Remember the furore when WordPress introduced the block editor a couple of years ago?. I know it upset many of you book bloggers who were perfectly happy with the old classic editor and hated the changes.
The latest announcement from WordPress is causing even more of a stir.
Whether you have a free plan or a paid plan, you’re going to be impacted by changes to the WordPress fees and conditions for hosting your blog site.. Maybe not immediately but there are signals of further changes at some point in the future.
Until recently WordPress offered users five different plans for hosting their blog — one free plan and four paid plans.
The free plan was perfectly adequate for bloggers who didn’t want or need whistles and bells. If you were willing to put up with the WP adverts appearing on your site and the inability to use plug ins, then the free plan was a simple solution.
Bloggers who wanted something beyond the basics (like more storage space for media or a domain name that didn’t include the words “wordpress”) could scale up via the four paid plans. Each gave different benefits like the amount of storage space or ability to host videos.
In their “wisdom” WordPress bosses have now decided that this charging scheme was way too difficult. So they’ve scrapped it and now offer just two options: Free Plan or Pro Plan. Details of what is included in each plan can be found here.
WordPress say that “With the Free plan you’ll still be able to get the word out, create a beautiful site, and take advantage of the fastest WordPress managed hosting on the planet. “
This is the stripped down version. Most of the features remain the same as the old free plan — no ability to remove adverts or WordPress branding; no options to add plug ins; limited number of design themes; no automated back ups of your site and no customer support .
What’s new is the storage capacity: it’s reduced from 3GB to 1GB. More on this later…
WordPress describe this as “The very best of managed WordPress hosting in a single, affordable plan at just $15/month (paid annually).”
Essentially you get all the benefits of the previous Business Plan including: unlimited plug ins; premium design themes; advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tools; built in social media tools and ad free. At $180 it’s cheaper than the $300 Business Plan and you get a whopping 50GB of storage space.
What’s Not To Like?
As you’d expect the announcement was wrapped around with statements about how much WordPress has listened to its customers and how much customers will benefit from the changes.
But that’s not the case for all customers.
The new paid plan is certainly cheaper than the Business Plan but more expensive than the Personal Plan (annual cost $48) or the Premium Plan ($96 per year). But now everyone who wants just a little more flexibility than the free plan has no option other than forking out $120 for the Pro Plan.
As many bloggers have pointed out in the WordPress forum, they don’t actually want or need all the whistles and bells that are bundled in with the Pro Plan. For example, users of the Personal Plan just wanted some additional storage space (6GB); some personalisation options such as a custom domain and the ability to remove WordPress.com ads.
But all these customers will now either have to pay up or go back to the stripped down version.
They’ll also lose a significant amount of storage space which is not good news for any blogger who uses a lot of images on their site.
More Confusion Ahead
There was a big emphasis in this announcement about wanting to make life simpler for WordPress customers (the company clearly doesn’t think its customers are clever enough to choose between five options).
But having opted for a simpler, streamlined charging model, they’re going to complicate it by adding in specific services that you can buy to add to your chosen plan. Their blog announcement says:
- Additional storage will be available for purchase at a very reasonable price, very soon.
- As-you-need them add-ons for both plans, to give you a la carte upgrades. Coming soon.
So far from wanting to keep things simple, what they’re actually doing is unbundling some services and then giving you the option to add them back in again (at a price). I’m not clear how that squares up with their statement that “It’s important that we keep things simple, honest, and clear in everything we do.”
How Will This Affect You?
According to the announcement, if you have a free plan, nothing will change. Any new subscribers will just get 1GB of storage space but you get to keep your 3GB allocation. Whether that will continue to be so, time will tell because on the WP forum, responses by the staff are couched in such a way that there is no guarantee the 3GB will stay.
WordPress has already had to change the details of the free plan — initially each blog site was given an allowance of just 0.5GB and there was a cap placed number of visitors. Within days that had changed to 1GB and the cap on visitors was removed. WordPress explained the change as a bug that had to be fixed. But my suspicions are that the change was influenced by a backlash from current users. It wouldn’t surprise me if, once the dust has settled down, there will be a further change.
What about those of you with a paid plan?
The WordPress announcement on this says “nothing will change unless you want it to.” Which suggests that if you have a Personal or a Premium plan you’ll continue paying at the current rate. Which probably doesn’t sound too big a deal.
The problem comes when that plan comes up for renewal . You won’t be able to just continue with those plans because they are no longer being offered.
So your only option will be to downgrade to the Free Plan or upgrade to the Pro Plan.
Should you choose to downgrade you’ll drop to 1GB of storage space. Not a problem if you well under that threshold anyway but if you’re over it then this is what WordPress says will happen:
If a site uses more than 3GB of storage space and switches to a free plan, some of its content, including photos, will be removed because it does not have enough space.
So you’ll lose images from your media library and they’ll no longer show up on pages and posts you’ve already published— visitors to your site will just see an empty box.
There’s one category of user that is already being penalised by the new system: those of use who have a Business Plan. My subscription was renewed just a couple of weeks before the changes so I paid $300. Under the new scheme, I can get all the same benefits via the Pro Plan, for $120 less. But WordPress never advised me of that and if I hadn’t seen Ola and Piotrek’s blog post I’d have continued paying over the odds.
A short exchange using the WordPress chat option and I was moved to the lower price contract and immediately got a refund for the difference. But I shouldn’t have been put in this position — as a customer of 10 years standing I would have expected WordPress to contact me to advise me of the changes (easily done since they have my email address and they are after all in the business of communications.)
What Can You/Should You Do Now?
Numerous dissatisfied users have signalled their intention to look for an alternative blogging platform like Blogger or Wix because of the new WordPress fees and the cack-handed way the change has been handled.
You may decide it’s not worth the hassle involved in switching and learning a new platform or that you don’t want to risk losing followers if you jump ship.
If you decide to stay with WordPress, here’s what I suggest you do:
- If you have a business plan, get in touch with WordPress immediately to enquire about switching to the Pro Plan . You might get pushback under the terms of their Refund Policy but it’s worth asking.
- For those of you will a Personal or Premium Plan, contact WordPress and ask what happens when your plan is due for renewal. Will you automatically be moved to the Pro Plan?
- Make sure your account settings do not automatically renew your contact each year.
- If you decide that on your next renewal date, you’ll move from a paid plan to a free plan, keep a close eye on how much of your storage limit you’ve used. If it’s under 3GB you won’t have any cause for alarm. If you’re likely to be over that, then start doing a clean up of your image library. You can check out my earlier post on how to manage your media library.
Sorry if this post has sent you into a spin but thought you’d want to know what’s going on. If I hear anything further I’ll keep you posted.