What is a Freemium website?

As with just about anything to do with technology these days, evolution is not just to benefit the user experience but to benefit the survival of the business that provides it. So, I shouldn’t be surprised that WordPress.com has gone down the same route as their competitors to try to capture a larger section of the Freemium market.

Competition is becoming amazingly fierce in the Freemium website market-place, where customers join up to a company providing a website for free. Sounds a great offer doesn’t it and many enter the promised land of dreams in with expectation of the website ‘look’ featured on the sign-up page.

However, having ‘got to grips’ with the basics involved with operating the system, only then does the truth dawn on the dream-dweller that, if more advanced features are required, a credit card will have to come into play.

At that point most people do what’s required of them by the annoying pop-up box, rather than face more time spent with another website provider. That’s the Freemium model for you and that’s the one that WordPress.com has now fully embraced.

Are the changes at WordPress.com for the better?

wordpress.logoThat, of course, depends on your perspective. Certainly from the WordPress.com camp they’ve got to be, because otherwise they wouldn’t have invested so much in what’s been a huge technical redevelopment from the core-coding up.

From the existing user point of view it’s been a bit of a nightmare, with familiarity replaced with a user-view that is supposed to be simpler, but requires a new learning-curve to understand where to access settings.

To give you an example, important site configuration aspects have moved from ‘Settings’ to ‘Themes’. I can fully understand the frustration that has been filling the user forums since the changes came in at the end of last year.

However, to be fair, for the new user less choice means less to learn and remember. I’ve taught courses and individuals to drive the WordPress machine for about 10 years now and I know how much of an uphill task it can be, to begin with. However, the rewards of being able to use WordPress for a website are amazing, once the client or student has been supported through the pain barrier!

So, despite the fact I’ve had to re-learn my way around many of the ‘how to do’ bits, I’ve come out thinking that the changes are for the better for their intended potential market, but not better for those who start to use WordPress.com before venturing onto WordPress.org. Yes, there are two version of WordPress available and they both were very similar to use, but not any more.

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

WordPress in letters logoEssentially, WordPress.com is hosted by the company that owns the company. So, WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress.com (Automattic). WordPress.org on the other hand has to be hosted by you. Sounds a little strange doesn’t it, but the self-hosted one has much more potential as a powerful business online marketing tool, but is also a lot more dangerous to drive.

On the WordPress courses I teach I’ve explained the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org as learning to sail a boat within a harbour and out at sea. For that reason I would only teach WordPress.com on a day-course, where people were being offered the opportunity to get a website up and running in a day. I considered WordPress.org too dangerous a place to send the unwary with promises of all the amazing things they could do with it, once they got a site up and running.

The beauty of starting to learn WordPress on the .com version was that the Dashboard (where you drive the website and creates Pages, add media ext) was the same as the Dashboard view in WordPress.org. Unfortunately, all that has now changed.

WordPress.com or WordPress.org as the website platform of choice?

woman on sofa working on laptopWith clients I invariably, but not always, guide them to choose WordPress.org, but only because I know I’m going to be there to support them on their journey. Without the proper support it’s very easy for businesses to find themselves in difficulties.

On just about every course I’ve taught there’s been someone who’s had a story about a WordPress.org website that’s been compromised in some way or another. It’s really not the fault of WordPress, but the fault of the person who lacked knowledge about the security issues that can occur with any database driven website.

That’s not to say everyone should avoid database websites, but it would save a lot of hassle if people were aware of the potential issues before they started.

I do suggest WordPress.com to some businesses, but only if they are small concerns or operating in a market-place that being on WordPress.com could benefit their business visibility (lifestyle businesses for example). Generally, the criteria for me suggesting a client considers WordPress.com is linked to budget availability. However, with the recent changes at WordPress.com my views on this are changing.

I took on a client before Christmas and we decided that WordPress.com was the place for them to start, with a view of migrating to WordPress.org further down the line. When I came to build the site recently I realised, with a somewhat sinking feeling, that the two were no longer compatible, providing clients with opportunity for a seamless stepping from WP.com to WP.org. I had to return to the client and explain what had changed, but in this case they decided to stick.

However, as for the group training courses on WordPress.com I delivered, where the outcome promised that learning to drive the CMS would be as for for WordPress.org, that promise no longer existed!

Alternatives website provision to consider

If you’re a small business who just wants a website with the facility to blog, feature video as well as the standard text and images and with facility for people to share your content then one of the following web development options could be well worth consideration. They’re all Freemium, as previously described, but actually head-to-head with WordPress.com as it is now I’m not sure I wouldn’t now choose one of the others.

Don’t get me wrong, I still consider WordPress is the ultimate choice for a business website where you want to manage your own content, with facility to add some pretty nifty functionally modules for anything from a full membership section, event planner or even a quiz with email opt in required before seeing  how you scored.

WordPress.org is, in my opinion, quite awesome! WordPress.com fitted in nicely as a training ground, with many benefits for beginners to website development. However, I think the recent changes mean that it’s worth looking at some of the other DIY website development options out there.

Any other suggestions?

Other posts that may be of interest

WordPress security and what you need to know

Choosing website hosting

How secure is your WordPress password

Free tool to check if your website is mobile friendly



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