Which One Should You Choose to Publish Your Website

WordPress.com is one of the most popular blogging platforms in the world, and its self-hosted brother is no slouch either. Between both platforms, they power over 28% of the entire web. The problem is that they’re very different, which makes your choice between the two important.

At their core, both platforms are blogging Content Management Systems (CMSs), but they don’t share all the same functionality. Each is designed with different goals and a different type of user in mind. That means you need to understand what each offers you before settling down with either of them.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress. Then we’ll compare both CMSs in six different aspects. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s do this!

An Introduction to WordPress.com

The WordPress.com homepage.
WordPress.com is a powerful hosted platforms for all types of websites.

WordPress.com first opened its doors to the public in 2005. Back then, it was an invitation-only service, but as of 2017 it’s used to publish over 90 million posts per month.

The platform enables anyone to create an account and sign up for a plan. Its free tier permits you to create blogging websites using its built-in functionality, and opens them to the public. The platform’s more expensive plans enable you to use more advanced features, and you’re free to switch between them whenever you want.

WordPress.com is what’s known as a ‘hosted’ platform, since all its plans include server space you can use. Technically, the model is very similar to that of any hosting service, except that platforms such as WordPress.com lock you into a single ecosystem.

Although that may sound like a drawback, WordPress.com does offer a very attractive set of features. For example, you can choose themes to customize the style of your site, create blog posts in minutes, and even add new functionality to your website with plugins. Keep in mind that some features are restricted to premium plans, so if you want to create a sophisticated site (such as an online store), you’ll need to sign up to one of them.

An Introduction to WordPress

The WordPress.org homepage.
Self-hosted WordPress is the perfect option if you want to find your own hosting solution.

In many ways, WordPress.com wouldn’t exist without self-hosted WordPress. The latter was released in 2003 as an open source platform, and since then it’s gained an incredible amount of popularity.

Self-hosted WordPress (or just WordPress) is known as the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world. It powers nearly 30% of the world’s most popular websites, and some estimates say there are close to 60 million websites using it.

Unlike WordPress.com, WordPress requires you to set up your own hosting. That means signing up to a provider, installing the software, and linking a domain to your website, for starters. It’s a bit more involved than using WordPress.com, but in exchange, you get access to all the platform’s features without any restrictions. In many ways, using WordPress is like unlocking a full version of WordPress.com.

WordPress and WordPress.com Compared (6 Key Areas)

So far, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes WordPress and WordPress.com different. Instead of just telling you which platform is our favorite, we’re going to break down all their significant aspects. We’ll talk about ease of use, theme and plugin management, maintenance, and even prices. That’s a lot of ground to cover, but knowing these details is the only way to make an informed decision. With that in mind, let’s jump in!

1. Ease of Use

The WordPress.com dashboard.
WordPress.com is the way to go if you want an easy-to-use platform.

When it comes to ease of use, WordPress.com takes the cake. Both platforms are renown for being beginner-friendly, but there are several reasons why WordPress.com wins handily in this aspect:

  • It takes only minutes to get started. Anyone can get a WordPress.com website up and running in minutes, or as long as it takes you to fill out a few registration forms. Add a minute or two if you’re opting for a paid plan, since you’ll have to enter a few more details, but it’s still quick.
  • It features a streamlined dashboard. WordPress.com’s dashboard offers a lot of options, but not as many as WordPress does. Plus, all the important tabs are laid out in the open, whereas you need a little practice to figure out where everything is in WordPress.
  • Built-in analytics. The more you know about your visitors’ behavior, the better you can tailor your content to their needs. Almost every website these days needs an analytics solution, and WordPress.com offers a built-in option without the need to set up plugins.
  • In-house domain management. Most web hosts enable you to manage both websites and domains. However, WordPress.com makes things even simpler by including domain management right on your central dashboard. This may not be a feature you need to use often, but it earns them a point nonetheless.
  • Installing new plugins and themes is easy. If your plan supports these features, then installing new plugins and themes will only take you a handful of clicks. Plus, if you’re using options from WordPress.com’s library, chances are you won’t need to do any optimization out of the box.
  • You have fewer settings to deal with in general. Configuring a WordPress.com website is much simpler than a WordPress alternative, because you have fewer settings to deal with.

