What the heck is WordPress?
WordPress is one of the most popular web applications for content management and blogging available today.
There’s a lot of hype about WordPress and it’s well-deserved.
- Started in 2003
- Began as a blogging platform
- Has evolved into a full-fledged Content Management System (CMS)
- Currently the most prominent CMS in the world
- 74.6 million sites depend on WordPress
- 50% of these 74.6 million sites on WordPress.com
- 18% of self-hosted sites use WordPress.org
- 29,000 WordPress plugins and growing
SOURCE: https://managewp.com/14-surprising-statistics-about-wordpress-usage, by Tom Ewer
2 Platforms, Same Software
WordPress is a computer application that enables people to build websites and blogs with little or minimal knowledge of web coding.
If you’ve decided to use WordPress (WP) for your website or blog, you may not realize that there are 2 platforms to choose from: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Both platforms use the same WordPress open source software and have the following features:
- WP provides a friendly user-interface.
- WP provides templates (themes) for layout. Some are free, some are premium ($).
- WP plugins enhance functionality (free and premium).
- User can type and edit text.
- User can upload images.
- User can style text and images, without knowing code.
The built-in text editor gives you the ability to change text size, color, alignment, and style (bold, italic). If you are feeling adventurous or are an advanced user, you can view the content in code view where you can insert and modify HTML code to suit your needs.
- User can create different layouts.
Most themes provide 2 or 3 basic layouts and widgets (content modules) to drop content into. Some themes come with a page-building plug-in that enables you to drag and drop content modules wherever you want. The caveat with these page-builders is that they often slow down the site and can be a bear to use, which is why I stay away from them.
There are significant differences between the 2 platforms. I’ve highlighted the differences by comparing these key components: costs, restrictions, maintenance and development.
WordPress.com = free hosting on wordpress.com
WordPress.com is a commercial website that hosts your site for free. You pay a “price” for the no-cost hosting, though: restrictions on what you can do. There are upgrades available to loosen those restrictions, all at an added cost. You create an account, name your site, and start adding content. The WordPress application is installed for you. Your new site is up and running within minutes.
- Domain name = a subdomain of wordpress.com: askdesign.wordpress.com.
You can purchase a custom domain name for approximately $18/year. You can only do that with an upgraded plan, however, which is an additional cost (see chart below).
- Hosting: Free, high quality.
- Installation: WordPress is automatically installed when you create an account.
- Maintenance and Updates: No worries, as this is handled automatically by WordPress.com.
- Storage space: free up to 3GB.
- Design customization: Limitations on what you can do beyond text styling and basic plugins. Depending on the theme, you may not even have the option to change fonts. You’ll have to pay extra if you want to add some custom CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Their Premium Plan offers a good upgrade in important features, particularly code modifications. Yet, even upgraded plans restrict the plugins and themes that you can use.
- Ads: Unless you pay an additional fee, ads will appear on your site.
WordPress.org = self-hosted (you pay for hosting)
WordPress.org is the repository where you download the WordPress software for free. It’s then up to you to register a domain name, find a web host, install WordPress, and do the maintenance. With these responsibilities come tremendous freedom. If you’re wanting a unique-looking site, this will be the better option. You’ll have the ability to choose whatever theme and plug-ins you want and change the code to suit your needs.
- Domain name = Unique name that you purchase from a domain name registrar. Cost is approximately $15/year.
- Hosting: You pay for hosting. The cost ranges from $2.95 to $15.95 or more, depending on the type of hosting you purchase. Many web hosts will offer free domain name registration with new accounts.
- Installation: You install WordPress. Many web hosts provide easy install scripts accessed through your hosting account cPanel (you don’t need to download WordPress yourself, since the script gets the software for you).
- Maintenance and Updates: You’re responsible for all maintenance and updates, including WordPress, themes, and plug-ins.
- Storage space: Unlimited, based on your hosting plan.
- Ads: none.
How to Choose?
Ultimately, you need to weigh what’s most important to you and what your budget is. If this is a personal site, you like things simple, you want free maintenance, and you don’t mind the restrictions, go with WordPress.com. If it’s a professional site, you prefer full control over the files and database, you’re ok spending a little time or money each month on maintenance, and you want a unique design that stands out from the crowd, go with WordPress.org.
You can always hire a web designer (me!) to assist you in designing, developing, and maintaining a WordPress site, domain name registration, and web host selection. I offer WordPress packages and maintenance plans at reasonable prices, and I know a thing or two about domains and web hosts. My preferred web host provider is Siteground.