WordPress.com announced a new “Starter” plan today for customers that bridges the pricing gap between the free plan and its $15/month Pro plan. The Starter plan is $5/month and includes a custom domain name, along with 6GB storage, and the ability to use payment collection blocks (Donations Form, Premium Content, and Payment Button).
When WordPress.com rolled out major, unannounced pricing changes on April 1, slashing free storage limits, users took to the forums to express their profound disappointment in the controversial update and the company’s lack of communication around it. After receving overwhelmingly negative feedback, WordPress.com increased traffic and storage limits on the free plan before officially announcing it.
Seven weeks after WordPress.com began testing the waters with pricing changes, the company has responded to feedback about the wide gap between the free and Pro plans. Many customers were diappointed to learn that they would have to pay $15/month to have access to custom domain names, even though they do not need the commercial themes and plugins included in the Pro plan. Some users expressed that they felt “trapped in the net” with the pricing updates and planned to shift their sites to new platforms.
The new Starter plan solves some of these customer issues but it is still partially subsidized by advertising. Customers on this plan and the free plan will have ads displayed on their sites. This is different than the legacy Personal plan, which was $4/month for no ads, a custom domain, and the ability to collect payments. The fact that the new Starter plan costs more but doesn’t remove ads is a point of contention customers mentioned in the comments on the announcement. It does, however, include Google Analytics integration, which was previously limited to customers on the legacy Premium plan and higher.
“The Starter plan is not meant to be a replacement for the old legacy Personal plan,” WordPress.com CEO Dave Martin told the Tavern. “Our goal with every additional pricing iteration that we launch will be to learn something new. The Pro plan and the Starter plan are two of many future iterations that we plan to experiment with.”
Martin also reiterated that customers on the legacy Free, Personal, Premium, Business, or eCommerce plans are able to continue on them.
“[If] you are happy with your current plan, we have no plans to force you to change,” Martin said. “You can stay on your current plan.
“Finding the right balance between the value that we deliver to our customers and the price that we charge in exchange for that value is something that generally has to be iterated towards. We plan to do just that.”
Moving forward, Martin said WordPress.com is aiming to do a better job at communicating important updates to customers.
“I made a mistake with how we communicated the pricing changes with WordPress Pro,” Martin said. “We listened to feedback from our customers, I took responsibility for it, and then we worked to correct that with this next phase of our pricing change. We’re constantly working to be better at communicating updates.”
It’s interesting to see how WordPress.com is evolving its pricing in response the market and WordPress’ changing capabilities. Whereas the legacy plans leaned heavily on selling access to commercial themes, full-site editing has changed the game, giving users more customization power than before.
The company is still planning to introduce a range of add-ons for the Starter plan to give customers more flexibility. It’s possible there will be add-ons for removing ads and adding more storage, but the company still hasn’t announced what they will offer.