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WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

by | Aug 14, 2021 | Education, Guides

If you’re in the market for a website, you’ve likely seen WordPress is a leader making up 35% of the internet’s active websites. Founded by Automattic, the confusing truth is there is a big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

Both have their place in the world and offer great services. Since it depends on what you’re looking to accomplish with your website, we’re going to break down how they differ. 

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a great tool for bloggers and article based creators looking to dip their toes into having their own website. The easy setup and low cost can be attractive for most beginners. Their free version (while super limited) does give you the foundation you need to get started fast. Think of it like a Blogger or Live Journal alternative for you 90’s babies.

WordPress.com on any tier is comparable to Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. In our opinion, it shouldn’t be the top pick for larger businesses with more advanced needs though. It is very much a ‘step’ in the right direction, but should not be considered for anyone looking to expand their website in the future. For us, the best part of WordPress.com is that it can be easily transferred to WordPress.org.

Some of the key points of WordPress.com are:

  • Hosted by WordPress
  • Monthly fee (free – $59/month)
  • Subdomain or custom domain name
  • No maintenance needed
  • Very limited customization unless on the top tier
  • Higher cost for addons
  • Higher cost e-commerce
  • No plugins allowed unless on a paid plan
  • Good for new bloggers or side projects
  • Chat support on annual plans

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is Automattic’s open source passion project. Open source means that it’s free and open for anyone to do what they will with it. What’s great about this, is that it wasn’t created with limits like it’s .com counterpart. It’s truly collaborative with not just one, but thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of developers pushing the greater collective of the world wide web towards easily accessible websites. 

This is where the real magic happens.

WordPress.org is a tool that a development team uses to build out a website. It’s a CMS or Content Management System. Think Drupal, Joomla, etc. It’s not catered to beginners looking to just get something out there. It is a massively powerful platform that allows nearly unlimited customization.

Some key points of WordPress.org are:

  • Self hosted
  • Hosting fee (~$200/year)
  • Custom domain name
  • Maintained by you
  • Fully customizable
  • Open source / free & paid add ons
  • E-commerce supported
  • Use any plugin
  • Access to work with custom code
  • Professional businesses
  • Choose your support team

Let’s dive deeper.

I don’t want to totally discredit WordPress.com. They have gotten more advanced over the years. They now offer theme uploads, paid addons for e-commerce, plus the site is completely maintained for you. Which is why it’s still a fantastic starter setup as compared to Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly. 

However, to be able to do anything extraordinary without limits on WordPress.com you’ll be paying a monthly fee without the team to back you up. At minimum $59/month to have similar options to WordPress.org. And you’ll still have to build the website yourself. The biggest downfall is their hosting. You don’t truly own your website. You’re essentially renting your website from Automattic. If you decide you want to switch to something else that isn’t WordPress.org, your website is gone. Most designers and developers don’t use this platform so you’re at the mercy of their built in support. WordPress.com is also known to suspend accounts based on strict user agreements. If you are in the cannabis industry or if you want to use your website for advertising it’s recommended to look elsewhere.

With WordPress.org, the possibilities are endless. You can choose the team you’d like to work with. Designers and developers have complete control over the website. The site will be hosted on your own account, which can still technically be rented space, but backups and downloads allow you to move it around easily if you need to. There aren’t many limitations when it comes to style or function and developers are constantly creating better solutions.

Furthermore, there are experts who solely work with WordPress’s open source platform. This allows for innovation in the internet. These experts are creating solutions to major problems in the industry and make for easier developing. With how advanced WordPress.org has become there’s no longer any reason to reinvent the wheel. 

A fair comparison between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

I’m not going to lie, the pros prefer WordPress.org for obvious reasons. But if you’re a micro business or someone looking to start a blog or simple website and go the DIY route, I want to break down a more fair comparison that will help you to make a decision. For this, we will be using the highest tier of WordPress.com, which is the only tier that comes close to a worthwhile solution.

Pricing:

WordPress.com:

  • Monthly fees ($59/month)
  • Addons for functionality (free – $200/year)
  • Maintenance (free)
  • Support – annual plans only

WordPress.org:

  • Hosting (~$200/year)
  • Plugins (free – $200/year)
  • Maintenance (free – $600/year, depends on your dev team)
  • Support – dependent on your team

Functionality & Design:

WordPress.com:

  • Style your site based on existing themes
  • E-Commerce solutions
  • Integrate Google Analytics
  • Custom integrations dependant on WordPress.com limits

WordPress.org:

  • Page builder themes available for unique layouts and design
  • E-Commerce solutions
  • Integrate Google Analytics
  • Custom integrations dependent on your web design team
  • Advanced SEO integrations

Maintenance & Support:

WordPress.com:

  • Maintained by WordPress.com
  • Chat support only available on annual plans
  • Always update content on your own

WordPress.org:

  • Maintained by you or a web design team
  • Support dependent on hosting and web design team
  • Option to delegate content updates to a web design team

Lastly, if you’re still unsure of which option to choose. Ask yourself just these two questions.

  • Why do you want to create a website?
  • What kind of support do you need?

If you:

  • Want a free or cheap solution
  • Want a simple blog style website
  • Want to have a website up fast
  • Want an easy to edit website 
  • Have the time to put a website together based on a theme
  • Don’t mind having ads on your website (free version)
  • Don’t want to worry about development or maintenance fees
  • Don’t want to worry about paying a development team for customizations
  • Want to fully go the DIY route
  • Are not in the cannabis industry

The winner is WordPress.com

If you:

  • Want to invest in a professional website for your business
  • Want to spend time with a team building a website for your brand
  • Want to choose that team yourself 
  • Want someone to control maintenance, updates, security and the tech side
  • Want to invest in having your site show up on Google searches
  • Envision your website as a tool to gain business
  • Want your website to act as an employee for your business through automation
  • Want an easy to edit website 

The winner is WordPress.org

I hope this breakdown helps! Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about which WordPress version to use and we’ll be happy to help break it down further for your venture!

 

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