WordPress review – build the website of your dreams
WordPress is a versatile platform, running nearly half of the Internet's websites. Should it run yours, too? Depends – there are a lot of things to consider before picking WordPress as your #1 choice for website making.
The Internet is a massive place, stretching farther than any of us could ever see. And 40% of its websites are made using WordPress – making it far and away the most popular content management system (CMS) on the planet.
How so? It's all about versatility, flexibility, and scalability.
WordPress is used to create all types of websites – online shops, blogs, landing pages, wikis, portfolios, and others. It's great for both tiny personal projects, and massive enterprises. Even this post right here was typed in using nothing but a WordPress text editor! The possibilities are pretty much endless.
But while it can do pretty much everything, it doesn't mean that it's for everyone. Flexibility and freedom are great – but some users may rightly be overwhelmed by the options.
What about you? Is this the platform for you, or should you look elsewhere? Let's find out together on this WordPress review and see whether this is the platform for you to use.
You can click here to go straight to the conclusion – or follow the links on the table below to read only about the parts that interest you the most.
|Ease of use:||A pretty steep learning curve, made easier by plenty of great resources.|
|Templates:||Okay selection of free templates, massive premium third-party template library.|
|Business features:||All brought in by the plugins that you use – some of them cost extra.|
|Performance:||Depends on your hosting provider and the website itself.|
|Current deal:||Get the best hosting for WordPress|
What is WordPress? – .org and .com explained
Before you jump in, there's an important thing to note.
There are two different types or versions of WordPress - WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is the self-hosted option that offers a lot of flexibility, often at the expense of simplicity. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a fully-hosted website builder. It's less versatile than its sibling but also much more intuitive and hassle-free.
So, while WordPress.org lets you simply download a piece of software to your hosting account and do as you please...
WordPress.com gives you a premium tool to quickly make websites with.
WordPress.org is a piece of software – and WordPress.com is a product using this software as a base.
On WordPress.com, your entire setup process is as simple as signing up, entering your credit card details (or not!), and making the posts for the world to see. While WordPress.org will give you all the freedom to create and edit – but will also ask you to do a whole lot of setting up.
I talked a lot about these two options on my WordPress.com vs WordPress.org comparison – so, you can check them out there.
In this article, I'll be covering WordPress.org – but most of the things (unless stated otherwise), will apply to the WordPress.com version as well.
WordPress Pros and Cons
- Loads of functionality flexibility with free plugin library
- Can be very low priced
- No monetization limitation
- A little more advanced than .com
- The user is responsible for the website's maintenance
Is building sites with WordPress easy?
- Setting up your website – the setup and installation process can be pretty complicated or relatively seamless, depending on what hosting provider you choose.
- Building your website – building a website with WordPress takes some getting used to if you're new to the platform.
- Maintaining your website – it's not the most beginner-friendly experience, but there is plenty of useful help out there to help you see what's what.
WordPress is good for beginners: pretty much anyone can get to website building, having no prior development knowledge. It's a pretty smooth process, letting anyone learn some of the basic skills.
That being said, it's not going to be a walk in the park. There is still going to be a bit of a learning curve. Not only with the platform itself – if you haven't worked with hosting before, you'll also need to learn how to install the software, manage your site’s hosting, and work with third-party tools.
While you don’t need coding skills to use WordPress, knowing HTML and CSS will help customize your website. It's an excellent way to unlock the platform's full potential.
But I didn't need any of it to make this WordPress site right here. It uses a stock theme, royalty-free stock images, and one of the cheapest WordPress hosting providers that I could find. And all of that took me less than an hour (the image leads to the site itself!):
Let me show you how to use WordPress – and how I managed with making my very own WordPress site.
To start building a website with WordPress, you'll need two things: a hosting account, and a domain name. You can get them both from your hosting provider – such as WordPress (applicable for .com version), Bluehost , or any other web host (talking about .org option).
