If you’re confused about the differences between these 2 web publishing giants, you’re certainly not alone.
Don’t worry, we’re gonna walk you through what each platform offers and highlight all of the pros and cons so that you can choose the absolute best option for your shiny new website.
Got yourself a caffeinated beverage?
Good, let’s crack on.
What’s the difference in a nutshell?
The main difference is who is hosting your website.
With WordPress.com your site will be hosted by them.
This makes the process of setting up a website a lot easier and means you don’t have to pay for third-party web hosting.
There are lots of drawbacks to this avenue though. Like the fact that you will be limited in your theme choice and will have to put up with Wordpress branding on your site.
Also, as we’ll go into, WordPress.com can actually work out more expensive in the long run.
With WordPress.org, you host your own site.
This allows you to have total control over your site but you also have to do a bit more work because WordPress won’t be taking care of your updates and maintenance.
If you go down the .org route, you will have to download the free WordPress software and set up hosting but you will have far greater freedom and control when it comes to themes, plugins and monetisation.
We’ll go into more detail about the main differences, but for those of you who are in a rush, here’s a handy infographic that shows the core differences:
What’s the difference when it comes to Themes?
With WordPress.com, you can not upload your own themes.
You will not be able to customise your theme (unless you pay for a premium plan).
With WordPress.org, it’s possible to create custom web designs.
When it comes to themes, WordPress.org is much more flexible. You’ll have the freedom to upload any theme you like (free or paid) and also to customise it or modify it however you wish.
What’s the difference when it comes to plugins?
Plugins are handy little programs that you can pop onto your site to add new functions.
They are great for controlling spam, streamlining the e-commerce process, adding security, boosting SEO, and managing and analysing data.
Unfortunately, WordPress.com does not allow the use of plugins at all.
This means that the options for data analysis are severely restricted with WordPress.com.
There is an option to use plugins with WordPress.com but it means upgrading to the business package which costs around $300 per year.
With WordPress.org, you are free to upload as many plugins as you want and you’ll have access to thousands of useful plugins that can help you to customise your site and grow your business.
Furthermore, you can access and customise the code on your Wordpress.org site (or have a web-developer do it), this is something you cannot do with WordPress.com.
What’s the difference in cost?
With WordPress.com you can get a basic 3gb website for free.
However, if you want to use your own domain name, or remove Wordpress.com advertising, you will need to opt for one of their premium paid plans:
Using the free option may be suitable for you if you just want to run a basic personal blog and you don’t need or want any customisation options.
If you want complete freedom to monetise, remove WordPress ads, upload premium themes or to use plugins, you will need to go for the most expensive (business) package which will cost you around $25 per month or $300 per year:
If you go for WordPress.org, the WordPress software is still free because it’s open-source, but you will need to pay for web hosting and your custom domain name.
The cost of both domain names and 3rd party hosting will vary depending on your preferences.
As a rough estimate, let’s say that your domain name costs around $15 for 12 months. You should be able to secure a good hosting service for around $50 to $70 dollars for the year.
That works out at $85 max for the year.
Other costs that might be associated with setting up and maintaining your own WordPress.org website could include paying a developer to do some customisation work, or you might decide to purchase a premium theme.
Even if you spent $200 on a premium WordPress theme, (most of the popular e-commerce themes are around $60 by the way) you’d still be better off than if you chose the WordPress.com business package.
What’s the difference in the amount of work I’d have to do?
WordPress.com is a one-stop-shop that has everything you need to create your website.
The major advantage of using WordPress.com is that it makes creating and maintaining your own website quick and easy.
WordPress.com has a very simple 6 step process that you can follow to get your account and site up and running, and they will guide you through everything:
WordPress.com will also take care of updates and maintenance requirements that are crucial to the security of your site.
The downside to this is that if there is ever a problem, you will have to wait for the staff at WordPress.com to fix it (rather than fixing it yourself or paying a developer).
With WordPress.org you are going to have to do a bit more work.
Updates and maintenance will be your responsibility, and of course, you’ll need to take care of any work involved in the customisation and monetisation processes.
Maximising your SEO and dealing with analytics will also take up some of your time.
The good news is that there is a plugin for everything, so take full advantage of the fact that you are free to use plugins to manage your site with WordPress.org.
Who should use WordPress.com?
If you want to start a website or a blog as a hobby or to connect with friends and family, and you don’t want to spend any money, then you should consider using the free plan offered by WordPress.com.
Before you sign up, you need to make sure that you are ok with the restrictions that will apply, such as the very limited choice of themes and the inability to use plugins.
It is important that you do this because once you have settled on an option it can be very difficult and time consuming to change.
If you have very little technical skills and knowledge, but still want to have freedom and control over your creation, then it may be better for you to pay for a plan with WordPress.com.
As we have discussed, you can still get most of the freedoms that you can enjoy with WordPress.org, but it will work out more expensive.
However, this may be worth it for you if you value the ability to be free to be creative but are not technical.
Who should use WordPress.org?
WordPress.org is a DIY option for somewhat tech-savvy individuals that want the control and freedom to fully customize their site.
If you have good basic technical skills and you want to open an e-commerce store (or any kind of site that you’re going to want to monetize), then you’ll need to go the .org route.