WordPress for e-commerce review
Consider your budget and coding background when choosing this popular platform.
WordPress powers over 30% of websites on the Internet. It runs everything from new bloggers to small businesses, and even big names like Spotify and the New York Times. WordPress has two options for online stores with major differences in customization, price, and whether you need a programming background.
- Choose WordPress.com if you’re not tech-savvy and can afford its paid e-commerce plan.
- Choose WordPress.org if you’re comfortable running developer tools and documentation.
- Consider something else if you’re looking for an integrated in-person and online point-of-sale system (POS).
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
WordPress has two platforms with very similar names. WordPress.org is a self-hosted, open-source software that gives you free reigns of your website. You’ll need to find a host, perform backups and maintain your site all on your own.
WordPress.com hosts your site and handles everything in-house. You don’t have to worry about the technical details of maintaining your website. But customization and functionality are much more limited compared to WordPress.org unless you upgrade to a paid plan.
When people talk about WordPress, they’re usually referring to the open-source software, WordPress.org.
Here are a few of WordPress’s noteworthy offerings. But you’ll need the WordPress.com e-commerce plan to unlock these features:
- Themes. For users with no coding experience, WordPress has three default themes and thousands of free and premium third-party options for different types of websites, including blogs and e-commerce.
- Media uploader. Switch up your content by adding images, audio files and videos.
- Updates management system. Your admin dashboard helps keep your plugins, themes and WordPress software up to date.
- Publishing tools. Create posts and pages with the power to manage your content, such as scheduling publication or securing pages with a password.
- Plugins. Use plugins to expand your website. For example, you can create an online store with the WooCommerce plugin and optimize your website for Google with the Yoast plugin.
- Payment processing. Accept payments from providers like Stripe and Paypal.
- Marketing tools. Launch email campaigns and send newsletters with integrations like Mailchimp.
- Analytics. Track your website traffic and growth with Google Analytics.
- Shipping management. Integrate third-party shipping plugins or extensions to sync inventory and get live shipping quotes from carriers like UPS.
- Media uploader. Upload or embed images, audio files and videos.
- Social sharing. Automatically share new posts on your social accounts.
- Easy edits. WordPress.com uses blocks so you can intuitively drag-and-drop text and media to position your page the way you want.
WordPress pricing and fees
WordPress.org is free, but you’ll need to purchase your own web hosting and domain. Be sure to take into account any paid plugins that you would like to add.
WordPress.com has a tiered service system.
A simple, straightforward website that’s light on content. No plugins allowed.
$4 monthly, billed annually
A website for hobbyists who want to get rid of WordPress’s pesky ads and WordPress branding by adding their own custom domain. No plugins allowed.
$8 monthly, billed annually
A plan for freelancers and bloggers looking for advanced design tools, Google Analytics support and the ability to sell ad space. No plugins allowed.
$25 monthly, billed annually
A website for small businesses that want to use third-party plugins and themes and get real-time support.
$45 monthly, billed annually
A site dedicated to selling online with powerful marketing tools and extensive payment processing.
How much technical experience do I need?
WordPress.org doesn’t technically require any coding experience to set up and use its basic functions. But it’s extremely helpful if you have a web development background.
For example, first, you’ll need to find a website hosting provider and purchase a domain name. But before you even install WordPress, you need to make sure your host supports specific versions of PHP and MYSQL.
While you can follow step-by-step tutorials to set up your online store and install the necessary plugins, you’re pretty much on your own. If you need support, you’ll have to turn to WordPress forums or hire an agency. Ultimately, you’ll likely need a developer to unlock WordPress’s true customizable potential.
WordPress.com is a paid service that helps you every step of the way, so you don’t need any programming experience. For its business and e-commerce plans, you’ll schedule a personal setup session where WordPress does all the heavy lifting. And you’ll have around-the-clock support.
How do I contact WordPress support?
Customers on WordPress.com paid plans can get in touch with customer service by:
- Email. Log in and then click the question mark icon in the bottom right corner. Click Contact us, fill out and submit the email form.
