a laptop sitting on the counter, displaying the Wordpress logo

Why I Moved My Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

I created my blog using WordPress.com on November 27th, 2016. I wanted a simple way to anonymously air my grievances to the world from my dorm, and my only requirement at the time for a blogging platform was that it allowed for a .blog domain extension (so that I could be theclosetatheist.blog, of course). I saw an ad that WordPress had just made .blog available, so I immediately jumped on it! That was all the convincing I needed to fly with WordPress and not a competitor. What a simple time.

Why I Chose WordPress.com

Actually, I had been under the impression that the .blog domain extension would be free—and that virtually everything one could want from WordPress.com would be free. But the free plan made me end my domain in .wordpress.com, and of course theclosetatheist.wordpress.com was not even available. Thus, my site was theclosetatheist39.wordpress.com until I reached 100 followers and vowed to pay $36 to upgrade to the Personal plan, which offered a free domain (for one year only).

As my site grew, I eventually upgraded to the $96/year Premium plan, mostly because it allowed me to add my own custom CSS. My love for my blog made it so that I would essentially pay whatever I had to in order to make it beautiful and functional. I paid over $100/year (after taxes) for my Premium plan, and $22 a year per domain (which has been at least two at any given time). That was just the way it was.

The price did not really bother me. It’s only half of why I switched. The other thing is what anyone who uses WordPress.com will likely understand: the Gutenberg Editor.

The Gutenberg Block Editor Ruined My Life

I first had the Gutenberg Block Editor nonconsensually thrust upon me on November 17th, 2018. I remember because it was the day after my wedding. Everything in my life had changed, and that included my writing experience, apparently!

I didn’t mind the Gutenberg Editor that much at first. I certainly didn’t understand how it was supposed to be an upgrade from the Classic Editor, which had always been just fine. I was tempted to switch off the Gutenberg Editor and go back to what I was comfortable with. I resisted, because I assumed the Classic Editor would be deprecated eventually, and I generally try to embrace new technology and not be a grouch about it.

The Gutenberg Editor is different. It sucks. It always has sucked, and it always will suck. Everyone hates it. It has only gotten worse, and it made writing miserable and tedious when it’s always been the highlight of my week.

This might not make sense if you haven’t used it, but it really was horrible. My biggest problem was that over the past few months, the block editor has not allowed me to highlight stretches of text over more than one line. If I did, then the page would freeze. I would have to save my draft and refresh the page. Every. Time.

If I wanted to add a link to a phrase that was longer than a few words, the link would not apply to the whole thing. (Like this.) To fix it, I would have to edit it manually in HTML, which is not that bad—except it wouldn’t allow me to switch back to a visual editor on that block. Again, I had to save my draft and refresh. By that time, who knows if I even remembered what I was about to type next.

But this didn’t actually convince me to give up on WordPress.com. There was still an option to use the Classic Editor within a block, which was my saving grace. It’s worth noting that, yes, the Classic Editor was supposed to be deprecated a long time ago, but everyone hated the Gutenberg Editor so much that WordPress had to keep the Classic Editor available or there may have been a blogger uprising.

The point of the Gutenberg Block Editor is supposed to be that your posts and pages are way more customizable. My problem is that I really didn’t need them to be. There are so many blocks that allow you to insert so many types of content, but I really just wanted to type text. I came here to write! Is that such a crime?

A screenshot of the WordPress.com Gutenberg Editor, with a selection of blocks and an explanation that you can have a multimedia-heavy page layout
So unnecessary.

The way I see it, if someone is using WordPress.com, they just want their blogging experience to be cheap and easy. They’re happy with a .wordpress.com domain, a simple design, and an easy writing experience. They came for simplicity, not for endless customization options. WordPress.com can’t seem to grasp that there are people who want things to be simple. Some people don’t need a million options, especially when those options are barely functional.

