When talking to a new client, I usually take a few minutes to describe the difference between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG (there’s a lot of confusion, understandably). Although they are the same platform, there are important differences to keep in mind when deciding which one to use. Here’s a quick overview of the primary differences:
About 95% of the time, the sites I build and maintain are built with WordPress.ORG. The WordPress.org code is downloaded, installed and configured by the webmaster on the client’s web hosting server. It can also be installed with a quick-install app with many major hosting providers – which can save time and spares the user from creating and configuring a database for WordPress to use. Once installed, WordPress can be used with any theme (layout templates) or plugin (additional functionality code) – it’s extremely flexible.
WordPress.COM has much of the same functionality (it looks exactly the same once you are logged in) – except for a few important differences:
- WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress – no web hosting account needed!
- You can only use themes (layout template) that are offered by WordPress – you cannot install your own.
- You can’t install plugins – add-on features that expand the site’s functionality.
- You can’t customize your selected theme colors or fonts with CSS (cascading style sheets) code editing – unless you purchase a custom CSS upgrade.
- Your site’s web address will have “wordpress.com” in it – for example: http://yourblogname.wordpress.com. However, you can purchase a domain mapping upgrade to use a domain you already have.
WordPress makes up for some of these limitations with added “built-in” features, such as social media sharing or traffic statistics. So – some of those plugins you might need in a WP.org site aren’t necessary with WP.com.
So, when does it make sense to create your site with WordPress.com?
- You want to minimize or eradicate costs - no hosting account is needed, so that alone will save $60 – $80 per year. If you forgo custom domain mapping, you can save on domain registry fees, too.
- You don’t want to be bothered with site maintenance – since WP.com is hosted by WordPress, you don’t have to worry about WordPress maintenance updates or security patches.
- You don’t need customized design – if you aren’t concerned with artistic uniqueness, the layout themes included with WP.com are great and often have built in custom header image and color scheme features for quick makeovers.
- You might upgrade to WordPress.org in the future – WP.com sites are easy to migrate to WP.org if your needs change later.
That’s the rundown on what the differences are. So, if you are looking to quickly build a website that is search-friendly, easy to update and has blogging features – but don’t want to take on added maintenance tasks or hosting expenses, consider WordPress.com.