To start, this post is meant for new website owners and WordPress users. Those of us who have spent years learning WordPress know how hard it can be at the beginning, and it all starts with the basics; if you have any advice that you wish you had known when you were learning, share it in the comments!
Whether you’re a photographer or a business, WordPress is the perfect platform for any type of project. You can use it to maintain a business website or a blog. The best part of WordPress is that there are two versions you can choose from: a fully hosted version or a self-hosted version. One of the top WordPress questions out there is, “What version should I use? WordPress.com or WordPress.org?”
To answer this question, one must ask themselves the following: Are you new to owning a website? Do you want to be more involved with your site beyond just publishing content?
Maintaining a website, as well as publishing content, can be a hobby for some folks, but if you are not interested in learning any kind of code or knowing what should be updated to maintain a website, a service like WordPress.com is perfect for you. WordPress.com handles everything from site updates, hosting, and even domain registration. With WordPress.com, the only part of your website you need to worry about is content. During the initial registration, WordPress.com even makes it easy for you to choose a theme for your site. With hundreds of themes available, there is something for everyone.
What If I Am Looking for My Business?
There are themes specifically developed for businesses. WordPress.com allows you to set your site so the first thing your customers see is a homepage (instead of a blog). With WordPress.com’s custom domain upgrade, you can register a domain through WordPress.com and map it to your WordPress.com website. This feature can is also helpful for bloggers who want their own domain.
When you first setup a site with WordPress.com, you set up a username so it will be yoursite.wordpress.com. For some, this is acceptable, but for businesses or blogs that want more of a unique identity, purchasing the custom domain upgrade is absolutely worth it. Setup is painless and support is a button click away if you need it.
What If I Need to Sell Products?
To Sum It All Up (For WordPress.com)
If you are looking to create a website without the hassle of hosting or site maintenance, then WordPress.com is perfect for you. Everything is taken care of for you. All you need to worry about is publishing content!
So What Does WordPress.org Offer?
WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress. With this version, you have the freedom to modify your site in any way, shape, or form. If you’ve found a free or premium theme that you would like to use, you can simply upload it to your wp-content/themes/ directory and activate it. The same is true with any WordPress plugin.
Maybe you want to create your own theme or plugin? Using the self-hosted version of WordPress allows you to do this. WordPress.com does not support uploading any theme or plugin. While there is a Custom CSS upgrade on WordPress.com, it is limited to CSS and modifying template files is restricted.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Choosing the self-hosted version of WordPress means you’ll need to do the following:
- Find a Web Host
- Register a Domain
- Choose a hosting plan
- Install WordPress yourself
- Find and install a WordPress theme yourself
- Install WordPress plugins yourself
Some web hosts do allow for one-click installs of WordPress that helps make the process easier. However, you’ll still need to install themes and plugins on your own. This can be the fun part of maintaining your site as there are thousands of free themes available if you don’t want to purchase a premium one.
The same is true with plugins. If you do choose to use a free theme over a premium theme or anything custom, you can simply log into your WordPress dashboard and under Appearance, go to Themes. From there you can search and install a free theme straight from your dashboard. If you have a custom theme, you can upload the theme within your WordPress dashboard. Once you upload it, there is a built-in theme editor that allows you to make further changes to your custom theme, as well as any free theme.
Can You Recommend a Good Web Host?
We sure can! We have used the following web hosts and know they work great with WordPress:
Each of these web hosts provides excellent support. If you get stuck with installing WordPress, the WordPress.org support forums are a great place to get free help. Everyone volunteers their time to provide new and existing users with assistance.
Giving Back to the Community
Another great aspect of using the self-hosted version of WordPress is having the choice of giving back to the community. You’ll always be learning something new while owning a website. If you search the WordPress.org forums, you’ll see questions from new users–questions that you might have had once before using WordPress. Why not give back that knowledge? One of the best things about WordPress is the community (it’s not the first time you’ve heard THAT from us!), and we highly recommend engaging with WP users of all experience levels!
If you are a developer and would like to start contributing to WordPress itself, develop a theme or a plugin, there are guides available to help you get started with the process of contributing to WordPress. Greg Rickaby also wrote a great post awhile back on how to contribute to WordPress.
Have more questions? And experienced WP-ers, have advice for the n00bs in the audience? Tell us below!