If you’re new to WordPress, the first to know is there are actually two completely different versions of the world’s favourite CMS. WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer completely different systems for hosting your website and it’s important to understand the difference.
So this will be the focus of today’s article. We’ll be looking at the key differences between the to platforms and which one you should use to host your website.
What we’ll be looking at today
For an in-depth article like this it always helps to summarise the main points we’ll be looking at – so here’s an outline of how we’ll be comparing WordPress.com and WordPress.org today:
- The key differences
- The costs involved
- When to use WordPress.com
- When to use WordPress.org
- Our recommendation
The key differences
Before we go into more detail about the two version of WordPress, we should take a moment to run through the key differences. Having these in mind will make
- Only suitable for blogs and very basic online stores
- Limited number of themes
- Less customisability
- No plugins
- Free for small sites
- Hosted by WordPress.com
- No maintenance
- Limited advertising options
- Huge library of themes and plugins
- 100% customisable
- You pay for domain names, hosting, etc.
- Maintenance is your responsibility
- No limits on advertising
So you can already see that WordPress.org comes with a lot more freedom. If all you need is a blog or a simple online store, then WordPress.com might be enough for you. But if you need a custom website with advanced features, you’ll need the flexibility that comes with WordPress.org.
To sum up, any serious business website considering WordPress will generally want to go with the .org option.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Cost
As with any commercial software, one of the first things to consider is the overall cost of your choices. And while both versions of WordPress are technically free there are a number of additional costs involved with each.
How much does WordPress.com cost?
It costs absolutely nothing to set up and use a blog hosted on WordPress.com, but you have to accept some heavy limitations. A simple blog will cost you nothing as long as you can cope with less than 3GB of storage space and accept using a subdomain (eg: www.yoursite.wordpress.com).
You won’t get many images or videos on your site before those 3GBs are used up and that ugly subdomain won’t cut it or any kind of business. So the “free” version of WordPress.com is only really good for amateur blogs. This is what it was originally designed for in the first place.
There are paid options for more serious needs, though. You can upgrade to get a custom URL for around £5 per month and set up a simple online store for roughly £20 per month. You can also get more storage space and pay for customisation features – all of which will add to your monthly spend.
For more information on the WordPress.com packages and the features they come with, you can compare the different plans. Either way, once you get to the point where you need these features you’re probably better off going with WordPress.org, which ends up giving you far more for your money.
How much does WordPress.org cost?
Once again, it costs nothing to download your own copy of WordPress for free but you will need to pay for additional services. At the very least, you’ll need to register and pay for your own domain name and then choose a hosting provider. The domain name is no big deal because you have to pay for a custom domain on WordPress.com anyway.As for hosting, well, this is where things start to get a little more complicated. You can easily get cheap hosting for under £5 per month but you won’t be getting the best kind of service. At the top end of the
As for hosting, well, this is where things start to get a little more complicated. You can easily get cheap hosting for under £5 per month but you won’t be getting the best kind of service.At the top end of the
At the top end of the scale, you could easily pay £500 per month for premium hosting services – the kind of thing designed for large online stores. So the cost really depends on your needs in terms of performance and security.Those are the essential costs you’ll need to pay just to get your site online but there are several additional costs you may need to budget for:
Those are the essential costs you’ll need to pay just to get your site online but there are several additional costs you may need to budget for:
- Premium themes cost anywhere between £20-£100 (rarely more)
- Most plugins are free but many are also paid
- Design/development fees
- Maintenance costs
- Security services
So, when you consider the additional costs of running a site through WordPress.org, it suddenly becomes a lot more expensive. But this isn’t because WordPress.org necessarily costs any more than its .com brother. It’s just that running any serious website comes with these additional costs – and WordPress.com simply isn’t designed for commercial sites.
When should I use WordPress.com?
If you’re only after a personal blog then WordPress.com is a solid option but you can easily achieve this with Medium and other publishing platforms these days. In terms of business use, WordPress.com can be enough for small publishers, affiliate marketing sites and very basic online stores – but even that’s pushing it.
The upgrade prices you have to pay almost instantly make WordPress.org the better value option, even if you’re running a simple site. That said, if you really don’t want to worry about hosting, website maintenance or other technical aspects – and your needs are very basic – WordPress.com could be the choice for you.
When should I use WordPress.org?
If you’re turning to WordPress for commercial purposes, then you’ll almost certainly want to take the .org option. Even at the same price points as WordPress.com you get far more for your money – and we’re talking about the kind of things that really matter to an online business.
You want a customised website and access to the huge library of WordPress plugins, even if your demands are relatively modest. You need a site you can market and integrate with other platforms to get the maximum amount of traffic and online sales. You can’t even install Google Analytics on a WordPress.com site – a serious limitation for any online business.
So the choice between WordPress.com and .org is actually quite simple. If you’re here to run an online business, WordPress.org is the only way to go.
Our recommendation: WordPress.org
Okay, so we didn’t save any surprises for this part of the article. It’s hard to think of any situation where we could recommend WordPress.com ahead of .org. A student who only need a temporary blog for a project, for example, will get on fine with a free WordPress.com site – but that’s about where it ends.
Even an amateur photographer who simply wants to upload their images will find the storage space limits fall short of their needs. And paying up for the extra space quickly makes WordPress.org as cost-effective but with the unlimited features.
The good news in all this is you have an easy choice to make. The only confusing things about WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is the fact they have almost identical names – but you’ll have to blame Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little (the original founders) for that.