If you’re new to WordPress, you may be confused between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. What’s the difference?
While both are on the open-source WordPress framework, WordPress.com is hosted by Automattic and often thought of as a “light version” of WordPress. WordPress.org is the “full version” – you can fully customize your site in any way you like. The catch is, you also have to purchase and set up hosting yourself, as well maintain back ups and security, and make sure WordPress and all your plugins are up-to-date.
Hosted on Automattic for you. Just create an account and get started right away for free.
WordPress.com used to just be a blogging platform, but they have expanded their offerings and you can now build a full website on the site. While you can build a basic site for free, you’ll likely want to upgrade to one of their plans, which get rid of ads and allow you to get a custom domain (among many other options). The cheapest plan is “‘personal” which is $5 a month, billed annually.
Limited Themes Available
You can only choose from the free and premium themes available on the WordPress.com site, about 300 options currently. Many of the options are great themes that I have used myself on client sites. My favourites include twenty seventeen as well as anything from Theme Trust.
You do have access to more themes if you get their “business plan”, but at $33 a month, you’d be better off installing WordPress.org on your own server.
Don’t worry about updating WordPress or securing the site – everything is taken care of for you. This, along with the provided hosting, is one of the biggest picking WordPress.com.
Not available unless you buy the business plan. Don’t buy the business plan.
WordPress is set up well for search engine optimization, but you won’t have full SEO-writing, customization abilities here.
Not available unless you buy the business plan.
From what I can see, you’ll have line at the bottom of your site with the WordPress logo on it. Not terrible. You can also get rid of this by purchasing the personal plan.
WordPress.com Best For: Simple Brochure Sites
If you just need a simple brochure website, WordPress.com is a good choice. It’s cheaper and easier than hosting it yourself, you don’t have to update or maintain anything and security is taken care of for you.
Set up a domain name and hosting plan with a hosting company.
WordPress.org is free to download and use on any site. However, you’ll still have some costs. At the miminum, you need to pay for hosting and your domain name. This can cost anywhere from about $60-150 a year for shared hosting and starts at about $150 a year for VPS or virtual private servers. I use and recommend both Dreamhost (affordable, WordPress-specific) and Webnames (local, Canadian) for hosting.
All the Themes
You can do a lot with free and premium themes. With this option you can choose any theme you want from anywhere. This comes with the added complexity of the sheer amount of themes available. You can also create a full custom theme yourself or hire a developer to do it for you.
You are responsible for your own site maintenance and security. Since WordPress runs 29% of the internet, it is a target for hackers. Not to be alarmist, but if your site isn’t set up securely or isn’t maintained with regular updates, it can be hacked.
Do you need an events calendar? A members-only area? Extend your site in anyway you want with all the plugins available to you.
Take full charge of your search engine optimization, especially with plugins like Yoast SEO.
Want to sell things? WooCommerce is a very popular plugin that’s only available on self-hosted sites.
No Ads / Sell Ads
Not only will you not have any WordPress ads, you can monetize your site with ads if you choose.
WordPress.org Best For: Complex or Custom Sites
If you need any advanced functionality, want to use plug ins or want to work with a designer or developer then go with WordPress.org.
You can always start on WordPress.com and if you decide you need more options, you can export your content and set up on your own server. They even have a step-by-step guide to help you transition.