It’s one of the more common misconceptions out there. Beginners especially don’t realise that there is a big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Everything at wplessons.com is aimed at wordpress.org users. The possibilities are endless, with thousands of plugins and themes to choose from. You also have unlimited freedom in what you can make your site do for you.
So what are the differences?
In brief, WordPress.org is where “WordPress” the software is freely available to the public. This can also be said for thousands of free plugins and themes which add functionality to your site.
There are also premium (paid) plugins and themes. It is very likely that if you need a certain feature on your site then there is most likely a plugin somewhere that will do the job that you need.
At codex.wordpress.org you’ll be able to find everything you need to get WordPress (the software) up and running on your own domain. Set up is fast, usually a one-click process but you will also need to purchase web hosting. Web hosting is a vast topic but you should expect to pay anywhere between $5 – $15 per month for a small to medium-sized website. Of course, the price of your hosting package depends on how many visitors to your site etc. Read here for our recommended Web Hosts
The sky is the limit with wordpress.org, you can get set up for a low cost with a lot more freedom than the wordpress.com version. There is no need to pay to remove 3rd party adverts (We will come to that shortly) Also as there are no restrictions, you can edit the core PHP, add edit and delete CSS styles and also include JQuery elements.
Also, there are many developers and agencies out there that primarily deal with this WordPress type. That means that help is much easier to find should you ever go down the route of needing a web developer to edit or simply enhance your website.
At WordPress.com, things are different. Installation is a breeze and free hosting is provided. It is free for the first 3GB of space. After that, you will have to pay for space ($19.95 per year for 5GB) or ($289.97 per year for 100GB). There are also some nice features included as standard such as free backups, automatic updates and good security.
That’s the good news! Free hosting doesn’t necessarily mean “free”. For a start Your “domain name” will sound and look unprofessional, i.e. yourdomainname.wordpress.com — to be clear though, you can buy your own domain name, then map it to the WordPress.com system costing the standard domain name price tag.
You cannot modify the PHP source code and while as a beginner this may not sound important, down the line you may well need to get a bit more hands-on with your site and edit some of the PHP code. You can’t upload any plugins, either — though there are plugins available on WordPress.com, the selection is tiny in comparison with wordpress.org.
While you can choose from nearly 200 themes, you can’t upload your own — and customization of the available themes is relatively limited.
Don’t like seeing third-party ads on your site? For $30/year, the ads can be removed. You are NOT allowed to sell ads on your website unless you receive 25,000 pageviews per month. In which case, you have to apply to try their feature called Ad control. The downside of which is that you split any profit 50/50 with them.
Links advertising WordPress.com and themes cannot be removed. Premium themes have a price tag as well, varying anywhere from about $45 to $100. These cannot be transferred to wordpress.org later on if you change your mind.
So which is best for me?
Now reading all that back it would seem that WordPress.org is the better choice and I have to agree. WordPress.com has its benefits, in the long term you will have far more freedom and choice going with the self-hosted option. As a beginner you may not know anything about editing core files, adding custom CSS and all the other techie stuff. That doesn’t mean that in 6 or 8 months time that you won’t like some of these features and that is a major reason why I would steer anyone towards wordpress.org.
If you are a personal blogger type and not hung up on having your site make money, then the .com version is perfectly fine.
If the price is a factor, then there is not a huge amount of difference between the two. It’s a bit of a myth really to say that self-hosted is more expensive. Let’s say you use wordpress.com, purchase their custom domain ($17 per year), pay for the ad-free option ($30 per year), and get custom design upgrade ($30 per year). You have just spent close to 80 dollars and you still don’t have total control over your website. With wordpress.org, web hosting (again the price varies) can be got for as little as $4 or $5 a month. That’s about $50 – $60 a year and nowadays you get a free domain name as well from the hosting company. With free themes and plugins available you can have a pretty nifty website online in a few short hours. The added benefit of all this is that you have complete control over your site
Both have a learning curve, so neither are particularly “easy” to set up. On saying all that, the resources available for self-hosted WordPress sites are amazing and ever growing.
But the final point is that the choice is down to you. It’s your website, your branding and your online presence that’s most important. It’s up to you how you wish to present it to the world.