WordPress is incredibly popular right now, and it’s used by the most popular custom website design and development companies. Statistics say it powers 30% of the entire internet. We have written several great articles about why we love it but a lot of folks don’t know that there are two very different sides to WordPress: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress available free from WordPress.org. We will walk through the differences between the two, some pro/cons, then our recommendation.
WordPress.com is a paid website you can use to easily build your own site. Similar to SquareSpace or Wix, their tools make it really easy to use a dashboard to create your own webpage. You also create an account that can be used across other Automattic (the creator of WordPress) products like JetPack and WooCommerce. By using the .com version of WordPress, it is super easy and inexpensive to signup and build your own webpage with almost zero technical ability. There are free versions of the framework, and the ability to see basic visitor statistics on your site and add functionality through installing plugins.
WordPress.org is an open-source product that is very similar to the .com side, but requires some technical skill to get going. Anyone can download the WordPress framework, then use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to upload it to your own server. While the .com version requires a user to use their server services, the .org allows you more flexibility in choosing your own host. There are a LOT of hosting sites available. See our note at the bottom with a link for our hosting recommendation. Many hosts also offer 1-click WordPress install on your server. The dashboard of the .org installation looks similar to that of the .com version, but the availability of customizations is hugely different. With the amount of customizations available, the end user may need some technical ability to make desired changes a reality.
WordPress.com: Many users are attracted to the .com version of WordPress because it is possible for almost anyone to build their own site to 100% production without the need of a developer (sad!). Everything from purchasing a domain to ongoing updates and tracking statistics is incredibly easy and is automatic in many cases. Users are empowered to do everything themselves.
With such ease, this sadly shuts the door for many customizations. The vast majority of themes available for free and for purchase aren’t usable on the .com installation. If there are custom systems of changes that need to be done at the coding level, this is nearly impossible on this version. You are also locked-in to using Automattic servers and stay with their pricing for as long as you wish to operate the webpage. It isn’t possible to move to a new host in the future. It is very limiting for any future expanded functionality or visuals on your page.
Self-hosted WordPress installation: While it might seem a bit daunting at first, it is still quite easy to build a WordPress page using your own self-install. Most hosts will walk you through the process of purchasing a domain and tying it to your WordPress page within a few clicks. Once it is installed, there are thousands of themes and builders available to make your ideas come to live on the page. If you are looking to build a certain style of page, for generally less than $100, you can find a theme that has a lot of the work done already. Our recommendation is using Divi theme + builder combination, see it on creator’s page here. And, there are also thousands of plugins available, many for free, that can greatly expand your page functionality. Want backups? Use Backupbuddy. Statistics? Google Analytics. Facebook Feed? Web-dorado. And on and on!
With a self-hosted install, you will need to maintain updates for your site WordPress core, theme updates, and plugin updates. Some themes and plugins require subscriptions to keep up to date and it is vital to always use updates. Sites without updates are where many hacks come from. WordPress in general can be extremely secure, but it is up to the end user to ensure passwords are strong and changed regularly, and that everything is always up to date. We perform most of this maintenance for our clients. Some hosts also aren’t very good. Cheap hosting is available for less than $5/mo, but you do get what you pay for. Many can fall into the trap of using these hosts for their WordPress installs and come out with insecure sites, poor performance and satisfaction with their entire site.
We always recommend the flexibility and portability of using our own self-hosted installation of WordPress. This allows us ultimate freedom to make anything happen for our clients, and allows the sites to be hosted by us. The sheer amount of themes, plugins, and developers around the globe who can work on self-installations of WordPress makes it an attractive option for any business or personal site. We strongly recommend this over the .com version of the site and over any other drag and drop builder. There are also more SEO tools that can be better utilized with the self-hosted installation, but we will save that for another blog!
Want to get started with a self-hosted WordPress installation? Get your hosting through us or go with our favorite hosting company, SiteGround. We have used several companies over the years and we have a lot of our client sites using their services. Go ahead and use this link to get a 63% discount on their high-quality hosting, starting at just $6.99/mo.
Their setup wizard will automatically install WordPress and get you going within minutes.
Don’t care to do any of this yourself? We can do it all for you! Give us a shout to discuss your next project!