Are you looking to create a new website? Then you have no doubt come across WordPress. However, which of the two versions of WordPress is best? 

If you’re struggling to make a decision between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, then don’t worry because you’re not alone. Many small business owners and marketers are faced with having to choose which platform is best. 

While the differences between the two are straightforward, it can be tricky to make a final choice. Really, what it comes down to is convenience versus customisation.

In this blog, we look at these differences so that it can be easier for you to choose the right one for your specific application.

Wordpress CMS Website Backend

Why does this choice matter so much?

The answer is that each platform has its own unique strengths and is best suited to certain types of applications. It also has specific drawbacks, depending on what you want from it.

Let’s dive into these two powerhouse website development platforms and discover their standout features, benefits and weaknesses, so you can decide when to use each one.

WordPress has become a popular brand for website creation. Having skyrocketed from its 2003 debut as a blogging platform, it is now responsible for powering more than 40% of websites in the world.

All of this means that WordPress cannot be ignored as an option for your website. If you’d like to find out more about WordPress overall, I’d also recommend you take a look at our full WordPress review here.

The Two Versions of WordPress

There are two versions of WordPress, known as WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Although these share a name and have similar features, they cater to vastly different needs and offer unique benefits.

As a small business owner or marketer, it’s important that you understand the differences so that you can select the correct platform for your particular needs.

WordPress.com: The All-Inclusive Package

WordPress.com is managed by Automattic Inc. This platform offers an all-in-one website solution.

For those who favour convenience above all else, what makes WordPress.com special is that it handles pretty much everything, right from hosting your website to securing your data, so that you can focus on what matters most: creating content.

WordPress.com makes website development fun and easy, but its simplicity has some cons. This version suits beginners well because it takes care of many technical aspects, such as updates and backups, and handles these mundane tasks automatically, leaving the user free to have a little more fun.

However, this simplicity can feel restrictive. For advanced users who might want more control over their websites in terms of their look and functionality, a more advanced version of WordPress website development might be preferable.

WordPress.org: The DIY Platform

In stark contrast to WordPress.com, WordPress.org gives you complete freedom to customise every aspect of your website while providing a strong set of tools for growth.

This version of WordPress, also known as self-hosted WordPress, provides website owners with full access to thousands of themes and plugins with the ability to tweak them as desired. This ability goes right down to the code level, if so desired.

The freedom allows for massive degrees of customisation and gives you the ability to truly create something unique. The flip side, however, is that the increased responsibility can be significant and intimidating. This increased responsibility includes managing security measures, performing regular WordPress updates manually, and ensuring that backups are carried out on a schedule.

These critical functions will not be done automatically. Therefore, having some technical ability and a willingness to learn are all requisite skills for managing a successful WordPress.org website.

When deciding between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, it can be compared to choosing between staying in a hotel or renting an apartment. While both of these options provide adequate shelter, the level of service provided and personalisation that is allowed differ significantly.

Hotels offer convenience but lack the degree of personalisation. Renting an apartment lacks service but will give you much more freedom to personalise your home as you see fit.

When choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, it comes down to choosing what you need from your online home.

Key Takeaway

If you want more control over your website, then WordPress.org is definitely the way to go. It has a learning curve but it affords owners much more control to customise and manage everything.

WordPress.com offers an all-in-one website platform and is perfect for those who want a hassle-free experience. It’s designed to make creating and managing websites easy.

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Meet WordPress.com

WordPress.com equals convenience. Because they handle all the hosting and domain registration, there’s no need to juggle multiple services or vendors. 

The platform comes with a variety of pre-made templates, allowing you to craft an attractive website without needing extensive design experience. Another cool feature is the drag-and-drop editor, which makes website customisation as simple as clicking and moving things around on the screen. 

Therefore, WordPress.com is perfect for beginners who may not be familiar or interested in coding.

WordPress.com Features

The strong security measures that WordPress.com provides are notable, as this allows you to focus more on content creation and frees you up from worrying about protecting your site from security threats. 

Additionally, the customer support team on WordPress.com is always available should any issues arise during setup or management phases. Through their expertise, you’re able to fix any problems fairly quickly. 

Notably, some of the benefits of WordPress.com include SEO tools that are integrated within the system and work towards improving visibility online without needing additional plugins or external resources.

WordPress.com Limitations 

The ease of use that defines WordPress.com comes with a cost. While there is a free version available, the premium versions of WordPress.com offer significantly more functionality, such as advanced customisation options and advertisement removal. 

Another significant limitation of WordPress.com is its closed ecosystem. By this, we mean that you’re limited to using only the themes that WordPress.com provides itself. And unless you upgrade to a higher-priced WordPress plan, your website might end up looking fairly generic. 

Although the platform can handle most technical aspects of running a website fairly well, it does mean that you have less control over service settings and performance tuning. 

In short, WordPress.com offers a wonderfully accessible solution for beginners or those who prefer not to deal with the more complex elements of website creation. 

However, the limitations might leave advanced users wanting more customisation and finer control over their website’s performance.

The hassle-free hosting and domain registration features, along with the drag-and-drop editor and pre-made themes, are all great benefits for newbie developers, as are the strong security measures and customer support. 