To expand on that last point, having fewer settings to configure can be a hindrance in some situations. Generally speaking, the more complex the site you’re building is, the more attention to detail it requires. That’s where a more ‘complicated’ platform such as WordPress can come in and save the day.

Just to be clear, when we say that WordPress is more complicated to use than WordPress.com, we don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s a simple assessment of how easy it is to start using the platform if you’re a complete newbie to it. WordPress undoubtedly has a steeper learning curve, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up quickly.

The great thing about using a platform as popular as WordPress is that you get access to incredible documentation and a very active community. If you want to learn how to build a particular kind of website, for example, chances are you can find dozens of articles on the subject (such as on our own blog).

Personally, we think that WordPress.com makes for a fantastic first experience when it comes to running a website. If you have zero knowledge of website development and just want to get your feet wet with something simple, then go with it. Plus, you can always migrate your WordPress.com website to WordPress anytime you want, so you’re not locked into the platform.

2. Theme Management

The WordPress theme repository.
WordPress themes enable you to style your website any way you want.

WordPress themes are templates that enable your website to adopt specific styles. To put it in other words, if your site is a house, think of themes as a coat of paint. Some themes are purely aesthetic, while others also add specific functionality to your website. More importantly, this is a feature that’s available in both WordPress and WordPress.com.

Despite being able to use themes on both platforms, WordPress takes the lead when it comes to this element, and here’s why:

  • It offers thousands of options. There are so many themes available online that you can find hundreds of round-up articles to help you choose the best ones for specific types of sites. It’s impossible to get to know them all, so stick with reputable sources if you’re new to the platform.
  • You can use any theme you want. You can set up any theme you want on your WordPress website. It doesn’t matter what type of web host you’re using, or what your site’s about. If you want to install a theme, you can do it.
  • WordPress enables you to use themes with advanced functionality. As we mentioned earlier, some themes do more than just style your website. For example, a given theme might include a site-building tool, whereas another comes with advanced video features. WordPress supports these types of options, but they’re more complicated to set up in WordPress.com due to its limitations.
  • You can customize your theme’s functionality. If you’re a developer (or you just like to tinker), you can tweak your theme’s code to alter how it works.

To be fair, WordPress.com also offers hundreds of options when it comes to themes (including both free and premium ones). The real downside is that you can’t upload and install custom options unless you’re using the platform’s Business plan, which is relatively expensive.

With that in mind, if you’re looking forward to using a particular theme to set up your new website, or you want the most choices, WordPress is probably your best option. On the other hand, if you want to set up a simple site, WordPress.com offers a library of stylish free themes for almost every purpose.

3. Plugin Management

The WordPress plugin repository.
WordPress plugins enable you to add almost any feature you want to your website.

Plugins are tools that add specific functionality to your WordPress or WordPress.com website. Just as with themes, you have both free and premium options available. In most cases, you can install any plugin you want on your website.

When it comes to plugin management, we have to award this round to WordPress once again. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • WordPress doesn’t limit what plugins you can use. When it comes to WordPress, you can install any plugin you want and have as many as you need running simultaneously. The only limitation you may run into is the cost of premium plugins.
  • There are thousands of plugins available. So far, we’ve yet to run into a situation where we needed to add a feature to a WordPress site, and we couldn’t find a plugin to do it.
  • You can customize how your plugins behave. Just as with themes, WordPress enables you to tinker with every aspect of how your plugins work. Keep in mind, though, that it can be dangerous unless you know what you’re doing.

As you might expect, WordPress.com also enables you to use plugins. However, that’s only true for Business plan users. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to use a free plugin or one that’s part of their library, you still won’t be able to set it up using a free plan.

