WordPress is a very popular platform for hosting websites. It currently hosts one third of all the websites on the internet. If you’re researching a platform for your website, its highly likely you’ve come across WordPress. Then you found out there’s two versions: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
If you’re wondering which one is best for your website this article is for you. I’ll answer some key questions that should help you choose which one is best for you. Let’s start by looking at the difference between the two.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – What’s the Difference?
The three main differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org are:
- How you host your website.
- The extent you can customize your site.
- Where you get technical support.
WordPress.com is a monthly service that uses their own proprietary version of WordPress. It’s considered software as a service. You pay a monthly fee and they provide the software and hosting service.
WordPress.com is less flexible than WordPress.org when it comes to customizing your website. Many of the features are locked down or you’ll have to upgrade to a more expensive plan to use them.
Paid plans receive technical support via live chat or through email. They also have WordPress forums and a support site you can search. Getting support for WordPress.com is much easier than WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is free software but you’ll have to find somewhere to host your website. You can host your own website or sign up for a web hosting plan. Shared hosting plans are relatively cheap and most support the installation of WordPress.
With WordPress.org you’re free to install and customize the site anyway you want. Generally, the only restriction is your technical ability to perform the task. With this flexibility comes a larger learning curve. Unless you hire a developer, expect to spend some time learning to Do-It-Yourself.
Finding support can also be a challenge. You’ll have to search the internet for answers to problems or sign up for a more expensive managed WordPress hosting plan. If you run into problems that you can’t solve, and you don’t have a managed WordPress hosting plan there are One-Time-Fix sites that will help for a flat fee.
How Will I Host and Install My Website?
WordPress.com websites are hosted by WordPress.com. This means that getting your website up and running is much quicker than it is with WordPress.com. You don’t have to research and choose between web hosts, but you also don’t have any access to web hosting tools. If your site slows down, you have to rely on WordPress.com to fix it for you.
With WordPress.com you don’t need to install WordPress. When you sign up for an account, it takes you right into a template that asks you a few questions and quickly sets up your site for you. You can get a site up and running in as little as 5 minutes.
With WordPress.org you’ll have to find a host and install WordPress. This gives you full control over how you host your website. You can start with a simple shared hosting plan or a large-scale dedicated server. There are no limitations on how you host or configure your website.
Many hosting companies will help you install WordPress when you create an account. For example, A2 Hosting has an optimized version of WordPress called A2 Optimized WordPress. You can choose to have it Auto-Installed when you create your account. Other hosts have one click installers that will install WordPress for you. They understand how popular WordPress is and are accommodating towards it.
Creating Your WordPress Website – Which is easier to use?
There’s a big difference in how easy it is to use WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. The three categories we’ll look at are:
- Setup and installation.
- Customizing your site.
The setup process is pretty easy. After you select a plan, you’ll be taken to a template-based setup process. You answer some questions and your site can be setup in less than 5 mins. They even provide a domain name that’s formatted like this: yourwebsitename.wordpress.com
Creating your site is pretty easy too. The left-hand sidebar has all the features you need for creating your site. You just go through it to create pages, posts, add images etc. If you want a different theme you can choose a different theme. Most of what you need is within WordPress.com.
You won’t have to do any maintenance on your WordPress.com site. They’ll make sure that all the security patches and software updates are installed for you. This can save you a lot of time and make sure your site is kept secure.
With WordPress.org you’ll have to register a domain name to get your website online. You can register your domain name through a third party or through your web host. When you sign up for a web hosting account, your web host will ask for your domain name.
After you install WordPress there is quite a bit of work to do. WordPress.org is considered a Do-It-Yourself application. You’ll need to find a theme, plugins and start creating pages. There’s no template to lead you through this process.
You’ll also have to learn the different admin screens and learn how to configure your site. This can take a little while to learn but will give you the most flexibility in creating your site. It might sound daunting at first, but you don’t have to learn every feature to make your site work. Once its installed, you’ll have a site up and running and can learn the features as you go.
You’ll be responsible for updating your WordPress site. This includes running any security patches and software updates for WordPress as well as for your theme and any plugins you’ve installed.
How Will I Get Support for My Website?
One of the advantages of WordPress.com is their support system. If you have a free plan, your support options are limited to searching though documentation and posting questions to the support forums. But if you have a premium plan, you have more options.
WordPress.com has happiness engineers who are available to help members with premium plans. They can help you with any WordPress.com related questions. You can’t call them on the phone, but they are available through live chat and email.
Support hours vary depending on the type of premium plan you have. These are their available hours:
Personal or Premium plans:
Live chat is available Monday thru Friday 24 hours a day.
Business and eCommerce plans:
Live chat is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Getting support for your WordPress.org is a bit trickier than WordPresss.com. You’re really on your own and where you get support depends on what kind of problem you’re having. Here are some common issues and how to find support:
Contact your web hosting company for hosting related issues.
If you don’t have a managed WordPress hosting account, you’ll be on the hook for troubleshooting WordPress related issues. Some things you can try are:
- Do a Google Search
There are a lot of websites that provide fixes for common WordPress issues.
- Post to Support Forums
WordPress.org has Support Forums where you can post your problems.
- WordPress Fix Sites
If you need immediate assistance there are sites that will provide WordPress support. Many problems can be resolved for $100 or less depending on the issue. Do a search for “WordPress Fix” to find these companies.
Themes and Plug-ins
If you’re having a problem with a theme or plugin, you’ll have to contact the developer for support.
How Much Will My WordPress.com or WordPress.org Website Cost?
It’s pretty easy to figure out how much a WordPress.com website will cost because most of what you’ll be purchasing will be from WordPress.com. You just have to know what you want and pick a plan. The cost of the plan will be the majority of the cost for your website.
On the low end, a website on WordPress.com can be free or as little as $4 a month If you want to remove adds and use your own domain name. If you want more advanced features like the ability to install plugins and upload themes, you’ll have to have a business account. At the time of this writing the business account starts at $25 a month.
When estimating the cost of a new WordPress.org website, you’ll find there can be a wide price range due to its flexibility. You’ll really have to know what you want to pin-point an accurate estimate. Start by listing some of the common expenses then expand from there.
- Web Hosting
- Domain Name
- Premium Themes
- Premium Plug-ins
- Third-Party Email
As an example, a new personal website can expect to pay between $0 – $15 for a domain name and $3 – $10 a month for web hosting. Most websites can get started with a free theme and free plugins. With those numbers in mind, you can expect to pay approximately $100 for the first year of hosting a personal website. If you want a premium theme, expect to add $35 – $65 to the overall cost. From there, the sky is the limit.
Can I Move a WordPress.com Site to WordPress.org?
After doing some research you might decide you’re not ready to spend the extra time it takes to setup a WordPress.org website. Instead, you’ve decided to go with WordPress.com, create some content and see if there’s a market for your site first.
The good news is, you can transfer your WordPress.com website to a self hosted WordPress.org site. The list below highlights what you’ll have to do. See Moving to Self-Hosted WordPress for more details.
- Setup a WordPress.org website.
You’ll have to choose a third-party hosting company and install WordPress.
- Export your WordPress.com content and Media Library to an XML file.
There’s Export option under the tool’s menu in your WordPress.com website.
- Import the XML file into your WordPress.org site.
During the import process you’ll have to create new user accounts to match the ones you had on wordpress.com.
- Choose a theme for your wordpress.org website.
You won’t be able to export your WordPress.com theme. If you can’t find a copy of your WordPress.com theme for WordPress.org, you’ll have to choose a new one.
If you don’t want to perform these actions, WordPress.com will transfer your site for you but it’ll cost you over one hundred dollars.