Something I’m seeing a lot from WordPress newbies? “I had no idea there was a wordpress.org AND a wordpress.com.” We in the design industry talk about WordPress so often, but we forget about the important qualifiers. There are actually BIG differences between wordpress.org and wordpress.com.
WordPress.com is similar to platforms like Blogger. You can use it to build a free blog or website that is hosted on its platform. If you stick with the free option, you do not get a dedicated domain name for free. Your blog’s domain name is domain.wordpress.com.
WordPress.org is where you go when you want to add the WordPress content management system to your self-hosted site. WordPress.org is also where you can go to find high-quality plugins, and free and premium themes to use on your site. It is the hub for WordPress support and news and serves as a great resource for pros and amateurs building sites with WordPress.
As with most things, cost is a major consideration for small businesses. But, it shouldn’t be your only concern, especially when considering the features of each option, discussed below. You have to balance what you pay with what you get.
As mentioned, you can create a free blog or website on wp.com but you would have to pay extra for a dedicated domain name (ie, domain.com). It is $18 per year to purchase a domain through wp.com, or $13 per year to map a domain you already own to your site. This is, of course, in addition to what you pay for your domain name registration each year. In order to get more than just the very basic features, you have to upgrade to either the Premium plan ($99 per year) or the Business plan ($299 per year).
On the other hand, using WordPress on a self-hosted website is free. Yes, you have to pay for your hosting and domain registration, but with the literally hundreds of options available, you’re sure to find something that meets or exceeds your budgetary needs. It’s true that you can spend money on your WordPress website, by buying premium themes and plugins, but you don’t have to. It is possible to create a high-quality website with WordPress, without paying for more than your hosting service or your designer, if you hire one.
When it comes to your website, WordPress is all about the features. Wp.com’s free plan offers no features – and I mean none. It isn’t until you upgrade to the $99-per-year Premium plan that you can customize your chosen theme’s design, and you still get no access to premium themes. For full access to the best features, you must be willing to pay $299 per year for wp.com’s Business plan.
If you’re set on using wp.com, it’s worth the price to get access to full customization features and support. But, in my opinion, that cost is too high when you can use the more robust wp.org option for much, much less. For domain registration and hosting services, you generally shouldn’t be paying more than $50 per year. Adding domain privacy protection and SSL certification will raise that price, but the cost should still be less than the $299 per year for the Business plan.
As I’ve said before, wp.org is free to use, including a multitude of features, plugins, and themes. Even premium plugins and themes often offer free versions that meet the needs of small business websites, especially in the beginning. Upgrading to the premium features varies, depending on the company, but most are available for a one-time licensing fee.
After reading this, it should be fairly obvious in which direction my bias leans. If all you really want is a simple blog site to share with your friends, wordpress.com is more than enough to meet your needs. If, however, you are looking to build a robust site that works for you and your business, wordpress.org is the way to go.