WordPress.com Custom Design: A Logical Price Rise?

December 4, 2011

WordPress.com has long provided a Custom CSS upgrade. I’ve been using Custom CSS here at ChangingWay.org ever since the blog has lived at WordPress.com and used the Simpla theme.

Custom CSS is now part of the Custom Design upgrade. Custom Design costs $30 per blog per year, twice what Custom CSS used to cost. So what else does the extra $15 buy? Well, you get more help with CSS from WordPress.com now. Back in the Custom CSS days, you paid to be able to edit CSS, and WordPress.com was explicit that it didn’t provide support to you in getting the CSS right.

But the main difference between Custom Design and Custom CSS is: Custom Fonts. In fact:

  • Custom Design = Custom CSS + Custom Fonts + Support.

Custom Fonts refers to the use of Typekit. CSS and Typekit go logically together, as I noted when I first tried Typekit. That was two years ago, before Typekit became available at WordPress.com. It would have made sense to me had Typekit been available as part of Custom CSS. After all, CSS allows you to specify fonts (among many other things), while Typekit lengthens the list of fonts you can use.

Instead, when WordPress.com first made Typekit available, it opened the Typekit door to all users, at no charge, while providing minimal support. I played around with Typekit at this blog, used it elsewhere, and responded to some questions about Typekit in the WordPress.com forums. But ChangingWay.org currently uses CSS, rather than Typekit, to specify fonts.

WordPress.com announced the Custom Design upgrade earlier this year. To recap, this means that for $30 per blog per year, you can get the combination of Custom CSS and Custom Fonts, with support for both. The combination is a logical one and, at less than $1 a week, seems reasonably priced – to WordPress.com, and probably to many of its bloggers.

But, to other WordPress.com bloggers, the bundling of CSS and Fonts into a single $30 package represents an unwelcome change. One blogger recently complained in the forums that he cannot use Typekit for free anymore (but follow the link to the thread for a way in which bloggers already using Typekit can continue to use it at no charge).

To me, Custom Design represents a doubling of the price I pay for using Custom CSS at this blog. I don’t need Typekit, and I don’t need CSS support. The price change is an input into my annual question: should I continue to pay for WordPress.com upgrades, or should I move to another WordPress host?

What are your thoughts on the Custom Design upgrade and its pricing?

4 Responses to “WordPress.com Custom Design: A Logical Price Rise?”

  1. Sajib Says:

    In fact I’ve been on self-hosted platform for years now. I think if you want to make profit out of your blog, then self-hosting is the best choice. On the other hand, if your blog is solely about you (personal) or anything non-profit, WordPress.com is as good as it gets.

    • Andrew Says:

      Sajib,
      Thanks for the comment. I agree with your assessment that self-hosting is currently the way to go if you want to make money from a WordPress blog. WordAds may change that, if it’s easy to use – ease of use is one of the arguments for wp.com in the first place – and if the ads are unobtrusive.


    • Personally I find third-party ads on personal journals and charity/educational sites distasteful, so those are precisely the kinds of sites I wouldn’t put on wordpress.com.

      I’ve said elsewhere that the increased price of custom CSS was an inevitable consequence of the introduction of premium themes; they can run up to $100, so compared to those prices $15 was looking weirdly cheap. They just threw in the fonts and the promise of support (which remains patchy) so that the price increase would look slightly less egregious.

      Since anyone who is investing in custom CSS will also need the no-ads upgrade (why would you spend money on tarting up your blog if it’s then going to be defaced with tacky animated ads?), and will often also have the domain upgrades… well, then you’re looking at around $80-$90 a year, and at that point it would be silly not to at least investigate self-hosting.

      • Andrew Says:

        TGA,
        Thanks for you comments, incisive as ever. Once you get up over a buck a week, yes self-hosting looks increasingly attractive.

        Or one could spend just a little more and get more from WP.com, in the form of a bundle. At least, that’s what WP.com keeps inviting me to do, in the form of a taskbar suggestion that I upgrade to a $99 bundle including domain name and mapping, custom design, no ads, 5GB more space, and videopress.

        I’m not going to go for the bundle. I’ll be looking for a theme that I could stand to use without CSS, but is free at WP.com.


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