WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Which WordPress Is Best for You?
What Is WordPress?
WordPress is an online content creation system. In simpler terms, WordPress is the most popular and powerful website creation tool in existence, powering over 29% of the Internet. If you’re a small business owner or aspiring blogger needing a website, WordPress is the obvious choice. WordPress has given anyone the power to make a website, even people without technical skills.
Let’s start with a WordPress.com vs WordPress.org quick comparison chart. Detailed explanations of each feature follow the chart.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org — Comparison Chart
|Feature||WordPress.com Free||WordPress.com Personal||WordPress.com Premium||WordPress.com Business||WordPress.org (Inmotion Hosting)|
|price||free||$4.00/mo||$8.00/mo||$24.91/mo||$3.49/mo (many plans available)|
|support||no (community forums)||chat (Mon – Fri) or email||chat (Mon – Fri) or email||chat (Mon – Fri) or email||24/7 tech support, phone or chat|
|backups||automatic||automatic||automatic||automatic||manual (auto w/ WordPress plans)|
|domain name||no||included||included||included||no (about $10/yr w/ Namecheap)|
|privacy protection||included||included||included||included||no ($3/yr w/ Namecheap)|
|edit core code||no||no||no||no||yes|
|security included||all-inclusive; turn-key||all-inclusive; turn-key||all-inclusive; turn-key||all-inclusive; turn-key||no (yes w/ a managed plan)|
|multiple websites||no – only one||no – only one||no – only one||no – only one||yes (# of sites depends on plan)|
|themes||about 100||about 300||about 300||endless||endless|
|updates||automatic||automatic||automatic||automatic||manual (auto w/ WordPress plans)|
Introduction to WordPress.org
WordPress.org offers the WordPress software for anyone to use, free of charge. But when you visit the WordPress website there’s just a “download” button. So how do you use it?
Once you have decided on your web host and purchased your domain name, you simply install WordPress onto your server and that’s it. You can then utilize the amazing and ubiquitous WordPress software and build your website. That’s WordPress.org in a nutshell.
I made that sound pretty easy, didn’t I? Once you get past all the initial technical setup, it is! If you need help with purchasing your domain name, installing WordPress, purchasing web hosting, assigning nameservers, etc., just contact me and I will help you get started.
Introduction to WordPress.com
WordPress.com also offers the WordPress software for anyone to use, free of charge. However, with WordPress.com, you do not have to have a web host or a domain name. When you visit WordPress.com, you simply sign up for a free blog or website and you start using WordPress. It’s completely hassle-free and you’ll have a 100% free, professionally-designed website.
So why would anyone use WordPress.org when WordPress.com is 100% cost-free and hassle-free?
The short answer is that while WordPress.com is free, it is limited. The free offering does not include a domain name, does not allow for editing of CSS or core code, has limited storage space, random ads . . . However, you can eliminate these limitations by purchasing a paid upgrade. And the WordPress.com paid plans are some of the best values on the Internet.
WordPress.com appeals to the masses because it’s a completely turn-key system. You need almost zero technical knowledge. It’s like living in an apartment complex — no maintenance or upkeep required.
The WordPress.com plan prices are quite reasonable. Check them out here.
A Domain Name – Do You Want One?
If you sign up with the free WordPress.com plan, you will not have your own domain name. Your website url will appear as:
Most folks would rather their website url appear as just their domain name:
WordPress.com offers a free domain name with any of their paid plans. It’s one of the best free domain name offers out there. I say that because most “free” domain offers are only free for the first year. Then, for the second year (and every other year into perpetuity), the price is the normal price.
With any of the WordPress.com paid plans, your free domain name lasts as long as you stay with WordPress.com. And that includes privacy protection! (This is all accurate at the time of this writing). If you go with a typical domain name registrar, your domain name will cost (on average) $10 per year with an additional charge of $3-5 for privacy protection.
A free domain name with free privacy protection that lasts as long as you own your plan is a really good value.
With WordPress.org, you’ll need a domain name and you’ll have to purchase it through a registrar. This is just how it works. If you decide to go this route, I recommend using Namecheap. They simply offer the best purchasing experience (usability, support, price) of any registrar that I’ve ever used.
Typically, as I said before, a domain name costs (on average) $10 per year with an additional charge of $3-5 for privacy protection.
It might seem like a no-brainer to go with WordPress.com, based on what you’re read so far. WordPress.com is turn-key. Everything is taken care of for you. A free domain name with privacy protection is included.