In many ways, plugins are what makes WordPress such a fantastic platform. The CMS does its job out of the box, but the option to extend its functionality is just too good to pass up. If you intend to customize your website’s features in any way, then you should definitely use WordPress from the get-go.

4. Post Management

The WordPress.com editor.
The WordPress.com editor wins a lot of points for its style.

Posts are at the heart of what makes WordPress and WordPress.com so popular. Despite the fact that both platforms are powerful enough to run almost any type of website, blogging is still their strong point.

With that in mind, let’s talk about how both of them handle post creation and management. WordPress.com has an edge in this category, since:

  • It offers a stunning editor. From a functional standpoint, both the WordPress and WordPress.com editors work the same. However, the latter looks a lot better.
  • Improved post management. It’s easier to schedule posts, set excerpts, create sticky posts, and even submit posts for review by other team members using WordPress.com than it is with WordPress.
  • Built-in sharing features. Social media is an essential part of any website’s identity these days. WordPress.com understands this, and comes with integrated sharing buttons for every major social media platform (and even a ‘like’ feature for Facebook). WordPress, on the other hand, requires you to add most of these features in using either plugins or code.

Even if WordPress.com’s editor looks better, that doesn’t mean WordPress is a slouch when it comes to this aspect. Its editor is nothing amazing to look at out of the box, but it gets the job done, and you can customize it in any way you want. For example, if you want an experience that resembles that of WordPress.com, you can use a plugin that overhauls the editor’s style. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even replace your editor entirely with site-building plugins, which enable you to put together websites using pre-built blocks.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to award an outright win for post creation and management to either platform. If you’re looking to use a powerful yet simple editor that looks great, then WordPress.com is the best option. However, if you like the idea of completely replacing your editor with something different, then WordPress may be a better bet. You’ll have to look through a lot of plugins to find precisely what you’re searching for, but if you like customizing your tools, then it’ll be a fun experience.

5. Ease of Maintenance

Creating a WordPress backups.
Backups are an integral part of maintenance for any website.

In most cases, running a website isn’t as simple as creating a new post every now and then and reaping the rewards. There are a lot of tasks that go into site maintenance, including creating backups, checking your site’s statistics, optimizing its performance, domain management, and more.

Each of these tasks is complex enough to warrant its own instructions, and when you put all of them together, they can take up a lot of your time. Assuming you’re looking to use the platform that requires the least amount of maintenance, you’ll want to consider WordPress.com. Let’s talk about why that is:

  • It doesn’t require you to take care of backups. Hosted services such as WordPress often take care of backups on their own. They have so many redundancies in place that your website is unlikely to suffer any downtime or run into errors, since they vet any plugins and themes you use (except for Business plan subscribers).
  • You have access to built-in analytics and traffic numbers. WordPress.com enables you to check out your site’s statistics with a single click. It also provides you with detailed insights as to your best-performing posts, authors, subscribers, and more. It’s not as detailed as using Google Analytics, but it gets the job done for a built-in tool.
  • Built-in domain management tools. This isn’t the first time we’ve brought this up as a pro, but it’s worth repeating. WordPress.com enables you to manage domains right from your dashboard. Other hosting platforms usually hide these settings behind clunky panels, so it’s a welcome change.
  • You don’t need to optimize your website’s performance. As with most hosted platforms, WordPress ensures that each of its sites loads as fast as possible, whether you’re a free or premium subscriber.

WordPress enables you to take care of all these maintenance tasks as well. The difference is that you need to be more hands-on. For example, you’ll need to set up a backup plugin and configure it, so your website creates copies of itself on a schedule. Likewise, if you want access to analytics, you’ll need to find a way to integrate WordPress with a service such as Google Analytics.

If you’re new to running a website, all those tasks may sound like a chore. However, they’re often things you can automate after you get past the initial hurdle of setting them up. Likewise, there are a lot of web hosts that take care of some maintenance duties for you. For example, we take pains to ensure that our WordPress websites run fast, and we do backups for all our customers (which you can access from your cPanel).

