What are the differences between the two?
WordPress.org provides you with the software you need to start a WordPress powered website or build an app. You’ll need to download the software and either build your site offline or buy a domain name and hosting to build your site online.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is totally free for the basic package and provides you with everything you need to start a blog – a sub-domain name, hosting and plenty of free and premium themes. You just need a username, an email address and the willingness to learn.
So that’s the basics out of the way, let’s explore some of the other differences between the WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress is free to use. However, to get more out of your WordPress website or blog, there’s a high chance you’ll need to spend a little money. We’ll get to that later.
Let’s first look at WordPress.org
The WordPress.org version of WordPress is what’s known as the ‘standalone’ version. It’s available in two ways:
- A download file from the WordPress.org website.
- Through your web hosting company (read What is Web Hosting?)
Downloading the file from WordPress and installing it on a server (which is what you have to create a website) is not as easy as you might think.
It’s not impossible but you’ll need to be quite technical to get it right. You might find, at first, you need to make several attempts – I’m speaking from experience here!
There are a few steps to the process (and a simpler method, which I’ll tell you about later so don’t click away).
- Creating a database
- Creating a user
- Connecting together the database and user
- Editing a WordPress file called wp-config.php
- Uploading the files to your server
- Running the install process on your server
There are lots of things that can go wrong, which will cause you stress and frustration. However, I learned a little about databases and MySQL using this route. So, if you want to do the same thing, try doing a manual installation at least once.
You’ll find everything you need to know in this tutorial.
From the WordPress.org website:
Install WordPress through your web hosting company
The other way I mentioned is through your web hosting company.
This is the simplest way for non-techies to set up a WordPress website. The tricky stuff gets done for you by auto-installer systems like Softaculous. All you do is click the Install button and follow the onscreen instructions.
(Even people with technical knowledge prefer this way because it’s quick and easy.)
So that’s how you get WordPress working. What about the main differences when it comes to everyday use and growing your website or blog?
The main benefits of WordPress.org
The most impactful benefit of using the standalone version of WordPress is control.
You can do whatever you want (in accordance with your host’s terms and conditions, of course) and you can install whatever plugins you like.
You can only install plugins on a WordPress.com site if you opt for the Business plan. Which comes with a hefty price tag for newbies who aren’t running a business. This freedom to do whatever you want is why so many people prefer the WordPress.org version.
- You can add as many free and premium WordPress themes and plugins as you like, and you have full access to the code of each one
- You can create and use your own themes and plugins without going through the approval process needed for WordPress.com
- You can make money through ad networks like AdSense and keep 100% of the income those ads generate
- You can add data tracking software such as Google Analytics
- You can create a wide range of websites such as an online store, web directory or membership site
You can’t do any of these things with the free version of WordPress.com. You can do some of these things with the paid versions.
The main cons of WordPress.org
The downside? You’ll need to take a more hands-on approach to manage your site. You’ll need hosting, and when problems occur with the hosting or website, you’ll need to deal with them.
Most web hosting companies provide excellent support. Sometimes you might have to wait longer for help than you’d like. Especially if you’re on shared or cheap hosting.
Managed hosting companies offer a premium service and premium support. So when you do run into problems, they tend to get fixed quicker.
You’ll also need to remember to renew your domain name. (Yeah, don’t forget that!) If you think you might, you could set the domain to automatically renew.
Last con. You’ll need to keep WordPress and all the plugins and themes up to date to make your site works at its best and to avoid hacking issues.
Don’t worry too much about this. Make sure you update plugins and themes when an update becomes available. Don’t wait until you have a load of plugins and a couple of themes to update as you might run into issues when you do them in bulk.
And always make sure you have a backup and the process of restoring it should everything go wrong.
There are plenty of plugins to choose from that do this job well. Try ManageWP or VaultPress.
How much does it cost to create a website with WordPress.org?
