WordPress is a hugely popular tool for creating websites. It can be used for pretty much any type of site; whether you’re a business owner who’s hired a web designer to build their site or if you’re a work-at-home mom DIYing her blog, WordPress was created for both of these audiences and MORE.
For the beginner who’s doing their research online of WordPress’s awesomeness, you may have run into two different versions of this CMS (content management system). WordPress.com and WordPress.org. There are notable differences between the two that are important to know when making your decision for building your website. But let’s go ahead and learn about the #1 major difference between the two:
WordPress.com is the all-in-one choice for creating your website. This options provides the hosting and domain setup options for you on one platform. Just visit wordpress.com, signup (for free or any of their paid options) and you’ve got a website! Easy day.
WordPress.org is the open-source software that powers your website and/or blog. It’s free to download (and free to use locally if you’re comfortable with this option) but to get your website online with it, you’ll need to pay for your hosting and domain separately.
Simply put, WordPress.com = all-in-one solution. WordPress.org = extra work yet extremely customizable. We’ll get into the customization details in a bit.
Now that we’ve got the biggest differentiator out of the way, let’s compare the two in 4 major categories: Cost, Ease of Setup, Customization, and Ongoing Support.
I’m going to be real with you here; creating a WordPress-based website will come at a cost. As should any type of website. Whether you go with WordPress as you CMS or any other option (Squarespace, Wix, etc) you’re going to have to pay at least a small monthly fee, especially if you’re in need of a premium experience.
When comparing the costs between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, the focus here is paying for both the hosting and domain name. Note: You’ll want a custom domain name and with either option, it comes relatively cheap.
WordPress.com offers 5 different pricing tiers; Free, Personal, Premium, Business, and eCommerce. All include hosting so there’s no need to purchase that separately.
The plan here that’s most appealing would be the Premium option. At $8 per month (billed yearly at $96) you get that custom domain, advanced design tools, the option to use custom CSS to make your website’s design pop, and Google Analytics support (super handy for ANY website). It comes with a few other features, which are listed on their pricing page here. Personal also comes with a custom domain name $4 per month (billed yearly at $48) but lacks a few important features. Again, this all depends on you’re looking for in the beginning when getting your website up and running.
WordPress.org is just a little more involved here with the setup but it’s not too complicated. To get this option launched online, you’ll need to purchase both the hosting and domain name separately. Some WordPress hosting companies provide both all in one plan. Bluehost is a great example of this with their pricing starting at $3.95 a month (billed yearly at $47.40). Managed WordPress hosts like Flywheel (starting at $25 per month) offer amazing hosting and support but you’ll need to purchase your domain from a separate company. I recommend Google Domains (domain names starting at $9 per year).
With both options, you’ll have to renew your domain name after a year. This ranges from $12-$15 depending on your chosen domain registrar.
Quick comparison: For a more premium out-of-box setup experience, WordPress.com with major features is $96 for a year while WordPress.org (using Bluehost) starts at just $47.40.
Ease of Setup
On to getting your website setup. When it comes to WordPress.com, you press the big ol’ “Start Your Website” button then follow the steps to getting your website online. In just a few minutes, you’ll have a brand spanking new website.
With WordPress.org there are a few extra steps but nothing majorly technical. Remember when I mentioned having to get your hosting and domain name purchased in order to launch a WordPress.org website? This is where those two pieces come into play.
Picking managed WordPress hosting like Flywheel is my favorite option. Having a reliable hosting company for my WordPress website give me some serious peace-of-mind; I basically don’t have to worry to much about my website staying backed-up, security issues, hacker/malware attacks, etc. Flywheel’s got my back.
The only drawback with this option is that you’ll need to map your domain name over to your host to get your website online. If you’re not comfortable with domain mapping (or you’re not even sure what it is), remember that using a hosting option like Bluehost as an all-in-one solution is a great start if you want to avoid handling DNS (Domain Name System) settings. It bundles WordPress.org, hosting, and a free domain name for you.
When it comes to customization, WordPress.org easily wins.
If you are just starting out with your small business website or blog, you’ll need just the essentials; the ability to create 5-7 website pages for content, reliable hosting and domain setup, and setting up everything on an easy to use theming option. You can get these essentials with either option. But a website built with WordPress.org gives you robust features like:
- Full Branding Freedom
- Unlimited Website Monetization Options
- Serious SEO Capabilities
- Options for Powerful Website Analytics
- Full Plugin Support
- Highly Customizable Theming Options
- eCommerce Store and Features
- Being able to create a Membership Site
- Website Maintenance Control
If features like these are important to have on your website, then WordPress.org shall become your new best friend.
An overlooked but extremely important part when making your decision between creating WordPress.org and WordPress.com website is making sure that you have reliable ongoing support. This is especially important if you’re brand new to website ownership. Having solid support available when you need help setting up a feature or if your website goes down (this can definitely happen) helps out a TON when you’re running a website for your small business.
Support offered directly from WordPress.com comes with full support documentation along with being able to get in touch with one of their Happiness Engineers.
If having access to 24/7 support is crucial for your small business website or blog site, then a WordPress.org hosting provider would be able to provide this option to you. Both Bluehost and Flywheel offer 24/7 support with their hosting packages.
After covering the major differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com you should be able to make a decision on which option will be right for your unique website.
Now, would you like to know my recommendation? When it comes to customization, WordPress.org is king. With endless theming and feature capabilities, starting with a WordPress.org based website gives you a highly scalable option. Even if you’re creating something as simple as a one-page scrolling website or landing page, WordPress.org instantly gives you the power to build on top of it. Bluehost makes it easy to get one up and running fast while using Flywheel as your host gives you major flexibility over your domain usage. Yay for options!