I recently upgraded this WordPress.com hosted blog from Premium to Business, and have encountered more problems than benefits in my short time with the plan.
I have dabbled with blogging on and off over the years, but have recently decided to attempt it in greater earnest. I discuss my personal reasons for that decision in this recent post.
WordPress.com offers four different plans:
- Free: This plan costs $0. It grants the user a wordpress.com subdomain (i.e. “whistlingfarandwee.wordpress.com”) and 3 GB of storage.
- Personal: This plan costs $4/month. It grants the user, among other things, a custom domain name, email and live chat support, and 6 GB of storage.
- Premium: This plan costs $8/month. In addition to the stuff granted in the Personal plan, it gives the user 13 GB of storage, access to unlimited premium themes, and the ability to monetize the site.
- Business: This plan costs $24.92/month (weird, I know). It grants the user unlimited storage, SEO tools, the ability to use plugins, and google analytics integration.
You can read more about the various WordPress.com plans here.
In the past, I have utilized WordPress’s free platform, occasionally upgrading if I wanted more storage . I initiated my current blog whistlingfarandwee.com under the WordPress Premium plan. The month and a half or so that I published the blog in this manner were easy and, for my purposes, relatively successful, given what a small time, inexperienced blogger I am. The bulk of my readership comes from WordPress reader referrals, which is a great feature of the platform, as I am currently working to build a social media following from scratch. I have also enjoyed being able to utilize the WordPress reader to connect with other like-minded bloggers.
Over the holidays, I was given a little bit of money from a family member. I decided to invest it in my blog via the WordPress business plan. I thought that the biggest active benefits of the business plan, for someone like me, would be the access to plugins, and to unlimited storage. The biggest passive benefit, I thought, was that I was likely to run into fewer technical problems with WordPress hosting than with self-hosting.
My brother is a regular and experienced blogger. He is a big advocate for the cost savings and greater control offered by self hosting. I was, and remain, a little wary of self-hosting. I know no HTML. I do not have the technical expertise to fix a problem, should one arise. I also know that, even with his superior technical knowledge, my brother’s site is sometimes brought down by factors beyond his control. I had had great success with my WordPress blogs in this area. They were never down, WordPress never lost my content, and I was unable to damage my blogs much out of my own ignorance.
Still, I post a lot of images, and intend to post more. Unlimited image storage sounded pretty appealing, as did the opportunity to learn more about plugins. So down the rabbit hole I went over Thanksgiving. It’s been kind of a hot mess ever since.
Here are the problems I have encountered:
1. The upgrade removed all of my widgets: I use the Moka theme for this site. You can learn more about them here. My front page is created almost entirely through the use of Moka specific widgets. When the upgrade from Premium to Business went through, all the Moka widgets disappeared. This meant I had to rebuild the website. Not a deal breaker, but still, time consuming and irritating.
2. The upgrade struggles with larger images: As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest incentives for me to upgrade from the Premium to Business plan involved the promise of limitless image hosting. I post a lot of big pictures and have a photography sub-theme on my blog.
Unfortunately, when I transferred over, I immediately encountered problems uploading larger image files, the same larger images that were no problem under my Premium plan. These images ranged from 50mb to 75mb, to give you some idea of the size.
Frustratingly, some of the large images I had uploaded prior to my upgrade now no longer function either. I’ve left some of these broken posts up, in case some of you want to see what that looks like. For an example of the issue, scroll down through my Funny Things are Everywhere category (which is where I stash my photos) and look for the November 10th post on Muir Woods.
Some of the large images that do still function have become slow to load, sometimes prohibitively. For an example of this issue, check out this picture of turtles (hi, turtles!) taken recently at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I have tested the loading speed on a variety of internet connections. It is universally slow.
3. The upgrade appears to have disrupted my blog’s relationship with the WordPress reader: This is a really big bummer since the bulk of my tiny readership comes from the WordPress reader. Prior to my upgrade, I would get 10 to 15 likes on my pictures. I connected with a number of new people this way. When I switched to the Business plan, this number dropped to 0 to 2, and has stayed there. I don’t know why this happened. Since nearly all of the people liking things on my site were other WordPress bloggers, my theory is that something about the upgrade disrupted my blog’s connectivity with the WordPress reader search and/or referral system.
This precipitous drop in engagement from the WordPress community is perhaps the most discouraging part of the whole upgrade experience. I was just starting to get a hang of connecting with other bloggers through the reader, and meeting other people who came to my blog via the WordPress system, when it all collapsed. So sad.
4. The live chat is often neither helpful nor live: I have attempted to engage with the WordPress help center regarding my various problems. This experience has been, in my experience, very hit or miss. Sometimes I log into chat and sit for a long time, waiting for someone to respond. Sometimes someone responds quickly. Sometimes (over the holidays, for example) help is only available via email, in which case a different support person responds every time you reply to the email chain.
So far, I haven’t found WordPress.com’s help center to be particularly helpful. They often give me cut-and-paste answers that don’t directly address my specific issue. No one has been able to answer why the image loading has become problematic only after the upgrade, or offered a solution to the drop in engagement from the WordPress community. One fellow told me that I just needed to shrink my image size down to 2mb. I have done this out of necessity, but this doesn’t explain why the issue arose after I had transferred plans, and not before. Another person told me that they would look into the WordPress reader engagement issue, and would respond via email. I never heard anything more from them.
5. Miscellaneous Irritations: Since upgrading, attempts to save drafts routinely fail. Right now, for example, my typing is cut off every minute or so by a message telling me that that the system can’t save my draft. I also receive regular notifications that an attempt to post something failed, only to discover that the post was successful. And you know that little bell in the upper right hand corner of your screen, WordPress users? The one that notifies you of activity? It’s not working either.
Boy, it feels great to get all that off my chest.
In Conclusion: I begin to wish I’d stayed with the Premium plan. I had no problems with it. One of the many WordPress help center people I encountered kindly offered to refund my money, but also offered to let me stay on the Business plan for a while and see if I could figure it out. I took him or her up on this offer because I haven’t yet had a chance to experiment with plugins (which was part of the point of this whole adventure to begin with) and because I was getting the impression that they might have trouble reverting me back to Premium anyway. My advice, small-time bloggers, is to think twice before heading down this path.