Having said that, WordPress.com definitely takes the crown when it comes to ease of maintenance. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to focus on content creation over menial tasks, then hosted platforms are probably right up your alley. Keep in mind, though – as your website grows, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a paid WordPress.com plan, so those perks do come at a price.

Likewise, WordPress is still a viable option even if you’ve never taken care of a website before. It’s an easy-to-use platform, and if you don’t mind going through a tutorial or two, then you can make short work of things like setting up backup solutions. Finally, you can also choose your web host carefully, and look for one that takes at least some of those tasks out of your hands.

6. Pricing Options

WordPress.com's plans.
WordPress.com offers four plans, each for a different type of user.

Last but not least, there’s the financial element to consider. To start off, let’s talk about WordPress.com’s pricing plans. It doesn’t matter how big your website is or what its purpose may be, you only get four plans to choose from:

  1. Free: This plan enables you to create simple websites with 3 GB of storage space, community management options, and access to free themes.
  2. Personal ($4 per month): With the Personal plan, you get a free custom domain thrown in, all the features from the Free tier, and 6GB of storage. Plus, you receive access to WordPress.com’s support channels, and the ability to display your site without ads.
  3. Premium ($8.25 per month): This plan provides you with 13 GB of space, access to all of WordPress’ free and premium plugins, and advanced design options. More importantly, you get the option to monetize your website using WordPress.com’s WordAds program.
  4. Business ($24.92 per month): WordPress.com’s best plan provides you with all the features we’ve covered so far, as well as unlimited storage and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools. Best of all, it supports the use of custom themes and plugins, and comes with Google Analytics pre-integrated.

As far as we’re concerned, there are only two plans you should consider if you’re using WordPress.com: the Free and Business tiers. The reasons are simple. First, almost no company offers powerful free hosting packages (because they aren’t cost-effective), but WordPress.com does. If you don’t mind its limitations, then by all means use the Free plan, attach it to a custom domain, and you’ll get a robust website for nearly nothing. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy the full WordPress.com experience, you’ll want to go right for its Business plan.

However, you should also consider that $24.92 per month can get you a whole lot more if you’re using WordPress. Take our shared hosting plans, for example. The most expensive one is only $9.31 per month, and it provides excellent performance for medium traffic sites. More importantly, that monthly fee enables you to use self-hosted WordPress, which gives you all the features of a Business plan for a fraction of the cost.

Before we call this round, though, let’s break down some of the hidden costs of hosting a WordPress website:

  • A hosting plan. Prices for hosting plans vary wildly depending on what type of services they provide and who your provider is. Generally speaking, though, you should be able to find decent WordPress shared hosting options for about $5 per month or less.
  • Registering a domain. How much you spend on one of these depends on which Top-Level Domain (TLD) you choose. In most cases, .com options start at around $10-15 per year.
  • Premium WordPress themes and plugins. Some of the best WordPress plugins are available for free. The same is true for themes, although a lot of people prefer to use premium options. In our experience, prices for those are usually between $20 and $100.

Knowing this, we can say WordPress.com’s Business plan isn’t a bad deal if you have the cash to spare. For that money, you get powerful hosting, a custom domain, and access to a collection of premium themes. However, WordPress still wins from a cost efficiency perspective.

With WordPress, you should be able to get a website up and running for less than $5 per month, with an extra $15-20 thrown in for your domain. It may not be able to handle as much traffic as WordPress.com’s plans, but it includes all of WordPress’ features out of the box, and you have a lot more options when it comes to upgrading it (depending on your host).

Which Platform Should You Choose to Publish Your Website?

We’ve covered a lot of ground, so let’s take a minute to recap what the strengths of both platforms are. WordPress.com excels when it comes to ease of use, post management, and maintenance. However, its shiny coat wears off a bit when you realize that you can’t use custom plugins or themes unless you subscribe to its Business plan.

