Hang on. Two things. One name. Completely confused already?
I don’t blame you – you haven’t even started building your website and already you’re trying to choose between two things that seem exactly the same.
Even if you kind of get the idea, its worth your while to read through this post to start off making the best choice for your website’s needs.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a package of files that you can download from WordPress.org
Once you’ve uploaded them to a server, and linked them to a database (or got someone to do that for you) then you’ll have a complete system to add content, organise content and display content on a website!
All the files are free for you to keep, add to, modify, and copy, forever, so you can change how you add, organise and display content to suit exactly what you want to do with your website.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com acts as a host for your website. When you create an account there, you’ll automatically have exactly the same files you would have downloaded from WordPress.org installed for you. They will make sure your website is working, will keep it up to date, and you can get started right away with creating your content.
Getting your website up and running in a few minutes, and never having to worry about it breaking – all without spending a cent is pretty incredible.
It is a Freemium service – here is what you’ll get stung for if you want extra services
- To change from yourname.wordpress.com to yourname.com will cost around $18 per year (about the same money you’ll spend anyway buying a domain elsewhere).
- To remove occasional ads that they display on your site, you’ll need a Premium plan will cost $129 per year (still a good price for a secure, updated and fast host)
- To edit the style.css file – in order to change colours, fonts, sizes and hide elements from displaying, you’ll need a Premium Plan.
- Selling things through your site? – $399 per year
You can check out sites we’ve built using WordPress.com here to get an idea of what can be done with WordPress.com. We haven’t purchased Premium plans or themes for those sites.
What are the limitations of WordPress.com?
Unless you’re paying for a VIP plan, you won’t have access to change or add to the files that power your site.
- You’ll be able to choose from 180+ free themes and another 148+ premium (paid) themes
- You won’t be able to add plugins. Plugins add functions to your site – check out this page to see a few examples of what kind of things plugins can do to extend the functions of your site.
- You won’t be able to re-arrange the layout of pages, add extra fields or taxonomies to provide further ways to arrange your content.
- You won’t be able to use <iframes> – for example the wind map on our About page or a video from Engage Media – but you will be able to embed media from major services like Youtube, Vimeo and Soundcloud.
However if you don’t really need any of these things, WordPress.com provides an incredible service – a fast, secure and automatically up-to-date host, running a great Content Management System – which for the price of the Premium plan is still a great deal. Another great bonus is that if your organisation stops using its site, or can no longer pay money to keep it online, the site will revert to yourname.wordpress.com and remain online for the foreseeable future of the internet (unless you decide to delete it).
What are the limitations of WordPress(.org)?
With full access to change and add to WordPress, there are no real limits to what you can do with it.
One issue is, running too many plugins on your site is like fixing everything with Gaffer tape – it works but you might end up having to keep adding patches and your site could get bogged down. Individual plugins and themes can sometimes be a little too much, like you only wanted a tap but you got the whole kitchen sink – and have to spend time disassembling it.
While WordPress itself is free, you’ll need to pay to host your site somewhere. There are a myriad of good hosting options out there, and quite a few bad ones too. Working out which is best for your site and the amount of traffic you expect is isn’t easy, but I’ve written a few of your options in this post.
You’ll then also have to manage the site yourself – or pay someone to do it – making sure your host is online, your site is securely backed up, and your software is all up to date – but again don’t worry – there are plugins to help look after that too!
If you’re still not sure whether you’ll need anything beyond what WordPress.com offers, then just give it a spin and see how it goes. Another great feature of WordPress is that its not a huge job to move your site from one host to another – again using some nifty plugins. So you can get started blogging on WordPress.com and if you find that you run into a wall, pack up and move to your own host, change the locks and start renovating.