WordPress.com is a comprehensive, easy-to-use alternative blog software to WordPress.com and earns our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award. The main difference being that WordPress.com takes some technical know-how to download, install and maintain a database. This hosted version contains much of the same features and functionality without the added difficulty of being your own web developer and host.
The design tools offered at the free level include access to many templates (blog designs), sidebar customization using widgets and some of the themes even let you upload your own photo to customize your banner
Tracking and publishing tools are mostly integrated into the program – the stats are certainly integrated and offer a real-time look at all the activity and traffic happening to your blog.
The hosting has several different paid levels that increase your blog’s functionality. Upgrades include custom CSS, unlimited private users, 5 GB, 10 GB and 15 GB space upgrades, no ads and video embedding capability.
When you first sign up with WordPress you will be prompted to choose a blog design theme (template). There are five pages of themes and you can purchase the ability to edit the CSS if you so desire.
All the widgets are premade and integrated – you just select the one you want, drag it and drop it into the sidebar folder next to the widget gallery. You can add Akismet spam deterrent, archives, blog stats, feeds and even display your Twitter tweets on your blog as a sidebar widget.
The editor offers HTML and WYSIWYG editing and the standard rich text buttons, though you cannot use the hyperlink button on the rich text editor without paying for a higher level of account. You can upload and embed audio and image files to your blog with a free account, but again, you’ll need an upgrade to embed videos.
The spell check and preview-before-posting features are so vital to a successful, functioning blog and they are present here in the WordPress program and work to help you put out a good-looking, flawless blog.
You cannot blog by email with WordPress, but you can point your mobile device to https://m.wordpress.com to send a post using your mobile phone or PDA. Also you won’t have the ability to schedule future posts for publishing without an upgrade.
Otherwise, every box on our side-by-side comparison is checked and chock full of features that employ an arsenal of tools to help make your blog look and function its best.
The traffic and tracking stats are outstanding with this program – absolutely the best available. You can view a line graph on your dashboard that will tell you how many pageviews you are getting per day, your top-viewed posts, which search engine words sent you traffic and clicks. On the expanded stats page you can view all of this information on a line graph by day, weeks, or months and they don’t count your own visits. The entire program is worth this collection of stat features.
Comments left by your readers are searchable and you can set it up so that every comment has to be approved by you before it publishes to your blog.
WordPress uses a service called Akismet to filter comment spam and trackback spam and you don’t have to do anything to activate the Akismet service, it just works naturally once your blog is live.
WordPress automatically assigns a permalink (permanent link) to every blog entry you make. For SEO purposes, this is ideal as long as you name your blog entry using an optimized keyword.
This is the only free service we found that offers such comprehensive referrer stats without having to add a third–party application. This program also supports private and protected blogs. If you’re not craving publicity you can block particular words in comments or specific users from leaving comments.
WordPress is easy to use, and this is perhaps the best thing about this blog software program. With so many options and wide-ranging functionality finding out how everything works could be a menace and a setback. But WordPress guides you the entire way with helpful links to the knowledge base and related video or screencast tutorials.
Within the knowledge base itself, you can type in the subject of your problem and the program will return with entries from the user forums, WordPress blog, WordPress FAQs and the knowledge base. Everything is expertly presented and explained and is quite a marvel of organization and user-friendliness.
WordPress.com is a hosted service offering several levels of upgrade on the hosting as well as the software. Some of the upgrades can seem quite spendy ($59.97 for VideoPress – the ability to upload and embed video directly to your blog). They try to soften the blow by including the price-per-day to use the service, which makes it seem less painful. For example, using VideoPress will cost you just $0.16 per day.
Storage is a big deal on the web and blogs are no different – you need virtual real estate to house all the images and words you’re putting out there. The free account starts you out the 3 GB of space, which for a non-technical beginner is a good deal. But as your blog and your blogging skills grow, you might need more space. WordPress offers upgrades billed on a yearly subscription basis: 5 GB for $19.97 per year ($0.05 per day), 15 GB for $49.97 ($0.14 per day), 25 GB for $89.97 per year ($0.25 per day).
You can also pay $29.97 per year to not have ads placed on your blog. This same price per year will grant you unlimited private users. Finally, for $14.97 you purchase custom CSS capabilities so you can customize any theme and make it your own.
This is a different way to charge for space and software upgrades – most services want you to pay a monthly subscription service to cover both hosting and software (for a discount, pay yearly). The prices are comparable when you crunch the numbers, but to say one was is better than another isn’t really possible – the best price and features for your money are those that perfectly fit your blogging needs and that is a personal decision.
The price listed on our side-by-side comparison reflect a monthly payment if you signed up for the Custom CSS.
For more information on blog software hosting, read Free vs. Paid, Or Why It Pays To Pay.
WordPress provides full support in a time of need. Email, searchable knowledge base, FAQs, tutorials, WordPress user blogs about using WordPress, forums and their own developer blog to keep you updated.
As mentioned above searching the knowledge base is intuitive and informative. They have also done a fabulous job of integrating links to FAQs and to the knowledge base right on the tab in which you’re working. So if you come across a problem with adding feeds, there is an FAQ link right there that will lead you into the knowledge base to find the answer to your question.
WordPress has the best of everything we looked for with this round of blog software reviews. What it lacks in mobile blogging, it makes up for in stats and ease of use. If you’re looking for a comparable program with the full complement of mobile blogging capabilities, try TypePad.
WordPress.com is easy to use, full of professional, expandable features and hosted for you. If you have development skills and look to build your own blog from the ground up, see our sub-category of reviews of advanced, self-hosted blog software.