But wait. Keep reading. There’s more to the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org conversation.
Extending Your WordPress Website’s Functionality
You will not have access to plugins to further customize your website. (Not too long ago, access to custom plugins and themes was granted to WordPress.com users. The rub? You have to purchase their Business Plan. That’s $24.92 per month. If you have a business though, it’s well worth it.)
For all WordPress.com plans other than the Business Plan, you will not have access to plugins to further customize your website. This is one of the main differences between a WordPress.com website and a self-hosted WordPress.org website. No matter how you look at it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential functionality. But as they say over at WordPress.com:
On WordPress.com, we include the most popular plugin functionality within our sites automatically.
While that is a partially true statement, it’s not completely accurate. There are literally thousands of plugins available for self-hosted WordPress.org websites. So there is no way that WordPress.com can offer the most popular plugin functionality automatically. And one of the major omissions? E-commerce.
However, there really is some sweet functionality built into the WordPress.com infrastructure. And for most small business and aspiring bloggers, it will be enough. You can create stunning image galleries, have access to a subscription service (folks can subscribe to your blog), utilize the power of Akismet (the best anti-spam solution around), view your site stats, etc.
You will have access to literally thousands of plugins to customize and extend your website. There are, literally, almost no limitations. And it doesn’t matter which plan you’re using. You can be using Inmotion’s cheapest shared hosting plan (only $3.49 per month using my special offer) and install any plugin your heart desires.
And that includes E-commerce.
Having access to all these plugins is one of the major reasons folks decide to create a self-hosted WordPress.org website. They don’t want limitations.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. If you’re going to be installing plugins on your WordPress.org website, be careful! Only use plugins that are well-coded, regularly updated and that don’t conflict with one another.
Also, be sure that you don’t over-use them! A site loaded down with too many plugins will be sluggish and provide a very poor user experience.
Customizing the Look and Feel Of Your Theme
You will not be able to edit the look and feel of your theme with the Free Plan. You will not have access to the code to customize your theme — unless you upgrade to one of the WordPress.com paid plans.
The Personal Plan gives you “basic design customization.” That’s exactly what you get with the Free Plan. It means you’ll have access to preset color schemes and fonts.
The Premium Plan includes “advanced design customization.” With this level of customization, you can edit your website’s CSS, giving you precise control of the look and feel of your website. You can endlessly change colors, fonts, widths, etc. You cannot, however, edit your website’s core code. This is a good option for those wanting to customize their site a bit while still avoiding the technical aspects of using WordPress.org with a web host.
The WordPress Premium plan costs $8.00 per month (at the time of this writing) and includes a domain name, a “no ads” upgrade, 10 extra gigs of storage (from the free plan’s 3GB allotment), advanced design customization (described in previous paragraph) and email and live chat support.
You have access to any and all code and can endlessly customize (and break) your theme. If you’re serious about having a website that is truly your own, creating a self-hosted WordPress.org website is a no-brainer.
Will You Use Your Website For Business?
WordPress.com has one plan that’s good for business. Not surprisingly, it’s their Business Plan. This plan costs $24.92 per month and is an excellent value.
Why do I like this plan so much for small businesses?
All WordPress.com plans use SSL automatically. That’s the little padlock by your url. This is important for your customer’s peace of mind and for SEO as well. Google likes secure websites. And it’s a bit of a pain to set up on a self-hosted WordPress.org website.
You don’t have to back up your website ever. You don’t have to worry about site security or hackers (a big concern for self-hosted WordPress.org websites).
Traffic spikes are of no concern. If 1,000,000 people hit your website one day, it’ll still hum right along. This is not the case with self-hosted WordPress.org websites. If you get too much traffic on a shared hosting plan, your site will slow to a crawl or you’ll be forced to upgrade to a VPS (virtual private server), a powerful but complicated solution.
E-commerce is included. You can utilize the WordPress.com store addon or WooCommerce, the most popular WordPress E-commerce solution available.
You can install custom plugins and themes, something never before possible with any WordPress.com plan. Of course, for only a few bucks you can install custom plugins and themes with a self-hosted WordPress.org website.
A self-hosted WordPress.org website is also great for businesses. You’ll have your own domain name and you can set your website up as an E-commerce website with literally no limitations.
If you plan on seriously customizing your website (e.g., hiring a designer to give you something truly unique), a self-hosted WordPress.org website is the only way to go.
