WordPress.com or WordPress.org – which version is right for me?

By March 27, 2013 All members

A number of our members have recently asked us the question, should I use WordPress.com or WordPress.org? If you are thinking of migrating your existing website to an easy to use platform that gives you flexibility and total control, WordPress is a good choice. It’s important to know which version of the open source software to use from the outset, so we’ve complied some information in order to get started with your own blog or website.

What should you consider when deciding to transfer your website to WordPress?

  • What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
  • What are the differences in:
    • Costs – upfront & ongoing
    • Software pros and cons
    • Maintenance and development
  • Making a decision on which version: WordPress.com or WordPress.org is best you you

What is WordPress.org?

Wordpress.org dashboardWordPress is the open source software that is responsible for around 16% of live websites today. It powers millions of websites around the world, including The Marketing Compass website. WordPress.org is the activity hub of the WordPress community.

The core software is open source and is created by a community of thousands of peers. This is great news for users like us, as there’s an extensive library of free powerful plugins (tools to enable SEO, social media, customer interactivity & much more) and themes (easy to build design templates).

WordPress.org contains up to date WordPress news, documents/guides and community support forums.

What is WordPress.com?

wordpress.com screenshotWordPress.com is a rival to blogging platforms such as Google’s Blogger or Typepad.

It will allow you to host a simple website for free,  with a number of restrictions, or alternatively you pay for upgraded options. WordPress.com runs the same core software offered at WordPress.org. However, WordPress.com is quicker to setup as they provide instant hosting.

So why bother with WordPress.org if WordPress.com is so easy to get started with?

Just bear in mind that although it’s quicker to get setup, down the line if you want to embrace more functionality, you may not be able to do everything you want to do with what we like to think of as the ‘little brother’ WordPress platform. In return for the free hosting and maintenance, your site will be quite heavily restricted and will have manditory advertising (you can pay yearly in order to have these removed.)

Put simply, you can pay for upgrades to remove advertising and to be able to use your own domain name or you can set up the WordPress.org through your own hosting package. Read on for more information on hosting costs…

Cost Comparison

NB – WordPress is open source software, however hosting your own WordPress site does have a few costs which we should make you aware of.

To get setup on WordPress.org, you will need hosting and a domain name. Hosting can cost anywhere between £1 p/m to £20 p/m depending on the provider you choose and the level of 1-2-1 support they are offering. We’d suggest using someone like TSOhost, who will guide you through the setup process and be on hand to answer technical questions via 24 support (you can even ring them! Check out TSOhost here: http://my.tsohost.com/aff.php?aff=1251

Domains are around £6.99+ per year. To make it really easy for you to set up, I would register you domain with the same provider as your hosting, i.e. TSOhost.

If you already have a domain registered elsewhere (e.g. at 123Reg, 1&1, Go Daddy, Namesco etc), your hosting provider will tell how how to point the domain at their servers.

Once you’ve got your hosting and domain and you’ve got your login details for your new WordPress site, you can use any theme or plugins you like.

Wordpress cost comparison

WordPress.com can be an expensive option if you don’t want to use your own a domain name (you would have to have wordpress.com in your website address – e.g. http://www.myawesomewebsite.wordpress.com) and don’t mind using their free themes with no modifications. There are many free themes to choose from, although most of them are quite basic and generic in nature (you often get what you pay for!).

If you want your website to be fully-featured, which includes your own domain name, the ability to post YouTube videos, unlimited web pages & image storage and no forced advertising, WordPress.com can become quite expensive. If cost is your most important consideration then using the software from WordPress.org will be your most affordable option in the long run & will allow you to build a website with virtually no limitations.

Software pros and cons

WordPress.com
WordPress.com is run by business people who are providing an easy to use service at a cost. They maintain the software so that you never have to touch any website code (you will however need to pay for upgraded functionality). Your blog will also be subjected to advertising unless you pay $30.00 per blog, per year in order to remove advertisements.

Here are some of the limitations to hosting with WordPress.com:

  • You can only use WordPress.com themes
  • Not allowed to use custom plugins
  • Storage limitations & not allowed to upload videos (unless you upgrade)
  • Limited control of content – unless you pay to remove ads
  • No FTP (file transfer protocol) access to your files for security reasons

WordPress.org
When you set up a WordPress site on your own server, you have the freedom to do pretty much whatever you want with it (and you can usually get your hosting company to help you setup the environment which suits you best).

  • You can use all free plugins (or paid for fancy plugins) from the extensive library, this includes tools to improve your SEO, social media standing, interactivity with your website visitors and much more…
  • You can use all of the free themes or use a premium theme that really suits your needs
  • You can use your own domain name
  • You can add and edit files via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) if needed
  • Ask your hosts to tweak WordPress and server settings to improve performance
  • You have full control of your content – no ads (or use your own ads)
  • You can use your imagination to go wild!

Maintenance and Development

WordPress.org:

Wordpress website building blocksIf you want full control, you must also claim full responsibility of your website. If you host your own WordPress website, then you will need make a commitment to provide regular content, site maintenance and software updates. As WordPress is open source, the software is often updated & you are in control of updating that software to keep the site stable and secure.

Having your own website will naturally give you more control, but bear in mind that it’s also a time investment, unless you get someone else to look after it for you (don’t be overwhelmed though, like any new software, there is a learning curve and once you’ve used it a few times, you get the hang of it!)

WordPress.com:

With WordPress.com your life is made simpler, you don’t have to worry about any software updates, they do it all for you. If you are just looking to write a blog or occasionally put your thoughts online, then the free WordPress.com software may be sufficient for your needs.

So now you know the differences, which platform should you go for?

If you are looking to build a website for an existing business, a new venture or a startup no matter how small, it’s important to retain flexibility. This includes adding plugins and extra functionality, custom themes and design techniques. You may consider that’s it’s not necessary right now, however you may wish to expand later and making the right choice now will save you a headache down the road.

Here’s a guide to some typical uses of the WordPress software:

Wordpress uses guide

Here’s a short video that puts everything we’ve just discussed into context…

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Infographic

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

Our Recommendation for small businesses: WordPress.org

WordPress.org is overall better for keeping costs down and having total freedom. WordPress.com is quicker and more hassle free for ongoing maintenance. If you want to build a beautiful website that is brimming with useful, relevant, helpful information & if  you want to connect with your audience and get more enquiries, then WordPress.org is probably your best bet.

WordPress sounds great, but I could do with some help getting setup and learning the software!

You might consider taking a training course on WordPress, through our partners Totosites, more information here: http://www.totosites.com/wordpress-training-courses/

Questions?

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.

Good luck and have fun!

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