WordPress, on the other hand, wins when it comes to plugin and theme management, and it’s usually more cost-efficient. However, the platform does have a steeper learning curve, and handling maintenance tasks can be more time-consuming.

With all that in mind, here is a summary of what type of user should consider opting for each platform:

  • WordPress.com. This platform is great if you want to build simple websites with its free plan, or you don’t mind shelling out for the Business tier. More importantly, it’s great for people who don’t want to handle repetitive maintenance tasks and just focus on content.
  • WordPress. Self-hosted WordPress is undoubtedly the most powerful option. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind troubleshooting and wants to tweak every aspect of your website, you’re in luck. Plus, you can use any custom plugins and themes you want, which is a deciding factor for many users.

By now, you should have a clear idea of what platform you want to use, so all that’s left is to get out there and start working. Before you leave, however, you may want to check out either this guide on how to get started on WordPress.com or this tutorial on what your first steps with WordPress should be. Best of luck!


Your choice of CMS will impact what type of site you can build, what features you have access to, and even which web hosts you can use. With that in mind, it’s important to do your research before settling down.

When it comes to WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com, we wholeheartedly recommend the former. Despite not being as easy to pick up as WordPress.com, it’s still beginner friendly, and it packs an immense number of features. WordPress is the clear winner in most aspects, so we can only recommend WordPress.com if you’re looking for a simple platform to handle a straightforward website, such as a modest blog.

Which platform do you prefer: WordPress or WordPress.com? Tell us why in the comments section below!

Image credit: Pixabay.

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The WordPress.com Year in Review (and Resolutions for 2018)

The WordPress.com Year in Review (and Resolutions for 2018)

The WordPress.com Year in Review (and Resolutions for 2018)

It was quite a year for the WordPress.com community, and we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

Some years go by slowly — not because they’re busier, but maybe there’s just more out there in the world to stop and notice. We hope the WordPress.com and Jetpack community offered you some of those moments this year.

Maybe it was a helpful chat with someone on our Happiness team, or maybe you discovered a cool new feature that made business or blogging even easier. Perhaps you read something on WordPress.com that inspired you. We just want to say thanks for being here, and we’re excited to see what you all accomplish in 2018 and beyond.

Below are some highlights from the year in WordPress.com — and make sure you check out WordPress.com Discover to see more favorite moments from 2017. Happy New Year!

Viral Hits and Notable Moments

• TIME, powered by WordPress.com VIP, announced its Person of the Year — The Silence Breakers.

• WordPress.com blogger Hospey used an online resume to score an internship with Chance the Rapper:

• Baby Ellie became the youngest person to thru-hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail! She made the trip with her mom Bekah and her dad Derrick, who wrote about their adventure.

• One user got a nice surprise: JK Rowling tweeted their blog post:

• Robert E. Kelly and his family became worldwide celebrities when his appearance on the BBC was interrupted by his children. “We are just a regular family, and raising two young children can be a lot of work. Because of that, it seems that the video has resonated with parents around the world,” he wrote on his blog.

• Over at Longreads, Laurie Penny wrote the site’s most popular story of the year — The Unforgiving Minute.

• We wished a happy 11th anniversary to Smitten Kitchen, one of the web’s most popular and longest-running food blogs.

• INFJoe, the cartoon persona of artist and blogger Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, released his book Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life.

The Year in Building Your Business

This year we worked to make it even easier to create the perfect website for business and ecommerce — from fashion to fitness, salons to school fundraisers.

