If you are reading this article, you are most probably already a little bit familiar with WordPress and want to know more about it.
WordPress is the most popular CMS out there to help you quickly create a website. Even if we don't talk about content management systems and just website development in general, WordPress still powers more than 43% of all websites today.
Since the platform is so popular, it is only natural that there would be a lot of information about WordPress for you to go through. Access to all this information, which sometimes seems to be contradictory, can be a bit intimidating for beginners. We have all been there once.
In this tutorial, I will answer some of the most common questions that you might have about WordPress, including whether WordPress is free or not. The short answer is that, yes, WordPress is free to use. However, there is a huge ecosystem built around the platform, and not everything related to WordPress is completely free. I will break everything down into easy-to-understand sections.
WordPress.org and WordPress.com Are Different
One of the first things that confused me was the fact that there are two WordPress websites. One is WordPress.org, and the other one is WordPress.com. Which one of them is the legit one? They both are!
WordPress was developed by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. The WordPress.org version is the original open-source project where the core development of the CMS happens. It is licensed under GPLv2, and everyone is free to contribute and use the software as they like. The WordPress.com version is a product of the company Automattic, and the company itself was founded by Matt Mullenweg. WordPress.com makes it easier for you to get started with WordPress and websites in general if you are an absolute beginner to the whole thing.
I mentioned earlier that WordPress.org is free. What about WordPress.com? Technically, WordPress.com is also free in the sense that registered users can host their own blogs on the website for free.
However, there are a few things that you should keep in mind:
1. The hosting on WordPress.com is free only if you plan to host your website as a subdomain of wordpress.com like something.wordpress.com. Creating a website with your own domain name like something.com will require you to purchase a paid plan.
2. The free plan of WordPress.com also offers a bunch of other tools to help you get started quickly. However, there are many restrictions placed on your account, like limited theme selection, limited storage space, etc. You can get access to more features and higher storage space with the premium plans.
The important thing to note here is that WordPress.com is free and easy to set up because they take care of things like hosting and installation. However, you are limited in your options. The only way to remove the limitations is to purchase a paid plan.
The open-source version, WordPress.org, is harder to set up but allows you to play around with the source code. It is also completely free to use. You can install it locally on your system to learn a great deal about the platform.
Let's say you later decide to host your website online. You are not required to buy a plan from WordPress.com to do that. You can purchase your domain name from any registrar you like. This gives you more freedom and flexibility in selecting your service providers.
The core WordPress software will still be free to use. You will only be paying for the domain name and hosting.
In short, whether you can host your blog for free with WordPress depends on your answer to this question: Do you want to use your own custom domain name? If yes, then you will have to shell out a few bucks. Otherwise, you can simply create a free account and be good to go.
Remember that the core WordPress platform hosted on WordPress.org will always be free for you to use. However, you will have to spend some money to buy a domain name and hosting. The price of hosting will depend on your hosting providers and the amount of resources you intend to use.
Are WordPress Plugins Free?
Since the main topic we are discussing in this article is whether WordPress is free or not, I am assuming that you are not overly familiar with the WordPress ecosystem. I will try to explain it briefly here.
All kinds of people and businesses use WordPress. This includes students, hobbyists, NGOs, local businesses, government agencies, and even some Fortune 500 companies.
The core WordPress code has a lot of features, but it is impractical for it to implement all the features that might be needed by such a diverse user-base. This would make the whole platform very bloated, possibly full of bugs, and hard to use.
This is where WordPress plugins step in. They are small pieces of code that extend the core functionality of a website. For example, not everyone wants to sell products on their website, but some people do. What are the options for people who do want to create an online store? They can install plugins like WooCommerce to get started.
Similarly, you can install plugins on your WordPress website for a lot of things like improving SEO, displaying images in a gallery, etc.
Now, the question is, are those plugins providing you with all that awesome functionality for free? In some cases, they are. For example, there are over 59,000 free plugins hosted on WordPress.org.