The Widgets That Broke The Camel’s Back

I was finally fed up when I opted to try out my sidebar widgets in the Gutenberg Editor, which hadn’t been available for them until a few weeks ago. Well, that broke half of my widgets. With Classic Widgets, you can select which pre-made widgets you want from a dropdown menu, add them to a list, and put them in the order you like. With Gutenberg Widgets… I don’t even know. Some of them looked completely different. Some showed up in the Customizer and not on the live site. Some didn’t show up at all. If I added a block, I couldn’t delete it, even if there were several empty blocks in a row. It was an absolute shitshow. And the worst part? I couldn’t switch back to Classic Widgets.

I wrote to customer service, or a “Happiness Engineer,” asking to please switch me back to Classic Widgets. She told me that there was a plugin for Classic Widgets available for customers who used the $300/year Business Plan. (Plugins are what give you the ability to control what your site can or can’t do, and they’re only available on the Business Plan.) I responded,

Hi. It is just incredibly frustrating that WordPress does not listen to the users when for three years we have all been saying that the Gutenberg editor is horrible. Instead of getting rid of it, it has now been extended to the widgets area where it is even worse and nearly impossible to use. I should not have to pay $300 a year to have widgets that function the way they are supposed to, which is also the default that I have been using for five years up until yesterday. If I had known I couldn’t change it back I would not have switched to the blocks version.

If you won’t simply return my ability to use Classic widgets then I suppose I need your help to individually fix each and every widget, wasting both of our time. I’m sure this frustrates you as well.

. . . I could spend hours messing around trying to fix this in CSS, or it could just… work how it is supposed to.

She gave me Classic Widgets back after that.

Why I Switched

But I had already started searching for alternatives to WordPress.com when I found this comparison: A graph on WPBeginner.com comparing three WP.com plans to WP.org. The $46-$100 WP.org has many more options than the $300 WP.com Business.

I could not believe it. I hadn’t thought $100/year was too much to pay for a limited plan with a weird half-working Gutenberg Editor and no plugins until I realized I could get everything I wanted for half of I was paying for it. I had always thought I would need to pay $200 more per year to get that, not up to $50 less!

But there must be some downsides to leaving WordPress.com, right? What about my handy dandy WordPress app, my easy-to-read stats, my ability to show up on the WordPress Reader feed, and of course, my Currently Reading on Goodreads widget!? All of that and more might seem like benefits of WordPress.com, but they are actually benefits of Jetpack. If you’re switching from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, then Jetpack is your best friend. It allowed me to keep all of that and more, even migrating over my stats and subscribers. The only thing I lost was the likes I already had, but people can still like my posts going forward. (You wouldn’t be interested in going back and liking all of my posts, would you? No? Okay.)

The Ups and Downs of Switching

I’ll just go ahead and say it. Migrating my site from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site was exhausting. I laughed. I cried. I had dreams about CSS for nights in a row. I barely read a chapter of my book all week, for crying out loud!

In the end I think it has been worth it. This is a commitment that I’ve seen compared to the difference between renting a house and buying a house. Before, I was at the mercy of whatever strange venture WordPress.com decided to explore and take all their users with it. Now I am in charge of my site. I also read during my research that WordPress.com can remove any content from your site that they deem inappropriate, which is not the case with a self-hosted site. It’s probably good that I switched before letting out all this frustration…

Now I have everything I have ever wanted for my website, and I just paid Dreamhost $113—for not one but three years of hosting, plus my new email address, rebekah@sheseeksnonfiction.blog. For these first three years, my domain is free, but I did pay $25 for thecuriousatheist.blog to redirect here for one more year. Finally, I paid $169 for the Pro version of my theme, Radiate, which I justified because it was a one-time expense rather than a monthly or annual one. Unlike with WordPress.com which is a set cost depending on your plan, a WordPress.org site can cost as much or as little as you want. There are pro versions of a lot of things, like Yoast and Jetpack, but for now the free versions of both are working just fine for me.