After that, the process of setting up WordPress will vary depending on the hosting provider you choose. Some providers offer seamless one-click installations as well as automatic updates. Like Bluehost right here!
Others ask you to download the software manually: like Hostinger.
Luckily, the whole installation process is really not complicated at all. Most providers include pretty extensive tutorials on how to do it. In Hostinger's case, it's as simple as opening your hosting panel, and picking "Auto Installer".
There, it's just as simple as clicking "Select", and following a simple setup process.
Getting around the WordPress interface
Once the hosting provider set everything up, I could access the dashboard. It can be reached either via the hosting management interface or by typing in yourwebsiteurlgoeshere.com/wp-admin/ on your browser's URL area.
Overall, the dashboard is rather simple – and that's a good thing. The Home area includes some of the tips, shortcuts, and different actions you can perform: such as setting up your homepage or typing in a blog post.
On the left, you’ll find a sidebar navigation menu from which you can access submenus for posts, plugins, themes, and settings, among others.
If you hover over the WordPress icon at the top left of the page, you’ll find quick links to the WordPress.org support and forum web pages. There’s also a navigation strip at the top that provides quick access to your profile, comments, and your website.
Depending on your hosting provider and how you installed WordPress, you may find that the interface comes preloaded with many items, and your dashboard might look quite cluttered.
Personally, after downloading WordPress on Hostinger, I found it pre-installed with a heap of plugins for everything. It can be super helpful – but also a little bit overwhelming.
Editing the WordPress website
As far as editing the design of your website goes, you're not getting all that many options. The "Customizer" menu is particularly limited, letting to only change the basics, such as site name.
However, you'll get a whole lot more freedom when it comes to editing specific pages and their content.
The Pages and Posts menus include lists of the existing content on your site – some example content will be uploaded once you start, so you know how everything looks like.
From here, you can choose to add, remove, or edit all of it.
Blog and page editor
When you choose to edit a page or a post, you'll get sent to the Block Editor, an editor which (you guessed it!) uses blocks. If you have ever used a section-based block builder like Site123, you'll be quite familiar with this layout too.
It looks like that on pages:
And like that on posts:
Yep – looks pretty similar! That's because it is. You get a list of options (blocks) to add on the left-hand side and then get to mix-and-match them to make the kind of content you want. You can't move them just wherever you wish, though. They'll still have to comply with the grid.
However, if a grid system does not meet your liking, the best alternative is a website builder like Zyro. A flexible drag-and-drop builder offers a pretty wide variety of design options, and on top of that, it is automatically optimized for mobile devices or tablets.
Regardless, each content block comes with its own set of customization options – but the design will depend heavily on the theme that you're using.
For deeper edits, there's a code editor too, so you can really edit everything your liking – but obviously, that will mean a bigger learning curve.
WordPress is written using PHP, and for deeper edits, you can use HTML/CSS.
Overall, WordPress isn't as easy to use as some of the best website builders out there: but there's still a lot a beginner can do right from the start. For deeper design edits, however, you'll need to either get a custom theme or get acquainted with editing code.
WordPress pricing – pay for what you need
WordPress’s software is free to download and use. But that doesn't mean that running a WordPress website is free!
There are a couple of costs that you’ll need to take care of when running a WordPress.org website. These costs can vary depending on many things – the type of website you’re running, as well as which themes, plugins, and hosting provider you choose.
Here’s a quick look at the cost of WordPress site:
|WordPress hosting||WordPress as software is free. But to use it, you'll need to own server hosting, which can cost as little as $1 and as much as thousands of dollars a month.|
|Domain||You will often get a domain name free with your hosting account. Renewing a domain will cost around $10-15 a year.|
|Premium WordPress theme||A WordPress theme can be acquired without paying a penny. However, if you want your website to look professional, I suggest purchasing a premium WordPress theme – they'll usually cost anywhere between $20 and $100.|
|WordPress plugins||WordPress plugins are often essential for adding extra functionality to your site. They can be free, free with additional premium packages, or commanding a one-time or a recurring fee.|
Certainly, there are many factors to consider – but it's going to be you who decides what's worth paying for and what isn't.
