Having a website is such an exciting thing isn’t it? After the business planning, getting your branding, logo and identity sorted you really want to get stuck in and get a website up and running. Now, there are so many options out there of how to create your own website, so many platforms to use and if you are getting started and having trouble with what to consider and think about you can check in with my Websites: Where Do I Start post as this one is going to focus on two platform choices in particular – WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Now you might be thinking already “they’re the same Maxine, they’re both WordPress”, well hang on to your mittens kittens because actually they are two very different platforms and provide very different things.
Let’s dive in.
This is a hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress. So because it uses the word “WordPress” it’s easy to see why you can get confused and think they’re both the same platform, but WordPress.com is essentially a free platform and if you are looking to have a blog site then this is perfect for that, because your words are what people are wanting to read and they’re not coming to see an all singing all dancing design.
Using WordPress.com means you are letting WordPress host your website for you, now this is what I mean by host:
It’s where you website is stored on a server so that it can be accessed over the tinterwebs.
It’s because of this that WordPress.com has a lot of appeal because it is FREE and they take care of the hosting for you. There are other packages that you can go for which will enable more features because generally the free version can be very limiting. It does however give you up to 3GB of free space so if you are a blogger who blogs maybe 2/3 times a month this could potentially last you a while. I’m now going to look at some of the other benefits for WordPress.com.
Back Up’s & Updates
Every website should be backed up and if you’re using another platform then do check how they backup your website and keep it safe. With WordPress.com they take care of any backups and any platform updates for you, they will happen automatically – no worry, no stress (YES!).
If you are wanting a service based business website or a store then I wouldn’t recommend using WordPress.com because you will need more than what it provides, but for a blogger who needs a nice template with very small customisations – possibly colours of text, fonts choices etc then you have a range of free and paid templates that you can choice from. So if you’re someone who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with design then this is perfect.
“How can this be a benefit and a con? Are you conning me?” Nope, I am not and while the free templates and themes provide great basis for very simple sites with little to no customisation as I said above on the Free version you are very limited to what you can change – you might choose a theme that has a very nasty colour background for when your mouse hovers over something and can’t change it and if it puts you off chances are it will put your audience off too so keep this in mind when looking at this platform and what you want your website to do.
Ads are placed on all free sites, so if you want a professional looking blog that’s Ad free you will need to upgrade to get rid of this mess. The upgrade to remove these is $36 per year – not too bad really.
Also it is worth noting that even though WordPress place Ad’s on your site you cannot place Ad’s there. So if you are a family blogger looking to get into affiliate marketing with some of the brands and businesses you mention or work with and want to start earning from your audience clicking their ads you will need to apply for their advertising programs called WordAds and you will share the revenue with them. If you are on their upgraded platforms like Business or Premium use can use this function from the get go.
I’ll be talking a bit about Plugins when I get on the WordPress.org side of things because that platform relies heavily on the use of plugins where as WordPress.com free version does not. It will not let you upload plugins. What do I mean by a plugin you ask:
It’s a bit of software that can enhance the functions within your website
Plugins are amazing because they can really open up your site, give you more function and help your site look and feel how you want it to. On WordPress.com the Business package lets you install compatible ones and then the big boy VIP lets you install plugins at a $5000 per month – Holy Moly!
If you want to really know what your websites users are doing you should have Google Analytics installed and WordPress.com doesn’t let you use it on their free version. You are totally reliant on their stats that they collect, again higher packages it will let you.
What’s the other bits it can’t or won’t do?
Hmmm quite a few other things:
- If they think at anytime your website is violating their T&C’s then it is a goner, they will delete it no questions asked and your site is like that toy in the reject bin, it’s never coming back.
- Obviously WordPress.com are doing all the “work” in terms of hosting, what it looks like etc so naturally they are going to have their name at the bottom of your website.
- If you want an online shop this is not the platform for you, you cannot create one on here.
- If you want to have a membership site and sell courses, again not the platform for you.
