DreamHost vs WordPress.com – Which Is The Best Choice For Hosting A WordPress Website?
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DreamHost and WordPress.com both really simplify the process of launching a WordPress website. And, if you’re on a budget, you’ll be pleased to know they have some very affordable plans, with WordPress.com even having a free option.
However, while they’re both good choices for most people, there are some major differences between these two services that you should be aware of.
In this comparison, I’ll explore the best and worst aspects of these two hosts, while also highlighting their main differences. You’ll also find out which host is the fastest when I share the results from the performance tests I carried out with the paid Pingdom service.
If you’re planning to start a new website and want to know if you should choose WordPress.com or DreamHost, this comparison will help you to make an informed decision.
A Quick Overview of DreamHost and WordPress.com
As mentioned, there are some major differences between WordPress.com and DreamHost. So, while they both make it very easy to create a new WordPress website, they don’t work in the same way.
One key difference is WordPress.com has a free (but limited) plan alongside its paid options, while DreamHost only have paid plans; another is the way in which they let you use themes and plugins on your site.
There are a few other important differences, but, thanks to their ease of use, both services are ideal for those who are new to creating websites or using WordPress.
In this guide, you’ll find an exploration and comparison of their pricing, ease of use, performance and key features.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
In addition to the differences between DreamHost and WordPress.com, you may be wondering what the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is. If you are, here’s a quick overview…
WordPress.org is the website where you can download the free-to-use WordPress software. However, on that website, you won’t find a hosting service. Instead, it’s up to you to choose a company to host your website online. WordPress.com, like DreamHost, is one such company where you can sign up and publish a WordPress website online.
You can find out more about the differences between these two entities in our WordPress.com vs WordPress.org explainer video, but, in short, WordPress.org is the website where the WordPress software can be found, whereas WordPress.com is a commercial service that will host a WordPress website for you.
Let’s now take a look at what you get when you sign up with DreamHost and WordPress.com.
DreamHost vs WordPress.com Pricing
As mentioned, WordPress.com has a basic free plan. It also has paid plans to meet a wide range of budgets and requirements. Although DreamHost don’t have a free plan, their shared hosting plans are very affordable.
DreamHost also provide other types of hosting, such as managed dedicated server hosting and cloud hosting. There’s also their DreamPress premium managed WordPress hosting service, which starts at $16.95 a month. However, this comparison focuses on their entry-level and very affordable shared hosting, which starts at $2.59 a month.
If you’d like to know more about the DreamPress managed WordPress hosting service, you can read our DreamHost review.
WordPress.com and DreamHost both provide a discount to customers who pay annually rather than monthly. With DreamHost, you get an even better deal by paying for three years up front. You also get a few extras from both hosts if you pay annually instead of monthly, such as a free domain name registration.
DreamHost Shared Hosting Plans
DreamHost have two shared hosting plans, with the main difference being how many websites you can host:
- Shared Starter: From $2.59 a month to host one website.
- Shared Unlimited: From $3.95 a month to host unlimited websites and access their email service.
To get the prices listed above, you’ll need to pay for three years of hosting up front, as shorter contracts result in higher prices. Also, once your initial contract expires, you’ll pay the regular rates to renew.
While signing up to a new service for three years to get the lowest rates may sound daunting, you can get a full refund from DreamHost if you cancel within the first 97 days.
It’s worth mentioning that, if you’re creating a website for a non-profit, you could get hosting from DreamHost for free as part of their non-profit discount.
WordPress.com Hosting Plans
Here are the main details of the WordPress.com plans, including who they’re for according to the company:
- Free — best for getting started.
- Personal — best for personal use: $4 a month billed annually or $7 a month billed monthly.
- Premium — best for freelancers: $8 a month billed annually or $14 a month billed monthly.
- Business — best for small businesses: $25 a month billed annually or $33 a month billed monthly.
- eCommerce — best for online stores: $45 a month billed annually or $59 a month billed monthly.
It’s worth noting that the prices of the WordPress.com plans vary by region, so be sure to check the pricing page to see how much they cost in your area.
Unlike the DreamHost Ultimate Shared plan, you can only host one website on all of the WordPress.com plans.
Upgrading plans is easy, so, if you’d like to get a sense of what the WordPress.com service is like, you can try the free plan with the option of moving up the plans to unlock additional features if needed.
However, the free plan doesn’t include access to support, ads from WordPress.com are displayed on your site and you can’t use a custom domain name, and must instead use a WordPress.com subdomain such as www.mynewblog.wordpress.com.
