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WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: Which is better?

Choosing a website development platform can be overwhelming. With so many different products on the market, it’s hard to know what fits both your business and consumers needs. Based on our technical expertise, we are delving into the most popular website design and development platforms: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. So, we can help you decide which software is right for you, depending on the size of your business and your organisational needs. 

Overview:

A huge similarity between the two systems is that they are both owned by WordPress, which means for the most part they have similar functionalities. But, WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress who offer a range of advanced web services, depending on your chosen hosting plan. However, if you already have a custom domain, you need to manually copy this over through their domain mapping. While the cost of WordPress.org is highly dependent on the website hosting provider you chose. WordPress.org is a bespoke website platform that designs your website, providing advanced web features. However, unlike WordPress.com, WordPress doesn’t host your website on this platform. 

The fundamentals of both platforms are similar, with both acting as a content management system for your website and enabling you to create a bespoke online identity through your website. However, the sheer amount of functionality and advanced features provided are vastly different. These two WordPress platforms have a range of similarities and differences. And depending on your needs, one will be able to perform better than the other. So let’s compare both systems along with their features and offerings in a side by side comparison. 

Set-Up:

WordPress.com’s setup is simple. To start building your website, click the ‘start your website’ button on their homepage. You then add your contact information, choose your favourite pre-built design and create your website in a matter of minutes. While WordPress.org has a more detailed setup process, that can be more difficult. Before creating your website you need to download the initial software, by filling out your contact details and creating a WordPress account

After you’ve done that you need to choose a website hosting provider, before creating your website. To store all your business information, online content and create a fully functioning website. The set-up process is dependent on the chosen provider, which could be a one-click wonder filled with jargon through a script builder. So when choosing a hosting provider, make sure you bear the initial setup functionality in mind. 

Simplicity and Scalability:

When choosing between the two platforms, the most important aspect to consider is the business and eCommerce ability. This functionality is available on both platforms, however, WordPress.com has some restrictions. If you choose either E-Commerce or Business Plan through WordPress.com, you will be able to set up your business online. Some of the key benefits include optimising payment systems, earning ad revenue and having automatic site backups. But if you need a domain, there is no free access to this and no live support if anything was to go wrong with your website. 

In contrast, with WordPress.org this functionality is already built-in through the initial software, regardless of your chosen web hosting provider. You have the freedom to instantly develop an online business to sell physical and digital goods/services. With a wide range of payments being accepted such as PayPal, Visa and even bank checks. And unlike WordPress.com they have stricter security requirements, the ability to create custom domains within the software and live chat functionality; so your website can be running with no issues. 

However, a similarity with both is that you can have advertising that earns your business additional revenue. With WordPress.org you can have nearly unlimited adverts placed on your website, where you earn 100% of the revenue without WordPress taking a percentage. With WordPress.com it’s a slightly longer process. You need to wait until your website has over 25,000 views to apply for advertising with revenue sharing, where revenue is shared between the website owners. You can also increase revenue from your website through affiliate linking or sponsored posts. 

Personalisation:

If you want to add your own brand identity and truly make a bespoke website to fit your business and customers needs, the next step is personalisation. If you choose to use WordPress.org you automatically gain access to 8,000+ free website templates and thousands of premium themes from other providers. With the bonus of modification and personalisation, you can create a bespoke website showcasing your online content and creating a unique user experience. On the other hand, if you choose WordPress.com you only get access to 200+ website themes on the Business and/or E-Commerce plans. You also cannot modify or personalise these themes and 

However, one similarity between the two platforms is that you gain access to user analytics no matter whether you use WordPress.com or WordPress.org. But this is dependent on the level of insight needed for your business. With WordPress.com you can only see limited insights, within the stats page on your dashboard. But these insights do contain views and visitors, referrers (referral traffic), and search engine terms. All of which, similar to Google Analytics, help optimise your content to increase your search ranking and meet your customer’s needs. 

But with WordPress.org you can add tracking code from applications such as Google Analytics, which give you a more detailed view into website traffic, which is renowned for tracking user details and is more likely to give you advanced details over multiple platforms. Ensure your website is optimised for multiple devices and is meeting your business goals.

Security and Maintenance:

The backbone of any digital platform is embedded security and regular maintenance, to ensure both you and your customers are protected from any online attacks. Both platforms offer these, but they vary in the degree of security, so consider this factor before making your choice. WordPress.com offers basic security and backup options built into your website, automatically updating their software, so your website is safe no matter what. However, in using this system you are heavily reliant on WordPress internal security, which means that if this was to be compromised, your website would be compromised as well. 

But the same could be said for WordPress.org, as this is built on open-source code that everyone can view. Due to these factors, they offer stricter security standards, to ensure your website is safe. You also have the option of installing security and backup plugins to further improve your website security. We will go into more detail about plugins later in this blog post. The main drawback of this platform is that, unlike WordPress.com, updates are not automatic. Meaning you need to manually start the update for your website to ensure it is up to date, but you should get notified that there is a pending update that they recommend you install; so this shouldn’t be a problem. 

Now in regards to maintenance, this is dependent on whether you want sole control over having to update your website or whether you would want experienced staff to take care of this responsibility for your business. If you choose WordPress.org as your platform of choice, the staff automatically take care of updating your website, offering virus protection and optimising your website for all your visitors. With WordPress.com, you have the same ability to implement but you would be solely responsible for doing this. Alternatively, hiring professionals to custom-code your website, to implement any necessary changes on your website so you can focus on running your business. 

Plugins:

Plugins are additional pieces of software that are used to customise a platform for your specific needs and provide functionality that may not have been previously available. With many plugins used to curate your brand image and streamline business processes, so you can start selling online with no additional hassle. The ability to do this on WordPress can be seen across both platforms, but you need to consider the number of plugins your business needs and whether this functionality can be found elsewhere. WordPress.com allows limited plugins that can only be accessed on a Business and E-Commerce Plan. But you do get access to over 50,000 plugins that could be installed in your website interface and digital processes. Using WordPress.org, you have access to the 50,000 plugins as standard, with thousands of free and paid-for plugins available from other providers. Giving you a breath of choice in your website functionality and optimisation for your business. 

Conclusion:

From our above analysis, we recommend WordPress.org for online service and e-commerce businesses who want to establish a strong presence, scale their business and be known across multiple platforms. WordPress.org offers extensive theme support, so you can develop a bespoke branded website to establish your brand presence. Alongside a multitude of plugins, so you can tailor your website functionality and advanced security requirements that keep your website safe and secure. 

Have you made your decision?:

Do you already have a WordPress.com or WordPress.org website, but want to make sure it’s optimised for your business and customers needs? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help. 

Whether you are just setting up your website or have a website that needs rescuing, we can optimise functional systems that support your online business. 

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  • Written by Jess Cory, July 12 2021