WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which one should you use?

It’s 2021 and I STILL don’t understand why anyone thought it was a good idea to name both WordPress platforms (WordPress.org and WordPress.com) the same exact name. Part of me thinks it was just a cruel prank to confuse just about everyone.

The funny part is that they are not the same platform. Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com are very different in how they operate so I figured it was time to break it down in this blog post.

So today we wanted to discuss some of the pros and cons for both platforms to help you make the decision on which WordPress is the right one for you.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

Table of Contents

  1. What is WordPress?
  2. Hosting + Domain
  3. Price
  4. Customization
  5. Plugins
  6. Maintenance
  7. The Verdict

What is WordPress?

WordPress.org is a self-hosted CMS (Content Management System) that is used for creating any type of website. It’s an open-source software, which requires you to purchase a host and domain to get started. You do have full control over your content and the possibilities for design and functionality are endless.

WordPress.com is a bit different as they manage the hosting for you and can be seen more as a website builder. With this option you don’t have to purchase a host or even a domain (more on that later) — but you are limited on how much customization can be done depending on the plan that you select which can range from free to $540 per year.

Hosting + Domain

So this is the first key difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. When using WordPress.org you will need to purchase a hosting plan and a domain. This may sound a bit intimidating if it’s something you’ve never done — but it really is easy to get started with this.

We love to recommend Bluehost to all of our clients because of how affordable and reliable their hosting services are. Anytime that we have to reach out to their tech support team it’s been a breeze. You can also purchase your domain directly from Bluehost so you have both of them in one place. 

Check out our blog post on WordPress Hosting here.

With WordPress.com, they take care of the hosting for you. You can technically not even purchase a domain. We don’t recommend this though because you will be assigned a subdomain like this: mywebsite.wordpress.com.

Price

As WordPress.com takes care of the hosting for you — you can really start your blog/website completely free. But this comes with A LOT of limitations.

The WordPress.com free plan comes with automatic ads on your website, limited storage, no option for customization, limited themes to select from, and no option to install plugins for extra features.

Their free plan is very limited — and the only way to get additional features and customization options is to upgrade to their Business plans which is $300 a year. If you are looking to set up an e-commerce website the cost goes up to $540 per year.

If you don’t need a lot of custom features or are ok with using one of their themes you can always select the Premium plan which is $168 per year. Still has a lot of limitations, but it’s an affordable option.

When it comes to WordPress.org the annual cost of running your website can vary a bit depending on the hosting that you select. Some hosting plans can start from as low at $8 per month to up to $50, or even more. With just a bit of research you can always find a plan that works for your budget.

We love to work with Bluehost, because our clients find it affordable and user-friendly. Their pricing structure varies on how many months you sign up for. Currently if you sign up for their “Plus” plan for 36 months, the cost is $196.20 for 3 years.

Renewal price is always a bit higher and also depends on how long you sign up for, but it averages at about $12 per month. You can also purchase your domain with them.

And Bluehost is not your only option — other hosts we love are Flywheel, HostGator, or SiteGround.

Customization

WordPress.org gives you access to fully customize your website right from the start. No matter what hosting plan you go with — you will always have the option of customizing the look of your website. You can use one of their free themes and have full control over the theme files — or have a full customized theme created just for your website.

Just take a look at all the fun designs that we’ve been able to create by using WordPress.org

With the free WordPress.com plan you have very limited on what themes you can select from their library. You can upgrade to a paid plan, but still have limitations. Not until you reach the “Business Plan” you don’t have the option of uploading your own theme or making any advanced design customizations.

Plugins

What are plugins? A plugin is basically an “add-on” that can be installed to any WordPress website. It’s a way to add extra features that you need without having to do any complex coding. You can read more about it in our Our Favorite WordPress Plugins post.

When you go with WordPress.org — you can install any WordPress plugin to your website. Being able to install plugins on your website has its benefits as it allows you to upgrade to new features. Things such as adding WooCommerce to start your very own e-commerce or MemberPress to create a membership website to sell your content.

You have a full library of plugins available in the WordPress.org website and you can also purchase premium plugins for other reliable sources.

With WordPress.com you can only install a plugin once you upgrade to the Business plan ($300 per year). Any of their cheaper plans doesn’t allow for plugins. This might not be a huge concern when you first get started with your blog or website — but if you plan on growing your website and offering more features down the line it can become a roadblock.

Maintenance

WordPress.com manages all of your hosting and without any extra features, there really isn’t any type of maintenance that needs to be done. Things such as backups and updates are all done automatically. So it’s one less thing to worry about.

As much as we love WordPress.org — we do know that it requires a bit more maintenance.

Running backups, keeping your website optimized, routine checkups and updates are a part of having a self-hosted WordPress website. We offer maintenance packages for our clients (same as other WordPress designers/developers do) — but a lot of clients just do their maintenance on their own.

The Verdict

We will always suggest WordPress.org because of all the options that are available right from the start. Getting started with setting up your host and domain can really be much more cost effective as you have the options to install any plugin you would like to use and fully customize your website.

You also always have full control over your files and content and can switch from hosts at any time.

But we also understand that in some cases you wouldn’t need all these options. For someone who is just starting a blog as a hobby or doesn’t need any extra customization/features then WordPress.com can work for you. Down the line you can always upgrade your WordPress.com or you can migrate to WordPress.org.

Just keep in mind that migrating content from one platform to the other can be very time consuming for you — or will cost you extra if you hire your developer to do the migration.

Looking into getting a custom blog or website created with WordPress.org? Send us a message to learn more.


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Hello! I'm Melissa!

Website Designer & Developer
Melissa has a decade of experience in web design and development for small businesses, creative companies and boutiques. During any design project, she focuses on creating a collaborative experience so that her clients feel heard throughout the entire creative process. She specializes in WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace and focuses on creating an online presence and website her clients will love.