Welcome to the third post of Evermore’s series on popular website builders. I’ll be taking you through Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, and WordPress.com. While Evermore sites are powered by WordPress, we know that it’s not for everyone. This series will help you learn which website builder suits your needs today, and what you may want to look into as you grow. This week, let’s talk WordPress.com.
Transparency! At Evermore, we build sites for our clients on WordPress. We don’t get any money from WordPress for talking about them, nor do we get any money if you decide to try WordPress for yourself. Phew, all that said, let’s dive in!
What Makes WordPress.com Different
Briefly: software is considered open-source when the original authors of the code make it publically available for licensed developers to change and distribute as they wish. WordPress is website software that is 100% open for anyone to edit as they choose. The open-source version of WordPress is available at WordPress.org. It’s completely free to download and requires you to have your own server to run a website.
This post will focus on WordPress.com which comes in various grades from free to not-so-free, and is built more for people who don’t have time to learn everything about how CSS and HTML work.
Where WordPress.com Fits in with other Website Builders
Even from the free versions, WordPress.com is more versatile than Wix and Squarespace. On a very basic level, WordPress.com allows you to edit the HTML of pages within the theme that you select. You’re bound to the overall framework of the theme but are free to make more complex edits on each page. This is not available in Wix or Squarespace, though the latter does allow you to insert HTML into the <head>.
One thing that makes WordPress.com particularly valuable to a business with plans to start small and grow over time is the way they structure their free and paid tiers. All the website builders have some method of doing this but WordPress.com allows for the most room to grow by far. Things start at free. This includes a “yoursite.wordpress.com” domain and will feature WordPress.com ads around your content. It’s a great way to learn the ropes. You’ll probably want more features (and less ads as your business matures).
The first paid tier lets you have “yoursite.com” and removes ads.
The second paid tier adds video support, meaning you can host videos directly on WordPress.com instead of YouTube (great for bands, churches, schools). This second tier and the third tier also allow you to monetize your site by allowing WordPress.com to put ads back on your site. Only this time, you get a cut of the money based on the number of views you have. For any a small business other than media, this feature is probably useless at best, and actively bad for you at worst. For one thing, you’re probably not going to have enough views on the ads for to recoup what you’ve spent on the WordPress.com site itself. For another, you don’t have control over the ads WordPress.com includes and you could inadvertently end up advertising for one of your local competitors.
At both the second and third paid tiers WordPress.com gives you full access to the CSS of your website. This essentially allows for complete customization of things like color and font if you know your way around. Similar to the issues I mentioned with Wix’s plethora of third-parties, modifying your CSS is only a good idea if you have a strong eye for design and user experience. You could end up making changes that make it harder for people to use your site.
Much like the other website builders we have discussed so far, WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to do much with the themes they supply. This is good and bad. On the open-source (WordPress.org) side of WordPress, it’s not uncommon to find third-party themes and plugins that are bad for your site and your users. WordPress.com saves you from this by providing their in house themes which are vetted for safety and reliability by their developers. As with the others, this becomes a bit of a pain when you want a site that stands out from the rest, that reflects your brand and that your users delight in visiting.
Tracking Visitors with WordPress
All the tiers (from free on up) include some capability for seeing who visited your site and which posts/pages got the most views. It’s worth noting that these are WordPress.com’s homebrewed “Stats” which are not nearly as detailed as Google Analytics. Only the highest paid tier (~$300/year) allows for full integration with Google Analytics. This makes it more difficult to get good data out of a lower tier WordPress.com site, but if you’re operating on the lower end of the feature spectrum, it might not be as important to have the granular details that Google Analytics provides over WordPress.com stats. It would be nice if you could put Analytics in at lower tiers, but you probably don’t need to have it.
How to Soup-Up Your WordPress.com Site
WordPress.com definitely plays well with others. There’s a veritable cornucopia of plugins you can use to get more data out of your WordPress.com site and to make your site easier to build. WordPress.com includes popular plugins with the price you pay for your subscription. The included SEO tool makes it easy to keep best practices front and center as you add pages. Other included plugins let folks subscribe to your posts via email and automatically backup and secure your site from internet ne’er do wells.
Many of the most popular marketing tools, used by companies large and small have built plugins just for WordPress. Parsely provides insight into how visitors are finding your site. Optimizely allows you to A/B test which versions of your site get the most conversions. These (and many more) are available to add to your site. One thing to note: you need to have a paid account with each of these third parties first. That can add up quick. Also, you won’t be able to access the data these tools provide inside of WordPress.com. You’ll need to use the dashboards and graphics displayed on the third party sites to get any value from their plugins.
How Evermore Works with WordPress
At Evermore, we help customers tap into the full potential of WordPress’s open software. We feature world-class themes customized for each of our customers’ brands, and we support the site with a curated package of plugins which we’ve personally tested for quality and safety. If you want the fully customizeable experience of WordPress with the ease of use offered by WordPress.com, get in touch with us.
Key Takeaways about WordPress.com
Many, many, themes and plugins are available to make your WordPress.com site uber functional. Similar to Squarespace and Wix, these pre-built themes run the gamut from ecommerce store to photo gallery to business info page. WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to fully customize these themes but you can change colors and fonts at higher paid tiers. Tracking visitors is built in, but it might be nice to have Google Analytics available at all tiers, not just the most expensive one. Overall, WordPress.com might be one of the best website builders to grow with as you get significantly more control over the site the more you’re willing to pay for the site. When it comes to growth, WordPress.com offers the best option for moving beyond the “website builder” into a completely custom site. Should the day come that you move from WordPress.com to the open-source WordPress, moving your site is a simple as exporting your content from WordPress.com and uploading it into your new site on your host.