WordPress: Open Source or Self-Host?

5 years ago

 WordPress logo on Elaine Griffin DesignsWhen I work with clients on WordPress sites, the most common question is, "What is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org?"

Open Source: wordpress.com

WP.com is open source software, hosted by Auttomatic. Open source equals free. So, you sign up for a free account, pick from one of their many themes, and start blogging. All of your information is hosted on their servers. There are pros and cons to using an open source WordPress platform.

A Few Pros:

  • It's free.
  • It's easy to set up and maintain - WordPress will automatically perform any upgrades it offers.
  • It's automatically backed up on WordPress servers.
  • WP.com is searchable by blog topic, theoretically giving your blog more exposure.

A Few Cons:

  • There is very little control over the look and feel of the blog.
  • There are no plugins available on WP.com, limiting some functionality, styling, and general bells and whistles.
  • Although you CAN customize a little of your theme, what little styling you can do requires a fee.
  • In order to have your own URL, you must pay a fee. For example, your own URL would be www.myblog.com instead of www.myblog.wordpress.com - having your own URL is more searchable with search engines.
  • You may not embed videos without paying a fee.
  • Although fees associated with a personal URL, styling, and embedding videos are minimal, they are required every year.

 Self-Hosted: wordpress.org

WP.org is self-hosted, which means you choose a web host (for example, BlueHost, HostGator, etc), and you install the WordPress software on your hosting account. Hosting accounts run in the range of around $100 per year. Again, there are pros and cons to a self-hosted WordPress blog.

A Few Pros:

  • There are many beautiful themes to choose from.
  • You can purchase premium themes from a 3rd party if you don't find a WordPress theme to purchase.
  • If you can't find a premium theme you like, or, you want a custom theme, all the WP.org themes are customizable with a little knowledge or the help of a designer.
  • If you want a website that you can easily update yourself, WP.org is your answer. It can be designed to look and feel like a "website" instead of a "blog," and updates can be made easily, as WordPress is formatted very similarly to word processing programs.
  • Plugins. There are so many plugins for all sorts of styling and other bells and whistles, including contact forms, search engine optimization, and eCommerce.
  • Did someone say eCommerce? Yes, you can turn your WordPress blog into a functioning eCommerce site.
  • You can upload larger file sizes and embed videos at no charge.
  • Once you sign on with your host and purchase a domain name, you can create personalized email accounts, for example, sallysue@myblog.com.

 A Few Cons:

  • With WP.org, you MUST back up your own data. Web hosts back up their servers at least daily, but it is important for you to make your own back up of your data. It's not complicated and your web host or designer can walk you through it, but it is one more step to take.
  • You must upgrade to the newest version of WordPress when it becomes available, and you must do it yourself. This is also not a big deal. When you log into your account you will be prompted, and it is a matter of a couple of clicks. But again, it is another step.
  • WP.org does require more knowledge to install.

Choosing which WordPress platform to use boils down to preference and what you plan to do with your blog/site. Here are some questions I have my clients ask themselves. I hope you find them useful too.

  • Can I afford a hosting account?
  • Can I install and maintain WordPress myself or can I pay someone to handle it?
  • What do I want for a design? Am I okay with generic, or would I like more branding on my site?
  • How serious am I about blogging?

 What is your preference - WP.com or WP.org?

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