WordPress.com plans can be cancelled for a refund within 14 or seven days of purchase, depending on whether you’ve paid for a year or month of hosting.
Free Domain Registration
As mentioned, both hosts give you a free one-year domain name registration if you pay for a year or more of hosting in advance.
However, there are some limitations regarding this, such as which domain extensions (.com, .co.uk, .net, etc.) are included.
Also, although the first year’s domain registration is free, you’ll have to pay it for the following years. Depending on which domain you choose, the fee from WordPress.com and DreamHost could be more than you’d pay if you registered the domain elsewhere, such as with a domain registrar, and then pointed that domain at your hosting account.
Verdict: If you want to start a WordPress website for free, then WordPress.com is the winner here.
However, both of the DreamHost plans are cheaper than the lowest-priced paid WordPress.com plan. Therefore, if you decide to sign up with DreamHost, you can get everything they have to offer for a relatively low price (provided you pay for a year or more of hosting up front).
That said, some of the more expensive WordPress.com plans come with useful extra features that could end up saving you money. Depending on which plan you choose, this could include access to premium WordPress themes and a powerful backup tool.
So, when it comes to finding the best value option, you’ll need to decide which features are most important to you, then see how much you must pay each host to get access to them.
With pricing covered, let’s look at what it’s like to use these services and what features they include.
As mentioned, it’s very easy to launch a new WordPress website with both hosts. DreamHost and WordPress.com will pre-install WordPress for you, so there’s no need to download or upload any files to get started.
Website Creation Wizards
Both hosts also have optional helpful wizards that walk you through the main steps of setting up your new WordPress website, including entering essential information about your site, creating your first pieces of content and choosing a design.
Overall, the WordPress.com setup wizard feels more user friendly. It’s a slicker experience, and the user interface integrates well with the rest of the features of WordPress.com, such as your website dashboard and account area.
To help to create a consistent user experience, websites hosted by WordPress.com are managed through a modified dashboard that’s different from the default WordPress user interface.
However, if you’d rather use the default WordPress dashboard to manage your site, you can switch for a user experience that’s the same as what you get with most other hosts, including DreamHost.
If you’re new to WordPress, the setup wizards of both hosts are very useful. They introduce you to how the software works and reduce the risk of you overlooking any important tasks when setting up your site.
However, the WordPress.com approach and user experience feels more consistent, and therefore more intuitive.
Perhaps this is because WordPress.com built its entire system itself, including the setup wizard and the user interface for managing accounts and the site.
With DreamHost, there’s one interface for managing your hosting account, one for the WordPress dashboard, and another for the site setup wizard and the other features that are added to WordPress by the host. For example, the DreamHost website creation wizard is actually a third-party tool called WP Site Builder from BoldGrid.
As well as the wizard, the BoldGrid partnership also provides you with a drag-and-drop editor that enables you to create custom designs for your site and its content. Purchasing the BoldGrid WP Site Builder plugin would cost you $60 a year, but it’s included at no extra cost on the DreamHost shared hosting plans.
The WordPress.com plans don’t come with a comparable website builder tool. However, if you choose either one of the two most expensive Business and eCommerce plans, you’ll be able to install your own choice of WordPress website editor plugin to add this functionality to your site.
One of the major differences between WordPress.com and DreamHost is that, while you can only host a WordPress website on your WordPress.com account, DreamHost let you do a bit more. Some examples include installing multiple instances of WordPress (if you choose the Shared Unlimited plan), installing other types of software, creating MySQL databases and setting up cron jobs.
Although you can do more with DreamHost, you may find these extras distracting or confusing, especially if you only want to create a single WordPress website.
Verdict: While these hosts have different walk-through and set-up wizards, they both work well and are easy to use.
However, as the DreamHost plans come with the premium WP Site Builder tool, you get more creative freedom from the outset. Although this extra freedom and having access to this tool is beneficial, the WordPress user experience is more consistent and streamlined.
Because of this, it’s a draw, as WordPress.com is slightly easier to use but DreamHost give you more freedom regarding what you can do with your hosting account.
WordPress themes control the design of your website, and, with thousands available, they’re one of the main reasons why WordPress is so popular.
However, DreamHost and WordPress.com have two very different approaches when it comes to how you can use themes on your website.
Free and Premium Themes
With WordPress.com, you can only install your choice of WordPress themes (and plugins) on the top two most expensive WordPress.com Business and eCommerce plans, which start at $25 and $45 a month respectively. With DreamHost, you can install themes (and plugins) on any plan.