- Live chat. Log in and then click the question mark icon in the bottom right corner. Click Contact us, type your question, and click Chat with us.
- Phone. 877-273-3049
What design options does it have?
With WordPress.org, you have total authority over your website. If you can code, you can customize and add any design elements that you’d like. Or you can start with over 7,000 premade themes and tweak them to fit your business.
WordPress.com has just shy of 300 free and paid themes in its repertoire. Premium plans and up can access advanced design tools to customize their layout and color schemes. And business and e-commerce customers can choose to use third-party themes, giving them full design control.
Pros and cons
Here are some perks of using the WordPress platform:
- Free. Unlike its .com counterpart, WordPress.org doesn’t charge a monthly subscription.
- Open-source and customizable. The WordPress software is powerful and customizable if you know how to wield developer tools.
- Scalable. As your business grows, your website can adapt by adding free, paid or custom plugins.
- Monetization. You don’t need to share your revenue with WordPress if you run ads on your site.
- Easy to set up. All you need is a WordPress account and a URL for your website.
- Free plan. If you’re only testing the waters and don’t want to commit a lot of time or resources to a website, WordPress.com’s free option gives you 3GB of space and free templates to try out its service. You can always upgrade your plan.
- Paid plans. Business and e-commerce plans share similar benefits of WordPress.org, including custom plugins and the ability to scale and customize your website.
- No maintenance required. WordPress.com handles all the technical aspects of running a website.
- Built-in security. Since WordPress hosts your site, it takes care of security.
WordPress also has a few drawbacks:
- Self-hosted. You’ll need to find your own web-hosting provider. Hosting costs can increase as your website grows and needs to handle more traffic.
- Updates. As WordPress updates, you’ll need to manually update the software on your site too.
- Security and backups. Since WordPress.org is self-hosted, you’re responsible for site security and backups.
- Free plans are limited. Its free websites come with WordPress ads and a branded domain, you can’t sell ad space even if you have a high traffic site, and you can’t upload plugins or custom themes.
- Monthly subscription. To access features like a custom domain and live chat support, you’ll need to be on one of its paid plans.
- Terms of service. WordPress can delete your site if you violate their terms of service.
WordPress reviews and complaints
Customer reviews for both WordPress.org and WordPress.com are mixed. Users on WordPress.org say that it’s easy to use if you have a developer background. Many complain about glitches when themes and plugins need to be updated.
WordPress.com customers appear happy with the software and customer support on its paid plans. Most complaints are about the limited features of a free website. One prospective customer wanted to contact WordPress to make sure that its paid subscription fulfills his business’s needs, but was told that he could only get answers to his questions after he pays. So unless you’re a paying customer, you’ll have to search elsewhere for answers.
How do I sign up with WordPress?
WordPress.org is a free Content Management System (CMS) that doesn’t require signing up. Just install, activate and dive right in.
Follow these steps to sign up with WordPress.com:
- On its homepage, click Get started in the top right corner.
- Create an account with your email address and choose a username.
- Create a URL for your website.
- Click the activation link in your email.
Compare merchant services providers
WordPress is a robust platform for online stores. WordPress.org requires a bit more work that you can either do yourself or hire a developer to get it off the ground.
Once you get your website set up, comb through third-party plugins to build your online store. But if you don’t want the headache and don’t mind the monthly subscription, opt for WordPress.com.
Hybrid businesses looking for a centralized POS system for in-person and online sales can either use a third-party plugin to integrate in-person transactions or you’ll need to choose a different e-commerce platform.
Frequently asked questions
How does WordPress handle security?
For WordPress.org, you’ll need to handle your own security, such as installing a security plugin. WordPress handles the security on WordPress.com, such as a preinstalled SSL certificate on all of its plans.
Can I move my WordPress.com site to WordPress.org?
Yes, it is possible to export your WordPress.com site and import it to WordPress.org.
What’s the difference between a WordPress administrator and editor?
An administrator is the highest role for your website and can create and delete users. Editors are second-in-command and can publish and delete pages on your site.