By Annabel Anita Adanna
What did you know about WordPress before you first started using it? I knew it was ‘free’, I knew the difference between a plugin and a theme and thought it all sounded pretty easy to use. I basically thought it was a website you could use to build other websites – and that’s how I ended up on WordPress.com…
Because I’d used other CMS platforms in the past, I thought a quick scan of an article or two was all I needed to get me up to speed on WordPress.
Oh, how wrong I was.
WordPress.com is always going to be top of the Google charts compared to WordPress.org, as WordPress has a commercial interest in promoting the .com. This meant that I was on WordPress.com and halfway through creating an account before you can say “but you have to pay to use plugins!”
I had no idea that there were two ‘versions’ of WordPress, and it quickly became clear that I’d just started to use the wrong one for my needs.
This article aims to explain the difference between the two, as well as answer a few things you might be wondering along the way (how does WordPress.org make any money if it’s free??)
Hopefully, I’ll help you avoid the same fate as me…
Before we continue though, most WordPress users (we would hope!) know the difference between the two, so if any WordPress
aficionados out there have stumbled across this article, I recommend checking out one of our many other ‘you gotta know this’ blog posts.
If you’re still reading, it probably means you’re new to WordPress and want to find out more about it, which is great!
So, let’s start with the basics – why choose WordPress for your site build?
WordPress, King Of The CMS
There are two main ways of building a website.
The first is creating it from scratch with a series of text files in HTML/CSS/JS, and then publishing it to a web server to be hosted. This route requires knowledge of these coding languages, so it would only be suited to someone with the right skills.
If you’re not wanting to become a web developer any time soon and your goal is purely to create a website for your hobby or business, then the second option is probably more up your street – a Content Management System (CMS).
A CMS alleviates the need for technical knowledge when building a website – it has the interface and tools to allow you to create and organize your content without needing to write a single line of code.
There are a number of CMS you can use to create your website, but WordPress is by far the clear favorite. It boasts over 60% of the market share of CMS websites and is a wise choice for beginners.
Below are some of the reasons WordPress is the cream of the CMS crop:
- You can create any type of website, from a small blog to a thriving eCommerce site
- WordPress doesn’t care if your site gets 10 visitors a month or 10,000, .org will always be free and .com won’t charge you any extra
- There are so many guides, resources, and tutorials surrounding WordPress, making it pretty easy to learn the ropes.
- Themes and plugins can add tons of style and functionality to your website with just a few clicks
- It has a huge community with lots of forums, meaning that there are thousands of WordPress experts you can ask for advice if you run into a problem.
But you mentioned two versions of WordPress?
I sure did.
There are a lot of differences between the two versions, but before we take a look separately at their pros and cons, the below helps put it into perspective:
Using WordPress.com is like booking a package holiday. You get the flights, the airport transfer, and the hotel included. The hotel is nice, but you wish it had a pool and perhaps some better evening entertainment. The flight also looks fine, but you wish you’d got a bigger baggage allowance.
It might not be perfect but it was a good price, and you have the peace of mind of knowing it’s all being taken care of in one place.
This is WordPress.com.
On the other hand, WordPress.org is more like planning your own holiday. You can get a cheap rate at an Airbnb, choose your own flight times, and get the bus or a cab to the hotel.
If you choose to create your site with WordPress.com, they host it for you, handle backups and updates. However, you’ll have to pay if you want to use plugins or a custom domain name. They also have a level of control over your site including the ability to display third-party ads – and the power to delete your site.
With WordPress.org, you source the different aspects yourself. You’d compare hosting plans, find a good backup plugin and purchase a domain name. It’s more effort, but it will probably work out cheaper in the long run, and you’ll get so much more control over the end result.
What Is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is the little sister of the enormously popular WordPress.org.
The two are linked as one of the creators of the WordPress software itself (Matt Mullenweg) is the co-founder of Automattic, which is the company behind WordPress.com. But, there are some huge differences between the two.
WordPress.com is primarily a hosting platform that allows users to create websites and blogs using the open-source WordPress.org software.
Since it’s run as a for-profit business, it’s marketed more widely and appears at the top of every ‘WordPress’ Google search thanks to their ads.
They offer paid plans that allow you to access certain features (which we’ll get into shortly), however, you can easily create a simple blogging site for free.
What’s So Good About WordPress.org?
Many things, my friend…many, many things.
Let’s jump straight in – here are some of the features that make WordPress.org so great:
Free And Open Source
One of the main differences between the two versions of WordPress is that WordPress.org is truly free and open-source.
The code can be amended by anyone who so wishes – in fact, WordPress.org relies on people contributing code in order to fix bugs and release updates.
This also means that it’s easy for people to create plugins and themes.
WordPress.org wouldn’t be where it is without their repositories being stuffed to the brim with awesome plugins and themes from talented creators all around the world.
More Plugins And Themes Than You Can Shake A Stick At
Anyone can have a go at creating a plugin or theme, so your choices are endless on WordPress.org.
They do have to go through a verification process and be checked by WordPress volunteers though, which helps to filter out the ones with bad code – no one wants a plugin to break their site!
Now that you’re free to install plugins, you can run an online store…
Sell Your Products Or Services
An eCommerce plugin such as WooCommerce (over 5 million active installs – need I say more) allows you to sell your wares on your WordPress site – and if you’re doing it through WordPress.org, you won’t pay a cent to them.
Google Analytics Is Free
If you’re running an eCommerce site, you’re probably going to want to track your stats at some point.
Google Analytics is the staple piece of kit you’ll need for this, and whilst you have to pay to use it on WordPress.com, it’s completely free with WordPress.org.
Monetize Your Site
Ads are another way to make money with WordPress.
You have full control over ads when you use WordPress.org, and they’re super easy to manage with a plugin.
External ads via Google Adsense are an easy way to gain a bit of extra revenue if you’re running a high-traffic site, but you can always sell your own ads if you want a bit more say in what’s displayed on your site.
You might not want ads on your site at all, but if you do, you’re the boss.
If you do decide WordPress is the platform for you and you’re going to give it a go, I definitely recommend WordPress.org. You’ll thank me later, promise!