That’s not to say that you don’t get access to any themes on the cheaper WordPress.com plans.
All of the WordPress.com plans include access to a number of free themes. However, the selection of 114 themes is much smaller than the thousands of free themes you can use with DreamHost (and nearly all other web hosts).
The Premium WordPress.com plan, which starts at $8 a month, also includes access to around 80 premium themes that are available from WordPress.com. As these themes can cost as much as $150 to buy independently, it’s an extra that makes the plans better value.
These free and premium themes that are available via your WordPress.com account are well designed. There’s a varied range of options available, including designs for business, portfolio and magazine websites.
However, for most people, getting access to some, albeit well-designed themes, won’t overcome the fact that you can’t upload your choice of themes unless you pay at least $25 a month for the Business plan or above. As this is something that’s arguably a key feature of WordPress, it’s a big drawback.
When you sign up with either of the DreamHost shared hosting plans you can upload your choice of free themes or premium themes you’ve purchased yourself. Not only that, but you also get access to a selection of premium themes from BoldGrid.
These themes look good and cover a range of styles and purposes, including options for building websites for designers, photographers, restaurants and more. It’s fair to say they’re not the best WordPress themes, and the premium themes available on some of the WordPress.com plans are better.
However, if you find one you like, getting access to the BoldGrid themes could save you some money. They’re all highly customizable, too, so you can edit them to look exactly how you want.
Verdict: DreamHost win as you can install any WordPress theme on all of their plans, whereas with WordPress.com you have to pay for one of their more expensive plans to do so. DreamHost plans including access to the BoldGrid premium themes is a nice extra, too. However, as the WordPress.com plans come with some well-designed free themes, and some plans include access to premium themes, this may not be an issue for you.
Like themes, plugins are a key aspect of WordPress. They can be used to add new features to your website or change the way it works.
Also like themes, there are thousands of free and paid options available. As before, though, there’s a big difference in how you can use them with DreamHost and WordPress.com.
With DreamHost, you can install any WordPress plugin on your website. With WordPress.com, this is only possible on the $25-a-month Business and $45-a-month eCommerce plans, although there are still some plugins that are not allowed, even on those plans.
The WordPress.com plans have some useful features built in, while to get access to these with DreamHost you’d have to install a plugin. This means you’re not restricted to using a stock installation of WordPress without any extra features if you don’t pay for the top two WordPress.com plans.
The extra features you get access to with WordPress.com vary depending on which plan you choose. You can see the full list on the pricing page of its website. However, some examples include the ability to collect payments on your site, set up an online newsletter, back up your website, and more.
Thanks to the BoldGrid partnership, the DreamHost plans come with a few extra features, such as a backup tool, a website builder and a selection of premium themes. Unlike most of the WordPress.com plans, with DreamHost you can add other features to your website via the thousands of free and premium plugins available for WordPress.
Verdict: Although you do get access to some useful features on most of the paid WordPress.com plans, the fact that you can upload your choice of plugins on all of the DreamHost plans makes them the winner here.
Slow websites are reported to be less visible in search engines, have worse conversion rates and deliver more negative user experiences compared with faster sites. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you do all you can to keep loading times down and your site running as fast as possible.
Although there are lots you can do to speed up your website, your efforts will always be hampered if you’ve chosen a slow web host.
So, to ensure you don’t make this mistake, I used the paid Pingdom service to monitor the performance of two identical (as much as possible) websites hosted by WordPress.com and DreamHost to find out which one was the fastest.
Both sites were built using the free and popular Twenty Twenty theme. A page containing an image and some text was monitored by Pingdom, with the load time recorded every 30 minutes for seven days.
At the end of the test, the average load time of each site revealed whether DreamHost or WordPress.com was the faster web host.
Here are the results…
DreamHost Performance Test Results
The average load time for the page being monitored by Pingdom on the site hosted by DreamHost was 353 milliseconds or .353 seconds.
WordPress.com Performance Test Results
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 429 milliseconds, or .429 seconds, for the page on the site hosted by WordPress.com.
DreamHost vs WordPress.com Performance Summary
According to the results, the low-cost DreamHost shared hosting service was faster than the hosting service from WordPress.com:
- DreamHost average load time: 353 milliseconds.
- WordPress.com average load time: 429 milliseconds.