My Advice for WordPress.com Bloggers

If you’re frustrated with WordPress.com, then I do suggest you leave like I did. It’s only good if you want the bare minimum for your blog. Anything more and you’re wasting your money. While it was difficult, migrating my site to WordPress.org was doable, especially with the help of this simple guide from WordPress itself and this better, more detailed guide from WPBeginner—and with the help of my amazing husband Johnathan who is better at CSS, and more dedicated to getting to the bottom of a technical problem, than I am.

Unfamiliar terms like “nameservers,” “DNS,” and “XML,” sound scary, but if you follow the directions then you will be fine. And if you’re not, then WPBeginner will migrate your website for you for free. I actually broke down in a panic after one day of trying to move my site and tried to use their service, but I had already bought my Dreamhost hosting. WPBeginner can only make their service free if you use their promo codes for hosting, so don’t buy your hosting first if you’d like to use their service!

As I wrap up this post, I am finally ending this week when I have spent countless hours laboring to make this new blog perfect, and exactly like the old one but better. After getting everything moved, my anxiety told me that every pixel of my site must be immaculate. I spent way longer in the CSS editor looking at my sidebar widgets than I needed to. (I think they look awesome, though. And I am very happy about my header parallax!)

You, my readers, might not notice that my branding is more unified or that my colors are both darker and more vibrant, but switching to WordPress.org is going to hopefully make my life a lot easier. (There are some things in it for you, though; you can now comment using your Google, Twitter, or Facebook accounts, in addition to your WordPress account!)

Now, I am finally going to close this computer and go breathe the outside air with a good book in hand. Next week I’ll be back with a brand new book review and return to my regular content!

18 thoughts on “Why I Moved My Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

  • October 10, 2021 at 12:48 pm
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    Thanks for this blog. It was timely for me. I agree totally on the Gutenberg editor.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2021 at 1:10 pm
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    I appreciate the explanation for the switch.

    I fully agree with you — that block editor gets in the way all the time. I would consider switching my blog, except that I’m getting old and prefer to not take on any new responsibilities. So I guess I’ll just put up with that block editor.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2021 at 2:31 pm
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    This is one of the reasons that I haven’t posted any new content to my own blog since the new editor became the only option. I spent years dealing with a buggy block editor with a newsletter I used to do on Constant Contact. I HATED the interface. As soon as WP went entirely over to a block interface, I realized that I didn’t want the hassle. Maybe WP will come to their senses eventually. I’m not willing to pay anything for a blog that I only post to every once in a while, especially not to a host that is doing everything it can to become less and less user friendly.

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    • October 10, 2021 at 11:39 am
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      The only way I can stand it is using the Classic Block which makes it act like the Classic Editor from within Gutenberg. I hope that helps!

      Reply
  • October 10, 2021 at 2:52 pm
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    (You wouldn’t be interested in going back and liking all of my posts, would you? No? Okay.)

    I actually did that for the ones that show up in my RSS reader (the most recent 10). It would be too much effort to go back and like the older ones.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2021 at 5:29 pm
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    Completely agree. I HATE the block editor and have needed help when I couldn’t insert images like I used to be able to do. I finally found a blog about how to do it, but it wasn’t a WordPress blog. I’m just not up for the challenge of switching, unless you want to talk me through it??? Didn’t think so. I’ll just keep slogging…

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  • October 10, 2021 at 6:09 pm
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    Since both of my blog sites (pluviolover.com & skeptic.home.blog) are super simple, and I can continue to use the classic editor (so far), I will sit tight. But your experience, while interesting, was also a bit scary. Well done.

    Reply
  • October 11, 2021 at 8:14 am
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    This was highly entertaining to read and gratifying bc I also loathe the Gutenberg editor. Congrats on your “new” site!

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  • October 11, 2021 at 2:07 pm
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    I think the Gutenberg editor provides a ton of flexibility and customization for Pages that wasn’t previously available. But for blog posts, I agree, I haven’t found it helpful. Too cumbersome for simple paragraphs and the occasional image.