In March we introduced unlimited themes for Premium and Business plan users so you can experiment with more designs — including the new Radcliffe 2 theme for small business. We made it easy for you to collaborate in Google Docs and publish straight to WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites. In May we launched Business plan support for third-party plugins and themes, giving you total control over customizing and monetizing your site:

Of course, no website is an island: it’s more important than ever to distribute your blog posts and pages across social media, so in July we introduced social media scheduling, allowing you to plan tweets and Facebook posts far in advance and resurface popular posts from your archives:

social scheduling

Then in August, we made it even easier to earn money from your site with the new Simple Payment feature:

To top it all off, we teamed up with Rebrand Cities to bring 10,000 small businesses online, and we partnered with inspiring folks like Creative Mornings and legendary designers like Michael Bierut and Marian Bantjes to create new sites with students in Appalachia as part of Project A3.

The Year in Photos (and Making It Easier to Post the Perfect Shot)

You published some incredible images and illustrations in 2017! Take a look:

Ascending the Andes

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb – Nelson Mandela.” Thirdeyemom ascended the Andes, and captured this stunning photograph.

Illustrations by Jeremy Graboyes

We fell in love with the illustrated work of Jeremy Graboyes, a Washington, D.C.-based artist who specializes in pen-and-ink and watercolor.

Child laborers of Bangladesh

Photographer Sophia Hsin documented the child laborers of Bangladesh. The Vancouver-based Hsin is using the project to raise awareness among consumers about how some products enter their food chain.

Street photography in Puerto Rico

Omar Z. Robles brought dance and street photography together. Robles captures moments with dancers around the world, from the streets of Cuba to Hong Kong. (Above: dancer Courtney Stohlton in Puerto Rico.)

We also wanted to simplify the process of sharing your gorgeous images: You can now connect your Google Photos account and insert images straight from Google, as well as export photos from Lightroom straight to WordPress.com.

The Year in Publishing on the Go

mobile apps

Photoblogging is even better with a world-class mobile app. We made a ton of improvements to WordPress for iOS and Android, with a brand new editor, new features to manage your site, and a whole lot more.

A Warm Welcome to WordPress!

Did you know that nearly 30% of all sites on the internet are powered by WordPress? Here’s just a small sampling of the new sites we welcomed to WordPress.com, Jetpack, and WordPress.com VIP in 2017:

Resolutions for 2018

We resolve to keep working to make the web a better place — and work with all of you in the WordPress.com community to keep building your dreams.

What do you want to accomplish in the coming year? Tell us in the comments.

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Update Your Avatar on WordPress.com

Update Your Avatar on WordPress.com

Update Your Avatar on WordPress.com

Manage, upload, and edit your profile photo at wordpress.com/me.

We’ve given one of our favorite features a boost! You can now manage your profile photo, or avatar, right on WordPress.com. This avatar, powered by a service called Gravatar, is the image that represents you online — a thumbnail that appears next to your name when you interact on blogs and websites. With this recently refined feature, you can upload, edit, and update your avatar at wordpress.com/me.

Your avatar shows up in many places on WordPress.com. For example, you’ll see it on your site next to your blog posts:

And when you like someone’s post:

Or when you comment on a post:

As you can see, your avatar helps to establish your identity and credibility on WordPress.com — but also across the internet. It will also appear on other websites that use Gravatar, like Stack Overflow and Hootsuite. This means that you don’t have to re-upload the same photo multiple times across the web.

How to Update Your Avatar

While logged into your WordPress.com account, go to wordpress.com/me or click your profile icon at the top-right corner of the screen. You’ll see the edit screen for your profile:

From here, you can either click on your photo to change it:

Animated GIF showing clicking the button to change the Gravatar

Or drag and drop a new photo from your computer:

You can also edit the photo — rotate, flip, or crop — before setting or changing it:

Animation showing editing image

When you’re happy with your image, click Change My Photo and you’re all set!

We’ve also made this update for the desktop app. If you have questions, refer to the Gravatars Support page or contact Support for assistance. We look forward to seeing your faces around the web!

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Add A Simple Payment Button To Your WordPress.com Site

Add A Simple Payment Button To Your WordPress.com Site

Add A Simple Payment Button To Your WordPress.com Site

With our new PayPal integration, you can start selling in seconds.

