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The Question That Never Gets Old: WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

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?

WordPress.com offers a business upgrade that allows you to integrate your website with Shopify or Ecwid. This upgrade makes it easy to sell products on your site.

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:

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!

5 thoughts on “The Question That Never Gets Old: WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

  1. While choosing the wordpress.org solution is very flexible, it can also be a lot of work. You will be responsible for keeping your site, theme, and plugins up-to-date.

    You’ll also be the one choosing the theme/plugins to install.. The downside here is that there are a LOT of questionable themes and plugins in the marketplace. And please, please, PLEEEEAAASE! Do not search for ‘free wordpress plugins’ on google… You will undoubtedly end up with a theme which opens you up to security, seo, and/or malware issues. If you’re looking for free, stick to the wordpress.org theme repo, otherwise, stick to reputable themeshops. A few that I recommend:

    Or look into any of the reputable theme shops who sell themes on wordpress.com, theme.wordpress.com/themes/sort/premium

  2. Think about the future of your site. wp.com won’t have the ability to add advanced features like forums or social networking.

  3. I love WordPress.com because it means I don’t need to worry about maintenance stuff. I can be pretty hands-off and just have a blog and focus on content. In cases where I don’t care about a huge amount of customization, I absolutely recommend it (and use it myself). Other sites, it makes less sense — like if you know you will want specific functionality or plugins that WordPress.com just doesn’t offer.

    WordPress.com also offers custom CSS and a curated list of premium themes as upgrades if you want some control over the display of the site but don’t actually need to use a fully customized theme.

  4. As a developer, I’ve used WordPress.org (the self-hosted version) since I first saw it in a Google search. I’ve never really used WordPress.com. So, the best advice I can offer anyone wanting to use a self-hosted website (based on my past) are:

    1. Think about hosting

    I’ve used lots of different web hosts for my own site. I even been that college kid that didn’t have any money and got up and running using my University’s free Web space. I’ve spend $3/month on hosting and ran my Website just fine for years (can you hear my peers laughing?).

    But, it isn’t always going to get you by. If you’re going to start off like me, with the cheaper or free-ish stuff (and there is nothing wrong with that, especially at first), make sure you’re ready to move your site around as your site grows.

    The best way to be prepared is to understand how to move files and databases around. With the right knowledge of FTP, PHPMyAdmin, and the WP DB Migrate plugin, you’ll be able to maintain your site in low-tech style. Also, have a backup plan (and a backup, see below), a hosting service you know can help you get your site up if you can’t figure it out (they should know WordPress too). My favorite being SiteGround, but the many listed above are also equally great.

    2. Backups

    I can’t count the times I’ve lost things due to an issue of some kind, because I didn’t have a backup. Use a backup plugin (my favorite is BackUpWordPress) and make sure it backs up often. Just do it, for yourself.

    3. Go slow

    It can be pretty exciting to play around with a Website and make it your own, but dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, go slow, learn, and you won’t blow up your site or loose anything (hopefully). Double check things, triple check things, then wait 10 minutes. There’s no reason to loose something because you FTP’d over your files or imported the wrong database. The great thing about WordPress is there’s a tonne of people on the WordPress forums waiting to help you out!

    4. Media (a.k.a. Uploads)

    The older and older your site gets, the bigger and bigger your file collection is going to get. And, you’re going to have to move it around (see #1). Be lean with your Media Library. Clean it up every once in a while, deleting unused media. Host videos on YouTube, audio on Soundcloud, etc. Think of it as your site’s ball-and-chain. It’s going to move around with you everywhere you go. You’ll know what I mean in a few years.

    5. Treat it like your kid

    No really, take care of it. Update things, install good plugins and themes. It won’t brush it’s teeth on it’s own. Read reviews on Themes and Plugins before you install them and let the stars (ratings) guide you! And, if you don’t have a kid, consider this pre-gaming for it (sort-of).

    6. WordPress.org is easier to maintain than ever!

    WordPress.org comes with updates working out of the box, there’s Plugins and Themes that do almost anything and they update with a click, it’s just awesome! WordPress.org is going to take some extra work to get setup and moved around, but once you got it in place, it’s the best experience and you won’t need a lot of techie knowledge to start doing things.

    I wish you luck!

  5. When I started my blogging journey then my first question was, Why I should choose WordPress.org and not other CMS softwares.

    I searched a lot about it on Google at that time and I found that everybody is recommending to use WordPress.org and I started doing the same.

    Now today I know that why people should choose WordPress.org . Because WordPress is an independent and easy to use content management system.

    The best thing about it is, We can bring any feature in our website with just using a single plugin. That’s really good. 😀

    I am using WordPress.org since last 3 years and I loved it. 😀

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