However, remember that the people who developed those plugins don't always do it as a side project. Creating a plugin and then maintaining it takes time and effort on their part. A lot of those plugins, therefore, work on the freemium model. In other words, they create a free plugin with limited functionality to get users to install the plugin, and then users can decide to purchase a premium version of the plugin if they like it and want access to more features.
Don't be discouraged, though. Many of these free plugins do their job reasonably well considering the fact that you don't have to pay anything to use them.
Premium WordPress Plugins
Free plugins won't take you too far if you are working on an ambitious and complicated project like setting up an eCommerce store or an online learning platform. In such cases, you can save a significant amount of time and money by simply spending some money on a premium plugin.
People who develop premium plugins have an incentive to keep the plugin under active development, provide prompt support, and add new features every now and then. This can be a win-win situation for both you and the plugin developers.
There are many online marketplaces where you can buy premium plugins. I would highly recommend that you check out CodeCanyon. You can find thousands of scripts and plugins for all your needs there. This includes SEO, forums, social media, eCommerce, advertising, and more.
All the plugins on CodeCanyon have been quality checked by Envato, and they come with free lifetime updates. You also get access to six months of free support.
Are WordPress Themes Free?
How your WordPress website looks depends largely on the theme you have installed and activated. When you first install WordPress, a few themes will be automatically installed for you. They will usually provide just a bare-bones structure for your website. You can find a list of currently installed themes on your WordPress website by navigating to Appearance > Themes in the admin dashboard.
Move your mouse over any of the themes' preview images, and you will see three different buttons to view theme details, a live preview, and the theme activation button. You will also be able to install new themes by clicking on the Add New button.
There are over 9,000 free WordPress themes that you can install and activate on your website. It hardly takes a couple of minutes to try out a new theme. At this point, you can see that WordPress offers plenty of free themes, just like free plugins.
The caveat here is that free themes will also usually try to nudge you towards a feature-rich premium theme or a subscription that gets you more features. This is understandable considering the fact that developers spend a lot of time crafting these themes, and they need to make some money to sustain themselves.
Premium WordPress Themes
One of the biggest advantages of using a premium theme is that it will give your website a polished look. Developers of premium themes spend a lot of time creating something that makes your website stand out. Granted that the premium theme that you purchase is still not entirely unique. However, it is most probably being used by fewer people than a free theme.
I would also like to mention that you can modify any theme that you install to add your own unique flair to it. This is exactly what a lot of people do, instead of starting from scratch.
If you decide to use a premium WordPress theme on your website, I would like to suggest that you browse through the WordPress themes available on ThemeForest. All those premium themes have been quality checked by Envato and offer free lifetime updates, and you get six months of free support from the theme developers. You can even extend the support later at a discount if the need arises.
Envato Elements: Unlimited Download of Premium Assets
What if you don't want to pay for every single premium theme or plugin that you use on your website? In that case, a subscription to Envato Elements has got you covered.
An Envato Elements subscription gives you access to over 10 million creative assets with unlimited downloads for a subscription fee of $16.50 per month. The subscription will give you access not just to thousands of premium WordPress themes and hundreds of premium WordPress plugins but also to other assets such as stock videos, music, sound effects, photos, images, and more.
I would recommend that you read the license terms for a better understanding of the service, but it is overall a great value for money proposition.
With all the available information, let's summarize the whole post in a few sentences to clearly answer the question, "Is WordPress free?"
The core WordPress software is definitely free for you to use however you like. You will obviously have to pay for hosting and your own custom domain name.
There are plenty of plugins and themes on WordPress.org that are also completely free to use. You can use them to customize and extend the functionality of your website. However, you will have to pay if you want to use premium plugins and themes that provide extra features as well as support and updates.
The beauty of WordPress is that with some effort, you can even learn to create your own custom themes and plugins for WordPress. However, my recommendation would be that instead of starting from scratch, you try to use what already exists and expand on its functionality.