For most small businesses, this is an excellent solution. It’s the cheapest option for E-commerce (only $3.49 per month using my special offer), extensible and customizable.
Just keep in mind that you are responsible for backups, security, SSL, etc. None of this is extremely difficult, it just requires a higher level of expertise (easily obtained by anyone willing to put a little time and effort into learning).
Accessing Different Themes
There are only certain preset themes you can use with most of the WordPress.com plans. With the Free Plan and the Personal Plan, there are only about 100 free themes to choose from.
With the Premium Plan, you can utilize any of the free or premium WordPress themes (there are around 300).
If you pay for the WordPress.com Business Plan ($24.92 per month or about $300 per year) you can use any of the provided WordPress.com themes or you can install custom themes.
Endless themes are yours, free or premium, regardless of which plan you choose. You can use the cheapest shared plan (only $3.49 per month using my special offer) and install any one of literally thousands of themes.
Ease Of Maintaining Your Website
No maintenance is ever required. This is one of the major reasons for choosing WordPress.com. You don’t have to figure out how to set up SSL (the all-important padlock valued by your customers and Google) and you don’t have to pay extra for it. You’ll never get hacked and you can’t screw anything up (even if you try). You don’t have to back anything up and it doesn’t matter how busy your site gets. You’ll never get throttled and your site will never go down. It’s dead simple.
With a self-hosted WordPress.org website, users must make their own backups, install their own plugins, secure their website and deal with site updates. There are “managed” web hosts who will take care of all that for you but then you’re facing high costs (more than the WordPress.com Business Plan) so what’s the point? Use the WordPress.com Business Plan instead. That is, unless you plan on creating a truly unique, one-of-a-kind website that will require significant code modifications.
Many web hosts include free SSL certificates these days (including Inmotion Hosting) and if you do it upon initial sign-up it’s much easier than trying to convert your site from http to https (from not secure to secure).
Simply put, it’s more difficult to maintain a self-hosted WordPress.org website than a WordPress.com website.
Do You Want Random Ads On Your Website?
If you use the free WordPress.com plan, you will see an occasional ad on your website unless you pay for one of the premium WordPress.com plans.
Unless you put them there yourself, you’ll never see an ad on your WordPress.org website.
Support For Your WordPress Website
You won’t have access to direct email support or live chat support unless you purchase one of the WordPress.com premium plans. However, if you do use one of the paid plans, you’ll have excellent support from WordPress.com professionals. I’ve tried the support myself and there are always quick and cheerful responses from WordPress.com Happiness Engineers.
Keep in mind that the live chat support is only available Monday through Friday.
You’ll have access to free, 24/7 technical support (telephone or chat) from your web host (well, you will if you decide to purchase web hosting from Inmotion Hosting).
What About Email?
With WordPress.com websites, email is not included. You can always purchase a domain name from a trusted registrar like Namecheap and use their Private Email Hosting service which costs $9.88 per year. You can then have email like this: [email protected] But if you go this route, you won’t be taking advantage of WordPress.com’s free domain name and privacy protection. Still, it’s a viable option and fairly cheap if you’ve decided on creating a website with WordPress.com.
Alternatively, you can simply get a gmail email address and use it instead. But your email address won’t end in your domain name. It’ll end in gmail.com.
With a self-hosted WordPress.org website, you can (typically) use your domain name for your email address (e.g., [email protected]). This is a must-have option for many businesses.
How Many Websites Do You Want?
With WordPress.com, you get exactly one website. If you want another one, you pay for another account.
With a self-hosted WordPress.org website, you can (typically) have multiple WordPress installations (i.e., you can have a lot of WordPress websites on one account).
This is a primary reason why many bloggers and business owners choose WordPress.org. They own more than one domain name and they want multiple websites on one account. The cost would be prohibitively high if a person owned, say, 10 domain names.
So, WordPress.com would be perfect for you if you are:
- looking for a completely free, professionally designed website with an occasional ad here or there (this is a great option for teachers, photography hobbyists or occasional bloggers),
- wanting a turn-key solution with virtually zero upkeep (backups are automatic, security is completely taken care of, your site can handle any amount of traffic, SSL is automatically included),
- fine with some limitations (the main limitations are the inability to install custom plugins and themes with all but the Business Plan and the inability to use E-commerce on all but the Business Plan),
- trying to start your first blog or website and want to be able to move to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog or website later (not being able to do this is the single most significant downside to other free website offerings),
- afraid to work with code (you really don’t have to work with code even with a self-hosted WordPress.org website, but even if you do, you don’t have to be afraid),
- happy with one and only one website,
- just wanting to learn to use WordPress (a very useful skill indeed), or
- wanting to make a website with cutting-edge technology without any of the worries of a traditional hosting plan.