So there we are the run down on WordPress.com.
The main reason people like it is because it’s free and cost’s less than having a “hosted” site – however the restrictions in capability and functions means to get what you want you’ll actually be paying out more in the long run than if you went hosted and got it designed by a professional. It’s always worth looking at the long term cost not short term gain when it comes to websites.
So now, the contender…
You are reading this blog on a WordPress.org website. It is one that I designed and then built myself. I love WordPress.org I think it is a great platform, don’t get me wrong it frustrates me sometimes, as any website would do so I can see how if your website design knowledge is limited or even non existent how it would seem a super scary choice to look at.
This version of WordPress is where you would need to host it yourself, even on a server at home or pay a company to host the site. There are some wonderful sites out there like Siteground, however again do your research before just choosing one as some are pretty shocking. Now here’s the thing…
WordPress.org is absolutely FREE to use. The platform itself costs you nothing, all you are paying for is to have it hosting with a hosting provider ( and your website domain of course, again can be purchased through a provider).
Loads of people get confused and think WordPress.org will cost them thousands, nope, simply not true. The cost comes in like I said with:
- Hosting Platform – generally about £120 per year
- Domain – generally anything from £5 -£12 per year
The other cost would be if you decided to employ a website designer to design and build your site for you. But again this is a one off cost and then it’s done, you are only paying for the above, so actually it works out cheaper than some other website platforms with their monthly subscriptions (for life).
Flexibility & Control
Unlike WordPress.com this baby is all yours, you have full control, you can build a website completely from scratch using a framework theme or again find a free or paid for theme.You will be able to make it yours with better customisation options – YES!
Another huge point is that you own all the data on your website, unlike WordPress.com it won’t be turned off if you do something you shouldn’t be but you wouldn’t be doing that anyway, will you?
You can add free, paid and custom Plugins to the website. These will enable you to enhance the features for you and for your audience, a brilliant one alone is Yoast SEO which enables you to take control of the SEO for your website pages and improve your visibility in Google and other search engines. Plugins can be anything from an Instagram, feed, a contact form, a newsletter sign up – the world is your oyster.
As said above there is a whole world of WordPress.org themes to choose from, paid and free and you can customise all the elements you want to so you have a site that is yours and not like a million other businesses who choose the same template.
If you do go down the route of designing and building the site yourself you can use a theme framework to enable you to do that, these are generally blank themes ready for you to get creative.
There are so many Plugins that you could add to give you a wealth of analytics for your site, but also the main thing is that you can connect Google Analytics which is fantastic, the mother of all data hubs.
You will find a lot more software programmes can integrate with WordPress.org i.e. Mailchimp for example. A lot clients I work with use Mailchimp because it is also free so this is perfect for pairing the two together.
Store & Memberships
Using Plugins like Woo-commerce you can turn your website into a fully functioning online store – hooray!! That’s right taking payments and everything – woop woop!
Also the same with if you are a coach for mums who want to start their own businesses and you want to sell online courses, you can create a membership site using WordPress.org and a plugin.There are loads of great ones out there to choose from, ones that will also let you customise making your site look seamless.
One of the biggest things that can put people off WordPress.org is the updates and it’s true you are responsible for making sure the updates to your theme, plugins and even WordPress itself happen otherwise you could find parts of your site not working how it should, but it is okay and there isn’t anything to be scared of because…
You are responsible for making your own back ups of the site so as long as you make regular back ups and do a back up before you do any updates, you should be okay.
It’s really easy to make back ups of your site because again there are Plugin’s for that. I personally use Updraft Plus and found them to be really good. I can connect the back up to go to my Dropbox account once a month.
So there it is, a run down of the two WordPress platforms and what makes them different. See, they have the same name but actually offer very different functions and capabilities. The important thing to remember whenever you are embarking on creating a website is to research the platform that will be right for you long term, don’t just think about upfront savings or quickness, you want something you can build on and that will last.