For the past 10 years or more WordPress.com has been the GoTo CMS for Small Businesses especially on free hosted website development. No Longer.
This review will look at the what has happened in the past 2-3 years to change the situation such that 3 other hosted Website Builders[ SquareSpace, Weebly, Wix] have now become equal to or a better than WordPress.com as an option for small businesses looking for economical and effective Web Presence. But the key point here is that we are comparing free hosted Website Builders. Let us clarify this choice.
The small business Website Building market place is divided into two major camps – free hosted web services in which users can build attractive and highly effective basic websites for no out of pockets costs but still not insubstantial time , design and maintenance effort. There are well over 2 dozen free hosted website builders in this market place – with SquareSpace, Weebly, Wix being the leaders. But WordPress.com with over 13million websites worldwide is the market leader
The other side of the small business web market is premium hosted services which WordPress.org website code dominates the market. Users get a free copy of WordPress[or Concrete or Drupal or Joomla or at least 4 dozen other free CMS code] and upload that copy to their premium hosting services. These hosting services provide the small business with underlying web software, CPU computing power, 10 to 1000GB of diskspace, WiFi bandwidth, and other services to run their chosen CMS software. These premium hosted services can support 10,000++ page and products with 100K to 1000K daily visitors. In contrast, free hosted services report support for 10,000- 20,000 visitors/day.
In sum, free hosted services must switch users to premium hosting plans [at $100-500/year] to achieve 200,000+ daily users – still a fraction of premium hosted services. So the sweet spot for free hosted services is 100 to 10,000 visitors per day with 10 to 15 pages & products before you have to consider switching a premium hosting plan.
The Attraction of Free Hosted Website Services
For the past 10 years WordPress.com has been the “free” version of WordPress. Users could create a website with all the Theme, Blogging, and easy Page and Post creation capabilities of the senior WordPress.org system. With hosting free and 3GB of diskspace available pus over 100 themes it has been possible to create a practical portfolio or special event or small business website using WordPress.com.
And YourWebSpace.wordpress.com not only hosted the domain name and website for free but also kept all the components – theme, plugins and WordPress itself updated and secure. This was the best of all possible worlds – a free site until you needed to upgrade to more advanced performance, features and plugins. And then WP had the export/import tools to make an easy transfer to your own premium hosted WordPress.org website. And so of the approximate 27 Million WordPress websites in the World, nearly half at 13 Million are WordPress.com.
This is a perfect example of how WordPress.com has won so many users. WordPress has made hard website development tasks a lot easier with “No coding required”.
- Themes make changing the look and feel of a website much easier;
- Creating Posts and Pages is done in a Visual Editor that resembles a simple Microsoft Word with Visual and HTML views;
- Plugins eliminate the need to know complex Web programming in order to have such features as Image Sliders with layers & animations or Contact Forms with conditional inputs and validation or literally thousands of other components and tasks. The number and breadth of full WP plugins dwarfs all its CMS competitors;
- Website maintenance is eased with automated WP installation plus point and click theme plus JetPack plugin updates that has been well ahead of rival CMS systems;
- Website operations like backup, security, translations, SEO, transfers , performance statistics are also enabled with Jetpack plugins.
But something happened in the past 2-4 years to change the Cost-Benefit Analysis of WordPress.com. First, other free hosted services copieda ll of the winning features of WordPress.com: – free themes easily loaded or changed; a Visual Editor with all the WP.com features; a slightly larger set of plugins then that offered by WP.com; same easy set of website operation and maintenance features.
But then the competitors added a set of features that WordPress.com has failed to match. Since 2010-2012 a number of software vendors like Wix, Weebly, JimDo, etc started offering Website Builders that made creating a website faster and easier than anything that WordPress.com offered. Yes, WordPress.com offers some themes with some pre-built features that can be customized. But dicovering which themes have the features you require is a tedious [and possibly costly]trial and error process.
Here is a Wix PageBuilder video example:
But the bottom line is that WordPress.com still does not have any PageBuilder like in Wix, Weeby and Square, etc. There is no uniform WP.com templating system like that available in rival systems.