    I’m glad I started here on WordPress.com. I knew nothing, and this is a great place for that. I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about HTTPS and certificates, taking care of server security, site design, and all that backend stuff. And it was free, which as a seminary student was a must.

    I’ve learned a lot more since I started. Right now, I’m still satisfied with what I’m able to do. But as each year goes by, I move closer and closer to self hosting.

    Reply
  • October 13, 2021 at 6:25 pm
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    I love your rants! I’m glad you found a solution that is cheaper and better for you so you can keep providing us great content!

    Reply
  • October 16, 2021 at 7:26 pm
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    Thanks for sharing your journey and experience. Your blog post ended up being shared in a discussion about Gutenberg among a number of WordPress agency owners and developers. We don’t have any more say than you about the direction of WordPress, but yes, self-hosted has a lot more choices. I didn’t realize how bad it was on WordPress com even for people who are paying. Interesting that we got the admin menu etc hidden when you go into the Gutenberg editor in order to “optimize the immersive writing experience” … and someone who just wants to write doesn’t like it.

    I like Gutenberg better than the Classic Editor but I write how-to stuff with lots of screenshots. Also, I can use Gutenberg addons that fill in the gaps and make it better, which I guess you didn’t have access to. However, many of the site builders do-not-like-Gutenberg and are resentful that every time there is a new version of WordPress they have to “patch” it to hide Gutenberg.

    I’ve come in contact with many people who have a project they want to realize, like a fan site or a teacher putting information online. These are people who have basically no budget. My guess is that they will appreciate Full Site Editing, the ability to really customize their theme themselves with Gutenberg, because they have a bit more time than money. However, after reading you post I’m wondering if I’m being naive?

    Anyway, you achieved your goal of getting people to turn their brains on. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • October 17, 2021 at 11:43 am
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      Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to read and share! There are a couple of things about Gutenberg that I didn’t share in the post that I think you would find helpful.

      I actually like the minimalist visual design of Gutenberg better than the Classic Editor. Before switching, I was operating in Gutenberg by putting the whole post into one Classic block, and now that I’ve switched, I’m using a plugin that does the same thing but basically forces it to stay like that (instead of technically using the real Classic Editor. Before, though, I would write like that then sometimes switch to blocks when I was done just to customize the look or rearrange paragraphs.

      I guess something that confuses me is that when you are on WordPress.com and forced to use Gutenberg, you have all the customization of that but not necessarily the ability to actually design your site as a whole with CSS or really control anything except the design within posts and pages. I know others have a different experience but I didn’t feel the need to “design” blog posts that were mostly text.

      On the other hand, I did try to use blocks to design my categories page once (it’s not on my menu anymore but still technically exists https://sheseeksnonfiction.blog/categories/) instead of designing images in photoshop and uploading them to make them into buttons. To be honest it was an awful experience and I could not get anything to work – as you can see I went back to my original way then took the page off altogether because it was starting to feel pointless.

      After reading other people’s comments I feel like what might be best for WordPress.com would just be giving people the option to use one editor or the other? I still just can’t get past the fact that most of the plans cost more than hosting and still don’t provide plugins. It feels shady to me.

      Reply
      • October 17, 2021 at 1:24 pm
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        Interesting. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps WordPress needs a third editor as the Classic Editor is pretty limited and a lot of people don’t like Gutenberg. Anyway, I agree about giving people the choice. Maybe they thought people would like Gutenberg and by now everyone would be using it.

        Like your experience with the Categories, I find the new blocks version of the sidebar to be very laggy and not as nice an experience. I imagine it will improve.

        Reply
  • October 17, 2021 at 1:22 pm
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    A very timely post as I navigate this new landscape, which included a much needed theme change, after many years. Your input has been very helpful. Thank you!

    Reply
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