Ruby on Rails Developer, 8+ Years of Web Development Experience
January 23rd, 2021
Did you know that 39% of the web is built on WordPress? More content creators, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies use WordPress than all other options combined, but not many know that WordPress offers two different ways to build and host your website.
Depending on your needs, budget, and experience, you’ll need to choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I know, confusing right? You might have even done a double take since the difference is so subtle. However, there’s nothing subtle about the features and functionality between each option.
Whether it’s ease of use, functionality, or simply cost, there’s a lot of distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Fortunately for us, WordPress themselves has highlighted the key differences between the two options in a helpful infographic.
Let’s talk through the main points.
WordPress.com offers a free plan which allows you to host your website as a subdomain of wordpress.com. However, if you want to have a custom domain, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan which can range anywhere from $4 to $45 per month.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, allows you to download and use the WordPress CMS software for free. You will, however,need an actual place to host this software if you want to have your website online and accessible. WordPress’ recommended hosts range anywhere from $3 to $30 a month, but mileage may vary.
WordPress.com does not require any installation since it configures the CMS on their servers, making it the simplest solution when compared to WordPress.org. You can think of it like SquareSpace or WIX in that you simply create an account and hit the ground running. Since WordPress.com also takes care of hosting, you don’t need to worry about backups, server maintenance, or security.
WordPress.org on the other hand needs to be installed on the server where you plan on having it hosted.
Although the installation process is fairly straightforward for a web developer, it can be downright daunting if you’ve never worked with software before. Also, you’re still on the hook for configuring and maintaining site backups and security.
WordPress.com is similar to SquareSpace or WIX in that it’s geared towards users who don’t necessarily have any experience with web development. It’s meant to get out of your way, and allow you to start creating content in minutes. It even had a drag-and-drop editor to make content creation even easier.
WordPress.org is geared towards people with web development experience. As stated in the previous section, you need to have the knowledge to install the software as well as maintain the website. The trade off here is that you have complete control of your website.
Functionality and themes
WordPress.com offers a variety of plans with varying functionality. If you don’t need total control over the site theme or additional features, you can stick to the Personal or Premium Plans. However, if you need to edit the HTML or CSS, or need to extend the site’s functionality through plugins, then you’ll have to upgrade to the Business Plan.
WordPress.org poses no limits. Since you have access to the software, you can customize the site to your heart’s content. If you know that your site will need custom features and a custom theme, you might be better off going with WordPress.org simply because you could host it for less than the WordPress.com Business Plan.
WordPress.com offers built in stats, but they are limited when compared to Google Analytics. If you want to use Google Analytics or another analytic software, then you’ll need to upgrade to the Business Plan.
Since WordPress.org has no restrictions on what you do with their software, you can easily integrate with Google Analytics as well as any other SEO plugin. You can also directly update the theme’s markup to have complete control over metadata.
Which solution is right for me?
WordPress.com operates on a model where you’re given almost everything you need through the simplest plan, but will find that you’re quickly limited once you need to extend the site’s theme or functionality. However, the advantage to using WordPress.com is that you’re paying for peace of mind. It takes care of hosting, security, and performance, which allows you to focus on your business.
WordPress.org is better suited for someone who doesn’t want to be restricted by any particular plan, and feels comfortable maintaining a website. If you know that you’ll need features offered in the Business Plan from the beginning, you might be better off using WordPress.org since you can have it hosted for less.
Regardless of what solution you choose, I want to highlight that having an online presence is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter how quickly you can get a website up and running if no one is visiting the site. You still need to implement an effectivedigital marketing strategy to grow your business.
Check out this infographic from WordPress highlighting the key differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
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