Always remember — you will never be able to edit your website’s core code and you will never be able to have more than one website with any WordPress.com plan, including their Business Plan.
WordPress.org would be a better fit for you if you want:
- unlimited space (space limitations are set by your preferred web host; the WordPress.com Business Plan also offers unlimited storage space),
- 24/7 technical support (support provided by your preferred web host; Inmotion Hosting includes 24/7 phone or chat technical support)
- access to endless themes (also available with the WordPress.com Business Plan),
- access to a wide array of powerful plugins (also available with the WordPress.com Business Plan),
- to edit your website’s code (modifty it however you like),
- to set up a business or an eCommerce website (also available with the WordPress.com Business Plan),
- to put a little time and effort into backing up and maintaining website,
- multiple WordPress installations (multiple websites on one account),
- customized email ending with your own domain name and
- a totally customizable website for a lot less money.
Do I Prefer WordPress.com Or WordPress.org?
Personally, I use both WordPress.com and WordPress.org based on my needs. For my teacher website, I use WordPress.com without any paid add-ons. I’m fine with an ad here or there. I’m fine with limited space. I don’t need my own domain name.
For my personal blog, I also use WordPress.com. Again, I don’t need a domain name. I’m not selling anything. I don’t want to spend a lot of time working on my website. I’d rather not spend any money. And WordPress.com’s free offering is an amazing way to use and learn the WordPress system.
If I ever want to expand my website’s capabilities and get my own web host, I can easily transfer my site to a web host and continue using the WordPress software (kindly supplied at WordPress.org).
My commercial websites are self-hosted WordPress.org websites. I have multiple domain names so I have multiple websites. But I only pay for one hosting account. I sell things online so I need a shopping cart. I often modify my site’s core code when I need a certain look or functionality not offered by the theme I’m using. I want email that ends with my own domain name (e.g., [email protected]).
Since I value these things, I use the self-hosted WordPress.org option. This site you’re reading right now is a self-hosted WordPress.org website hosted with Inmotion Hosting.
If I had only one website, I would seriously consider one of the WordPress.com plans as they’re just so much easier to set up and maintain.
Mistakes to Avoid
Avoid Any Other Free Website Offerings
Avoid other free website offerings. There are a variety of other free website offerings (other than WordPress) on the Internet. I won’t mention any names (cough, cough, Wix), but I say avoid them. Why?
The majority of them are self-contained systems. You cannot start with them then later move to your own web host when you decide you’re tired of the limitations of their systems. If you start with them—you’re stuck with them—unless you want to start over.
With WordPress.com, you can start with the Free Plan (or any of the WordPress.com plans) then later export your blog to your own web host (WordPress.org). WordPress will even do it for you for $129 (Guided Transfer). You won’t lose what you’ve done. For a free website, stick with WordPress and keep your options open for future growth.
The only time I’d say to go with another free website offering is if you’re confident you won’t want to move away from their system.
Let’s Sum It All Up
You can easily sign up for a WordPress.com website, gain access to the most cutting-edge WordPress technology and avoid all the headaches of owning a traditional website. But if you want all the freedoms and benefits of a traditional website, well, forget it. You can’t have it all.
You can get close to having an unlimited-options website by purchasing a WordPress.com upgrade. Their Business Plan is an amazing deal at $24.92 per month. With this plan, you will overcome almost all of the limitations of the other WordPress.com plans, except that you won’t be able to edit your site’s core code or have more than one website.
You can get a self-hosted WordPress.org website by buying your own domain name and web hosting.
You’ll have unlimited freedoms with your website (mess it up any way you like), access to technical support (from your web host), no ads, the ability to turn your website into an eCommerce machine and access to a plethora of amazing themes and powerful plugins all for about $50-$60 per year (depending on the domain name registrar and web host you choose).
What I Offer For Free
I offer a number of services for free if folks purchase web hosting from Inmotion Hosting. But even if you don’t purchase hosting from my preferred vendor, I’ll probably still help you because that’s just the kind of guy I am!