The biggest variation in the price you're going to experience will be the hosting.
For basic personal websites, a host like Hostinger is perfect. With plans starting at $1.35 a month, it's one of the cheapest options out there. And you can get it long-term too, spending just $60 for four years of hosting.
A more expensive, WordPress-centered option like Bluehost is excellent for beginners looking for the easiest setup and management experience out there. At $3.95/month, Bluehost isn't the cheapest pick around – but it's perhaps the most user-friendly one.
But it's not what the pros use. The real pros use something like WPEngine, also a WordPress-centered hosting provider, offering WordPress-expert customer support, dedicated server, as well as various site management and deployment tools. It starts at $22/month and goes up to well over $200/month and even more if you pick up a custom plan.
We cover a lot about various hosting options on our best WordPress hosting post, too – so check it out!
Now, the domains – you can purchase them from most hosting providers, a dedicated domain registrar, and they're also often added as a bonus when picking up a hosting plan.
Then, there are also the costs of themes and plugins...which I'm going to talk about next!
WordPress pricing will depend heavily on your own choices. A simple website can be set up for a dollar or two a year – and cost hundreds of times that if you pick up a professional option.
WordPress templates – options all around
- How many themes? There are thousands of WordPress themes on the Internet – covering different topics and design options.
- What do they look like? The free themes are fairly basic, the premium ones are often significantly better.
- How much do they cost? There are several free options – the paid ones usually cost between $20 and $100.
When it comes to themes, WordPress offers an incredible variety of options. The only web builder that could come even close to such a wide range of options is Wix, with over 800 templates to choose from.
Now, if you were to visit the "Themes" option on your WordPress dashboard, you would see this screen right here, offering hundreds of picks right out of the box:
The themes there are...alright. Some of them look genuinely not bad, albeit, they're a little bit on the simplistic side.
The available options aren't always going to be in line with want you want stylistically. And since you can't edit all that much via the editor, there's a big chance that you'll need to learn some coding to make these themes uniquely yours. For some, it's an excellent opportunity to learn. For others, it's a massive waste of time.
If you're the latter, no worries: the beauty of WordPress is not what WordPress itself provides – it's the community around it. Since pretty much everyone can go out there and make a WordPress theme of their own, many people...do.
So, you can find plenty of design agencies and independent creators going out there who are making premium WordPress themes, and selling them on online marketplaces like ThemeForest or TemplateMonster.
Of course, the developers need to eat – so expect these options to be paid. They'll usually cost anywhere between $20 and $100 a piece. However, there's something I quite like about them: since there are so many options, you are bound to have something that's going to be very close to your preferred style.
Furthermore, a lot of these themes are separated into (eerily) specific industries. So, with enough searching, you can find something made exactly for a website like yours.
Of course, premium third-party themes have some risks, as well. For instance, they might not always be supported with your WordPress version or the plugins. Plus, a lot of design elements may not transfer fully if you decide to change the theme later on.
So, there are options. But there are also pros and cons.
Should you use the premium themes, or go with the free WordPress theme instead? Well – depends. Personally, I'm a pretty big supporter of premium themes. Here's one of the themes I picked up for $39 a month, for a blog I'm definitely going to finally release.
My thinking here is simple:
You can pick up a free WordPress theme and spend days learning the craft, editing, and getting better. Or you can make a one-time investment and get a theme that'll be a shortcut to your desired result. The choice is yours.
WordPress for businesses – powered by plugins
- Plugins and Integrations. Everything about WordPress business functionality is built with plugins.
- SEO. WordPress is SEO-friendly – right off the bat – and you can optimize your site even further with plugins such as Yoast SEO and All in One SEO.
- eCommerce. WooCommerce is a popular WordPress plugin that makes it easy to build fully-featured eCommerce sites.
