If you’re just discovering WordPress for the first time it’s a question you’re bound to ask. What is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org? Which path should you take and where should you start first? In this article, I’m going to answer these questions so you know what steps to take next on your WordPress journey.
What are the differences between wordpress.com & wordpress.org
WordPress is a free and open-source blogging system that due to its flexibility has developed into a fully-fledged content management system. With WordPress, you can develop and/or build a wide range of different websites, including directory sites, portfolio websites, e-commerce websites or just a simple blog.
Within this framework, there are two ways to go – wordpress.com or wordpress.org:
wordpress.org is essentially the full-fat version of WordPress. You’ll get to install it yourself (or maybe your webhost will have an installer built into your hosting panel). You’ll have full control over the whole system. You’ll be able to install plugins and themes from wherever you wish. You’ll have FTP access to your webspace so you can add, delete and edit files within the WordPress installation. You are in complete control.
wordpress.com gives you WordPress as a hosted service. You’ll have a WordPress site of your own that you can customize with dozens of supplied themes. There’s free options, plus premium, business and e-commerce options that allow you to grow your site as your business or website requirements grow. You will have a secure website with regular automated updates and spam protection.
With Power Comes Great Responsibility
If you want full control over a wordpress.com website, the ability to upload themes and plugins, or the ability to take payments with e-commerce functionality, you’re going to have to pay. WordPress will charge you £20 for a business solution, or £36 for an e-commerce solution. It can be much cheaper to pay for your own hosting and go down the wordpress.org route. 1&1 for example offer starter packages for £2 a month for the first year, only moving up to £4 a month in the second year (other web hosts are available).
If you’re going to go it alone with a wordpress.org solution then you need to know what you’re doing. If you create a website for yourself (or a client), then you need to make sure your site is secure. You need to make sure you have backups. You need to make sure you don’t break it! WordPress sites can be delicate, if you use elements from different sources they may not interact properly.
As a first step maybe you need to set up a free account with wordpress.com. Test the waters. See how WordPress works. Understand the basics fully and see what you need. It’s easy to think that there’s a plugin for everything, that you can build the ultimate site by adding plugins to do everything. I would advise to Keep it simple! You’ll probably find that with the Gutenberg editor you can do a lot more than you think. Adding unnecessary plugins to your site opens up your site to potential risk and will probably slow down your site and create potential conflicts in your installation.
Whatever you do, don’t f#c! it up!