WordPress is the world's most popular open-source web publishing platform, powering more than 35% of all sites on the internet, including sites for The Walt Disney Company, Quartz and Mercedes-Benz. It's a little confusing, but WordPress.com is a hosted website building service built on WordPress. Whereas WordPress requires you to purchase a domain name through another site and do more hands-on work creating your site, WordPress.com does all of that for you -- making it easier to work with, but more limited in functionality.
Create a free test site to try out WordPress.com, and select the type of site you want to create: blog, business, professional or online store. I selected the professional category. Getting a basic version of the site up was easy, and only required a username, password, my name and the name of the site. You can then go to Design > Customize to do things like add a logo or a widget (like audio, a Facebook plug-in or a follow button).
WordPress.com is a bit less intuitive than Squarespace, and it takes some trial and error to figure out what you're doing -- though each section you click on does contain mini tutorials to help. But you can play around with it for free, and upgrade to a paid account if you like the results. You can also see a desktop and mobile preview of your site.
"The biggest thing we see with other website builders is that they might work well for a person in the short term, but because they are not open ecosystems like WordPress, people quickly start to find themselves limited or locked in when it comes to how they can expand or customize based on their growing business needs," Mark Armstrong, editor for WordPress.com's parent company Automattic, told CNET. "WordPress has the single largest ecosystem for plug-ins, services and developer and designer expertise, working hand in hand with the software."
To expand and customize your site, WordPress offers a number of plug-ins that attract users, including Yoast SEO (for SEO help), Jetpack by WordPress.com (for site security and performance management) and WPForms (for creating a contact form).
"Depending on your client's needs, WordPress can be highly customized with plug-ins, and has a flexibility that just can't be matched with other template sites," said Basil Larios, SEO content creator for Falcon Marketing. "Whenever we run into roadblocks with design it is usually because clients first build their sites on a template base. Once they begin to see growth and want to make more concrete changes then the template site becomes more limiting than what they had initially expected."
As with Squarespace, if you already have a domain name, you can transfer that over to WordPress.com, so the same address is then hosted on its platform.
You can create a basic site for free, if you're OK with the domain being "YourSite.wordpress.com." Or, you can register a domain like "sitename.com" that you pay for.
Here is how much a WordPress.com site costs:
- Personal (best for personal use): $4 per month, billed yearly at $48 (includes custom domain name and access to 24/7 support)
- Premium (best for freelancers): $8 per month, billed yearly at $9 (includes advanced design tools, custom CSS and Google Analytics support)
- Business (best for small business): $25 per month, billed yearly at $300 (includes custom plug-ins and themes, 200GB storage and live support)
- eCommerce (best for online stores): $45 per month, billed yearly at $540 (includes a more powerful, flexible platform designed to grow as your business does)