WordPress itself doesn't have any serious business features. But it has plugins – and that's almost the same thing! A massive plugin store can help make a humble WordPress site rank high on search engine results, or be used as a storefront for your business.
Let's take a deeper look at that.
WordPress plugins and integrations
Just like with themes, there’s a ton of third-party WordPress plugins and integrations that you can add to your site. The WordPress.org plugin library has almost 60,000 plugins for download.
Now, what kind of plugins are we talking about? Well, the range is massive, with options such as:
CrazyEgg, an online analytics tool that helps you optimize your site.
Disqus, the popular plugin that enables comment sections.
bbPress, software that can turn your WordPress site into a forum.
Elementor Page Builder, that literally gives your WordPress site some website builder functionality, offering a more extensive block editor than WordPress itself. The builder can rival such giants as Squarespace or GoDaddy website builder in terms of design flexibility and functionality.
The variety of useful plugins is pretty endless. But of course, many of these excellent options are going to be paid. Many of them will include some type of free functionality and then charge you for additional features. Like Elementor, a website builder tool, which offers a Pro plan, charging a yearly fee for the number of websites you want to use it on.
So, you'll get your fair share of options: just remember that the good stuff is going to cost money.
With that, let's take a look at one of my favorite plugins out there, concerning search engine optimization – SEO.
WordPress search engine optimization
WordPress comes SEO-friendly out of the box thanks to its use of standard HTML and the best coding practices. However, beginners and pros alike can optimize their websites for search engines even better with an SEO plugin.
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular WordPress plugins for SEO. It allows you to add meta titles and descriptions to your blog posts and preview them before publishing. It also offers beneficial content analysis and keyword management. In addition, you can use the readability score to assess your content and make sure that it’ll be easy for your target audience to read.
One thing I genuinely love about Yoast is that its free version is entirely usable: offering main insights and features entirely free of charge. However, there's also a premium version. It includes internal linking ideas, content optimization for several keywords, various content insights, and more – and costs $89 for one website (one-time fee).
When it comes to eCommerce, WordPress doesn't offer integrated tools like online store website builders, but has a lot of useful plugins. One of them, WooCommerce, is by far the most popular option out there.
No surprise – after all, it's an eCommerce solution made by WordPress itself. It provides a lot of the basic functionality, plus, allows for installing additional plugins for even more features.
This plugin is free: however, you'll come to find that you'll need to pay to get access to more advanced eCommerce features – like selling subscriptions, memberships, booking, bundles, or customizable products.
The same goes for WooCommerce-specific themes: there are some free options, but there are some paid ones, too.
Of course, there are always some third-party themes you can use, that will cost way less (open-source rules!)
The overall WooCommerce interface is very flush with WordPress itself, offering something seamlessly working with your existing WordPress website.
You can also add a lot more functionality with third-party plugins.
For example, if you want to sell via dropshipping, you can utilize plugins such as AliDropship, WooDropship, and DropshipMe. An app like AliDropship allows you to import items directly from AliExpress to your WooCommerce store with just one click.
You can also use the available extensions to display shipping rates from FedEx, USPS, UPS, and many other carriers.
And of course, there's a solid number of detailed articles about WooCommerce available on the documentation section, if you'll end up needing some help.
However, you only get email support or live chat support if you’ve purchased a premium plugin developed by WooCommerce.
WooComerce’s payment gateway – WooCommerce Payments – is also free to install, and there are no monthly fees. However, you’ll have to pay 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction for U.S.-issued credit cards. You can also choose to use other payment processors such as Stripe, PayPal, and Amazon Pay in conjunction with WooCommerce: their transaction rates are bound to be very similar.
WordPress performs well in the area of business features – thanks to the numerous third-party plugins available. However, to unlock some of their best features, you'll need to pay extra.
WordPress performance – you make the decision
- WordPress performance will depend heavily on your decisions.
- Keep your website small, and your host fast to get the best results.
