Should I use WordPress.com or WordPress.org for my website?

8th February 2020

WordPress logo

Here’s the guide to whether you should build a self-hosted (WordPress.org) website, or use WordPress.com, from WordPress web design agency Peacock Carter.

Something we hear quite often from beginners at WordPress North East events and other business events is the confusion – or perhaps the totally unknown distinction – between building a website on WordPress.com, and building a self-hosted WordPress website.

Here’s the guide to whether you should build a self-hosted (WordPress.org) website, or use WordPress.com, from WordPress web design agency Peacock Carter.

What is WordPress?

Let’s start off with the basics: what is WordPress?

WordPress is a content management system. At a very basic level, this means it provides non-technical users the ability to add and edit content on your website without any (or very little) knowledge of website design.

WordPress is open source, which means it is free to use even commercially, and a community of web designers and developers around the world contribute to WordPress to keep it secure and add new features all the time.

What web design agencies such as Peacock Carter call “WordPress core” provides the functionality to run simple websites. In WordPress, these have content split in to two basic types: “pages” for timeless content such “about us”; and “posts”, typically used for timely news articles or blog posts.

You can add and change WordPress’ functionality by adding what are known as plugins to your website. These can add features such as image slideshows and carousels, contact forms, e-commerce (functionality to sell products and take payment online) and more.

It’s also possible to change the way your website looks through WordPress themes.

WordPress.com websites

WordPress.com offers free websites – all you need to do is register an account. This provides the basic building blocks you need to create your own WordPress website.

By default, WordPress.com websites are published on a sub domain of WordPress.com, such as YourBusiness.WordPress.com.

With WordPress.com, you can:

  • add and edit pages and posts on your website
  • add a limited selection of functionality with a limited range of plugins
  • change your WordPress theme (and thus your website’s design)

You may need to pay for:

  • using a custom domain name (eg, yourbusiness.co.uk) for your website
  • some custom designs (known as themes)
  • some custom functionality (known as plugins)

WordPress.com websites allow you to manage your content and not have to worry about security updates to WordPress.

Self-hosted WordPress websites

Self-hosted websites can be built with WordPress, too  these use WordPress as downloaded from WordPress.org. They will allow you to manage your content in a similar manner to WordPress websites built with WordPress.com, and also:

  • allow you to customise the design of your WordPress website via themes (both freely available and paid-for themes)
  • allow you to add both free and paid-for plugins for additional functionality

You will likely need to pay for one or more of the below:

  • A domain name, such as YourBusiness.co.uk
  • Web hosting, which is storage for your website to allow it to be accessible on the web to visitors

With self-hosted WordPress websites, you are responsible for keeping your website’s software up to date and secure.

WordPress.com versus self-hosted WordPress websites

Now you’re familiar with the two versions of WordPress available for building your website, here’s it overview for easy comparison:

WordPress.com

Self-hosted WordPress websites

Cost

Free, though you will need to buy a domain name and pay a small annual fee if you want to your website to show on a custom domain such as YourBusiness.co.uk

Requires web hosting; we also recommend a security certificate which can be acquired for free.

Beginner level?

Yes, ideal for beginners.

With greater functionality, less technically comfortable users may find they need a little guidance to grasp everything, but the basics – adding and editing content – should be easy to grasp.

Ideal for who?

Beginners in blogging and small businesses dipping a toe in to the web world.

Best suited to those keen to establish a more developed web presence. You may find our WordPress training courses handy!

Can I sell online?

Yes, with WordPress Premium, from £7 a month (billed annually).

Yes; there are a range of WordPress plugins available including WooCommerce.

Of course, if you’d like any advice on which platform is best suited to you, please do get in touch!