That said, more advanced customisation options are locked behind a paywall.

Meet WordPress.org 

If more control and flexibility over your website design are what you’re after, WordPress.org is the place to go. WordPress.org offers a self-hosting option, giving you absolute freedom to construct and manage your site however you see fit.

WordPress.org Features 

What sets WordPress.org apart? The fact that it’s open source. 

This means that anyone can modify or extend it with plugins and themes without any limitations. There are literally thousands of themes and plugins available, giving you nearly an unlimited number of ways to tailor your website’s functionality and look. 

With WordPress.org, your website will never look generic. Another standout feature of WordPress.org is its WooCommerce web design capabilities. 

Unlike its counterpart, this platform allows you to set up online stores pretty easily, whether it’s digital products or physical goods being sold. WordPress.org can provide the necessary e-commerce functionality to get your business off the ground in no time.

WordPress.org Benefits

WordPress.org offers total ownership, which is one of the most attractive aspects of the platform. Since you will host your own site with no middleman involved, there will be no ads unless you decide to add them. 

In addition, you will have complete freedom from unwanted branding, meaning that everything will look exactly how you want it to. 

Do you have a knack for coding and are confident in your ability to handle a more complex platform? Then your HTML skills might come in handy as you leverage the full theme support that WordPress.org offers. This gives computer-literate users plenty of room to play around with highly customisable designs.

WordPress.org Limitations 

While WordPress.org has plenty of great features, such as virtually unlimited freedom to customise your website however you like, it does come with a few drawbacks. 

One of the key downsides to using WordPress.org is that all WordPress maintenance and upkeep work is your responsibility. This includes any updates, backups, security checks, and more. These types of things are handled automatically in WordPress.com.

While these tasks require a fair degree of technical knowledge, there’s a wide range of WordPress plugins designed specifically to manage them, all of which are accessible through the WordPress.org platform. 

Another drawback is that self-hosting can become more expensive. While WordPress software is free, WordPress hosting services are not; neither are any of the premium themes or plugins. All of these will need to be paid for, which can increase the cost of your website design. 

In the end, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves or pay someone who will, then WordPress.org provides you with freedom unlike any other platform. Its extensive features and flexibility make it a wonderful website development tool, offering total control and the ability to tailor your website with an endless amount of themes and plugins. 

The freedom of ownership it affords is brilliant, but the maintenance can be a drag. The key here is to know what you’re in for so that you can prepare for your maintenance and security upkeep.

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Making the Choice ‒ WordPress.com or WordPress.org

Choosing whether to go with WordPress.com or WordPress.org really comes down to what your particular needs and goals are as an organisation. It also comes down to deciding the budget you have to play with, both in terms of the initial development and the ongoing upkeep of the website.

Your Website’s Purpose

Your website’s purpose is a key consideration in deciding which of the two platforms is best for you. If you’re looking to start a personal blog or a small business website, for example, with no plans of expanding it into an e-commerce store or corporate website design, then WordPress.com might be all you require. 

It’s convenient and straightforward enough to set up a simple site without having much technical skill. The trade-off is that you will have less control over the customisation options. 

However, if ease of use is more important to you than flexibility, then WordPress.com might be your best bet. But if you’re looking to build something that can expand, such as an e-commerce store or a business website, then perhaps WordPress.org is preferable.

Security

A major aspect to take into account when considering the difference between these two platforms is security. As a managed hosting service, WordPress.com has all the security issues handled on their end, making sure everything runs smoothly without any hiccups for you. 

The self-hosted WordPress.org, while giving you more freedom for customisation and plugins, puts security squarely on your shoulders. This means that you need to ask yourself if dealing with potential security threats is worth the extra work for you. If you believe the trade-off is worth it, then WordPress.org might be a better option.

Cost

Money is also a crucial factor to take into account. Your budget will determine which platform is best for you. At first glance, it might seem that the free version of WordPress.com is the cheaper option. 

However, WordPress.com has several premium features that cost extra, such as custom domain names, e-commerce capabilities, and advertising removals. By comparison, WordPress.org requires purchasing web hosting, but you do get full control over your website with no other restrictions. 

It’s important that you weigh up the costs so that you can decide which one suits your budget best. Remember that the cost is not just a one-off cost but also incorporates an ongoing monthly expenditure.

Conclusion

Choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is really all about knowing your needs and what your growth prospects are in terms of your website. 

Want something hassle-free and intend to remain small without many plans for expansion? WordPress.com is the better option, even though it offers less customisation. 

But if you’re looking at growing your business into something significant and want to add e-commerce features and have a unique and highly customised online brand identity, then WordPress.org is possibly preferable, even though it translates into more hands-on work for you. 

Ultimately, your online presence deserves the right platform that matches your needs.

Making the right choice between these platforms can significantly influence the way your website is constructed and managed going forward. Now that you’re well-informed, you should be able to make your decision with confidence.

For White Peak Digital, choosing WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org is easy because we know how to work effectively with both platforms. Contact us if you’ve got any questions or an upcoming web design project you’d like help with!

To your success,
Jackson