Performance is crucial for a business website: a fast page means happy visitors, and everybody wants that, right?
Well – for this final part of the WordPress review, I'm going to take a look at how fast you can expect your website to be. And honestly, it'll be as fast as you want it to be.
What do I mean by that? Here, I used GTMetrix to measure the overall performance of my test site, hosted on Hostinger. Here are the test results:
And here are the results of a smaller website with fewer big images, hosted on a free hosting platform.
Three times slower, even though the platform's the same! The logic here is simple.
WordPress puts all the performance duties in your hands: so, you'll need to work on optimizing your site's media, use the right plugins, and of course – the right hosting provider.
WordPress is undoubtedly an excellent platform for building websites, but it's not for everyone. Fortunately, some excellent WordPress alternatives offer similar functionality and might be easier to use. Let’s take a brief look at some of these options.
Related article: WordPress alternatives – making website building easy
Wix is an excellent drag-and-drop website builder, that manages to combine proper ease of use and massive editing capabilities – giving you more freedom than WordPress, right out of the box.
Beginners can get a website made in just a couple of minutes with the AI-powered Wix ADI, while others can use the Wix Editor, letting to manage and edit literally every single facet of how your site looks and behaves. Best of both worlds!
Looking to make an online store, but not feeling the more complicated WordPress+WooCommerce setup process and hidden fees? No worries – Shopify is an excellent eCommerce platform, making advanced store management as simple as possible.
If you're looking to sell, and not learn to develop websites, it's an excellent pick: leaving you to focus on only what's important for growing your sales. Read all about it in our Shopify review or see all the differences of these platforms in Shopify vs WordPress head-to-head comparison.
Squarespace can be as versatile as WordPress when it comes to the range of websites you can make, but it does that by holding your hand the entire time.
If you don’t want to download plugins and cross your fingers hoping for the best, you should know that Squarespace is renowned for being very easy to learn – you can read more about it in our Squarespace review or check out how these builders compare in our Squarespace vs WordPress comparison. Try out this builder if WordPress seems a bit too complicated and intimidating.
WordPress review – final verdict
WordPress is a remarkably versatile platform. Whatever you want it to do – it does. With plenty of excellent plugins and templates, it's incredibly versatile: and it can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
WordPress allows you to easily and quickly customize your site as you see fit. The monetization is very simple too. However, it also comes with a few disadvantages. The plugins responsible for all cool WordPress functionality are often paid. The good themes are usually premium too. And the hosting can be either super cheap – or seriously expensive.
|Overall score||Great option for making custom websites|
|Pricing||You decide what to spend and not spend your money on.|
|Ease of use||A pretty steep learning curve, made easier by plenty of great resources|
|Templates||Okay selection of free templates, massive premium third-party template library|
|Business Features||All brought in by the plugins that you use – some of them cost extra|
|Performance||Depends on your hosting provider and the website itself|
WordPress is good for all aspiring entrepreneurs and website developers to use. If you're willing to work to improve and become the best site developer you can be, WordPress can be your new favorite tool.
Is WordPress good for SEO?
WordPress is excellent for SEO, offering full code freedom, and a lot of great SEO plugins that can make all the difficult SEO management a lot easier.
Is WordPress hard to learn?
WordPress has quite a learning curve – but with several tutorials, and helpful setup guides, you can easily learn the ins and outs of the platform.
Is WordPress good for beginners?
WordPress is good for beginners because it won't ask for a big investment to get started. Plus, you can easily learn all the management tips and tricks from the free resources available on the Internet.
Is WordPress free?
WordPress.org is free to download and use. However, to make the best out of the platform, you'll need to use a hosting provider, and they will cost some money.
Is WordPress open source?
WordPress.org is fully open source, letting the community make its own tools and solutions for better website management.
What language does WordPress use?
WordPress is written in PHP. If you wish to become a WordPress professional, on top of PHP, you should also learn HTML and CSS.