Let’s look at what you need to set up a WordPress website or blog on a standalone server:
- WordPress software – free
- YouTube video or tutorial showing you how to install WordPress – free
- Domain name – around $10 per year but you can pay less or more depending on special offers and the domain extension you choose (we like and use namecheap)
- Hosting – start small and choose a basic package for around $50 per year (Bluehost is a good place to start, but you might prefer SiteGround)
So, all in all, you’re looking at around $60 to set up a website for a year. Not bad is it?
To get a better-looking website that provides an awesome user experience, you’ll probably need to spend more than $60.
You’ll need some or all the following:
- A premium WordPress theme – the cost anywhere between $35 and $150 depending on your choice (check out our list of premium WordPress theme shops)
- Better hosting – fast-loading pages provide the best user experience. Cheap hosting can work if you use a well-optimised theme and efficient plugins. And you can upgrade your hosting if your site starts getting a lot of traffic. Expect to pay anything between $15 – $40 per month at the low end, and much more at the high end.
- Premium plugins – a lot of decent plugins operate under a freemium license/business model. They give you part of the plugin for free but expect you to pay for premium features. It’s not only fancy shopping carts or e-commerce add-ons either. More down to earth plugins also offer a free and premium version.
- Tools and resources – depending on what you want to do with your website, you might have to fork out for mailing list software, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, SEO services and a whole load of other things.
Who should use WordPress.org?
If I said everyone would you hold it against me?
Let’s take a look at WordPress.com
There are two big plus-points to using WordPress.com. The first plus-point is hosting. For the basic account, it’s free, fast, secure and you don’t have to do any of the heavy-lifting when setting up your site. It’s all done for you.
The second plus-point is you can get a website/blog without spending a penny.
It’s an ideal solution if you want to test the water to see what goes into creating and publishing content.
Although WordPress.com is free for everyone, the basic package has a lot of limitations. To enable more of the features for creating a better website/blog, you’ll need to spend a little cash to upgrade your account.
For example, if you want to upload your own (or somebody else’s) themes and plugins, you’ll need a Business Plan. It’ll set you back $25 per month and you’re billed annually ($300). It’s a large outlay for a newbie but good value for a business.
Connecting a domain name to the basic version costs $4 per month (billed annually at $48). Which is cheaper than some hosting over the same period.
This option, called Personal, gives you an additional 3GB of storage and email and live chat support.
The main benefits of WordPress.com
Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits of using WordPress.com to host your site.
- Dead easy to set up. All you need is a name for your site and an email address.
- No fees of any kind for the basic Free plan.
- Paid plans provide good value compared to other hosting companies.
- Very little downtime.
- Super-fast servers.
- No updates to worry about – WordPress takes care of all that stuff.
The main cons of using WordPress.com
- WordPress.com puts ads on your site which you don’t earn from and can only remove if you upgrade to a paid plan.
- On the Free plan, your web address looks something like this: https://myblog.wordpress.com. In technical terms, this is a subdomain (myblog) of the main domain (wordpress.com). To use your own domain, you’ll need to upgrade.
- You’re limited to a choice of only free themes unless you upgrade.
- You can’t place ads on your site but you can use contextual affiliate links (like Amazon).
- There’s very little scope for customising your site on the Free plan.
- WordPress.com could shut down your website at any time if you break the terms of service (as could any hosting company).
How much does it cost to create a website with WordPress.com?
The basic plan is free but if you want a bells and whistles site, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid plans. Here’s a breakdown of what’s on offer.
Which is best for you?
If you want to test the water and don’t have much spare money, try WordPres.com. You can set up an account for free and experiment with many of WordPress’s features. There are a few differences between the two versions, but once you know your way around one, you should be able to figure out the other.
If you want to take a more hands-on approach to building websites, the standalone version available at WordPress.org or through your hosting company could be the best option. You will have to pay for a domain name and hosting, but the cost is relatively low these days. The standalone version gives you way more choice and lets you take more control over every part of your website.
Definitely the way to go if you can.