The site hosted by WordPress.com was created on its Premium plan (which starts at $8 a month). However, regardless of which WordPress.com plan you choose, you should receive the same level of performance. The DreamHost site was hosted on their Shared Unlimited plan, and the DreamHost plans have the same level of performance.
DreamHost performed very well in this test; in fact, they did much better than the other shared hosts we’ve compared with WordPress.com recently, as you can see in our SiteGround vs WordPress.com and Bluehost vs WordPress.com comparisons.
However, if you plan to use a heavyweight multi-purpose theme, rather than a lightweight option such as I did in these tests, you should find that WordPress.com is faster than DreamHost, at least if you choose a theme such as Avada and import one of its demos.
If you check out our DreamHost vs SiteGround comparison, you’ll see that our test site using the Avada theme hosted by DreamHost had an average load time of 2.11 seconds. In our WordPress.com review, a site with the same configuration had an average load time of 1.06 seconds. These results suggest that, while DreamHost excel when it comes to hosting lightweight websites, compared with WordPress.com they struggle with sites that use a more complicated theme such as Avada.
Verdict: In tests measuring the performance of a simple website using a lightweight theme, DreamHost were the winner as they delivered a faster average load time than WordPress.com could manage. However, as both hosts recorded an average load time of less than half a second, WordPress.com and DreamHost were very fast hosts.
WordPress.com vs DreamHost Comparison Summary
Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve covered in this comparison, and some extra information about WordPress.com and DreamHost that you may find useful:
- Pricing: The lowest-priced DreamHost plan starts at $2.59 a month, while WordPress.com have a free plan, as well as a range of paid options.
- User Experience: Both hosts are easy to use and have setup wizards to help you to launch your new WordPress website.
- WordPress Themes: The DreamHost plans come with a selection of premium themes from BoldGrid, and they let you upload your own themes. All of the WordPress.com plans include access to a selection of free themes, some include access to a selection of premium themes, and the two most expensive plans let you upload your own themes.
- WordPress Plugins: You can upload plugins to your site on all of the DreamHost plans, but only on the two most expensive WordPress.com plans.
- Performance: DreamHost were faster than WordPress.com in the load time test.
- Monetization Options: You can monetize your website in almost any way with DreamHost and install any plugins to support this. The more expensive WordPress.com plans have some good built-in monetization features, but more restrictive monetization rules.
- Storage Space: The entry-level DreamHost shared plan gives you 50 GB of storage, while their other shared plan has unlimited storage. The storage of the WordPress.com plans ranges from 3 GB to 200 GB.
- Backups: All of the DreamHost plans include website backups, while only the two most expensive Business and eCommerce WordPress.com plans do.
- Support: All of the paid WordPress.com plans include access to support via email, while live chat support is reserved for the more expensive plans. With both of the DreamHost plans, you can contact support via email 24/7 and live chat between 5.30am and 9.30pm PT.
- Server and Database Access: You can access your server space and database(s) with the DreamHost plans. With WordPress.com, you can only do this on the WordPress.com Business and eCommerce plans.
Now, it’s time for my final thoughts on whether you should choose WordPress.com or DreamHost.
Although the Free WordPress.com plan is limited compared with its other plans and the plans from DreamHost, the fact that it gives you a way to start a new WordPress website without any financial cost shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you’re not sure you need a website, the Free WordPress.com plan could be a good way to find out. However, do remember that you won’t be able to use your own domain name on your site, it could have ads from WordPress.com displayed on it and you’d be missing many of the features of the other WordPress.com plans.
If you’re sure you do need a website, and you’d like access to all of the features of WordPress that have made it so popular, including the ability to upload and install themes and plugins, then your options are either of the affordable DreamHost plans or the two most expensive WordPress.com Business and eCommerce plans.
That said, considering the DreamHost plans start at just $2.95 a month, compared with the $25-a-month price tag of the WordPress.com Business plan, DreamHost clearly are the better-value option. They were also faster in my performance test.
The cheaper WordPress.com plans, such as the Personal and Premium plans, which start at $4 and $8 a month respectively, probably aren’t worth considering due to their limitations, as well as the fact you get more from DreamHost for less money.
However, for some, the WordPress.com plans will be easier to use as they don’t have as many features, settings or options to worry about. Because of this, if you’re not confident in your ability to manage a WordPress website, or you don’t have the time to learn, you may find the WordPress.com service more reassuring.
For everyone else, though, the lower-priced, more flexible and faster DreamHost plans are the better option.
Used/using either DreamHost or WordPress.com? Thoughts or opinions on each?
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