section to Wordpress.com too: Reader. In fact, when you first register your Wordpress.com website you are taken to Reader— which makes no sense. Reader is a Tumblr like blog social network that Wordpress.com tries to shoehorn users into. You sign up to build a website and you find yourself in a social network. What?
One of the best blog editors you’ll find in a website builder. The post composer is beautiful (see screenshot). You can add categories, tags, featured images, excerpts and edit the slug URL of posts. You can add your post as a draft and set it to publish on another day. There’s even an option to add “related posts” beneath your post (handy). Posts don’t have to be just text— they can also be quotes, audio clips, photo galleries and more (this is similar to Tumblr). While there is no Disqus or Facebook comments integration, Wordpress offers a full comment moderation platform— you can choose from a variety of options (commenter registration, moderation settings, email notification settings and more). Show Screenshot
No. Instead it allows you to connect to 3rd party services such as Shopify or Ecwid— which is not ideal. If you want ecommerce find a website builder who offers an fully-integrated solution. (Also: Woocommerce is basically synonymous with Wordpress and ecommerce. It's a shame Wordpress.com doesn't offer any integrations with it.)
There are a wide variety of field types: text, multi-line, radio button, check boxes, emails (but no file upload field). Form submissions are sent to an email (submissions aren’t saved anywhere else, so don’t delete those emails!). Unfortunately you can’t customize what URL your user is sent to after a successful submission— and you can’t edit the success message. Show Screenshot
There is an iOS and an Android app that let you view stats, moderate comments and create and edit posts and pages.
Images I uploaded appeared sharp and crisp on retina devices (Macbooks, iPhones).
There is a Mailchimp “widget” you can add— but it’s not really a widget. It just asks you to paste in your Mailchimp embed code. It’s also tough to find: it’s under Widgets in your WP Admin. Show Screenshot
You can publish podcasts and make them available in podcast players (such as iTunes).
I did not try to pay for Wordpress.com with my credit card because it does not do monthly billing— which is not ideal. Instead it only does annual billing.
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Keep in mind that Wordpress.com may have changed since then. If you believe something is out of date in my review, please let me know.