May 2016: Hajj Flemings, CEO of Rebrand Cities with renowned photographer, Shawn Lee, in a redesigned school bus en route to working with small business owners in Detroit.

Earlier this year, while working in Detroit with small business owners and the Rebrand Cities team, it became clear that entrepreneurs and publishers are looking for a simpler way to accept credit and debit card payments on their sites.

Our Happiness Engineering team — the guardians of our customers — also weighed in, and we knew that we wanted to make an existing process simpler. So we set a design goal of bringing a 15-minute-long process to under a minute — especially for a customer that has never used PayPal before.

So a small team of engineers and designers came together to solve that problem with the intent of releasing a “Version One” with which we could start to understand how a simpler payment button could be used by our customers. It’s currently limited to our Premium and Business Plan members on WordPress.com and for Jetpack Premium and Professional members on any WordPress site — while we tune and refine how it can work best.

Here’s how it works: Open a new post, select “Insert Content,” then choose “Add Payment Button.” You’ll fill out the details for what you’re selling, add the email address for your PayPal account (where the money will be sent), and that’s it! Now your readers can send you a payment with a credit card, debit card, or PayPal account.

Read more about how to get started with the new Simple Payments feature for Premium and Business Plans on WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites.


It’s easy to think that making simple things is, well, simple. But that’s never the case. Austin, Texas-based engineering leader Bob Ralian led the product team that pulled this live, working prototype together in record time. I had the opportunity to observe the design team in action working with the engineers, and the following is a brief interview with Bob on how all the pieces came together.

JM: So tell me a little about yourself, Bob!

BR: I’ve been building websites and web applications for the better part of 20 years, and I’ve worked at Automattic for four years. I’ve done a mix of engineering, team management, and project management. I live in Austin, Texas, with my wife, three kids, and two dogs.

JM: How does an engineer think versus how a designer thinks?

BR: As an engineer I usually think in terms of what I have and what I know. I can work within a system, take different pieces and turn them into something new. Take duct tape, dental floss, and a rubber band, and turn it into a bicycle. Or I can look at a process and think through how I can make it better. But I’ve found that designers are able to create something totally new out of nothing. They’re not intimidated by a completely blank slate. It’s a superpower that I greatly admire!

JM: They sound very similar!

BR: I think we’re motivated by the same things. We want to make something that people like and appreciate and makes their days a little better. Really, we just want our users to be happy and enjoy what we’re building.

JM: An unusual amount of planning went into this little button — it started in Detroit with a group of designers and then was packaged into a variety of concept sketches and little movies. Does all that up front work really pay off? If so, how?

BR: We spent a lot of time with customers, particularly small business owners, to learn about what they need from their websites. We learned that many of them just want a simple way to take payments. So we used that as our guiding principle, make it as simple as possible for these business owners to add a payment button to their site.

JM: What’s an “MVLP”? I heard the designers use that term with the engineers.

BR: MVLP stands for “minimum viable lovable product.” It means that rather than taking a long time to build a complicated product behind a curtain, we try to build small, simple features and launch them early. It’s ready when it solves a real user need and we can feel proud of it – something we can love. Then we let our customers tell us what they want next and how to make it better. This keeps us focused on building for real user needs.

JM: As an accomplished musical artist yourself, how does “love” play into the engineering of products?

BR: To me it’s all the same; composing a song, writing a blog post, building a new feature, or making something with my hands. I just really love the process of “making things.” Bringing something new into the world is an act of love. It’s an act of vulnerability and generosity. It’s saying to the world “We did our best, and we really hope this makes your life a little better.”

JM: Thanks Bob! Our huge thanks to the engineers who built it; Jason Johnston (who led the project), Artur Piszek, Damián Suárez, Don Park, Jarda Šnajdr, Payton Swick, and Rastislav Lamoš! And special thanks to designers Takashi Irie and Dave Whitley for thoughtfully crafting the experience design for this very first MLVP of the Simple Payment button.

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