I have been asked many times to explain the two WordPresses to people who are confused by what appears to be a contradiction. They have heard about the free web service at WordPress.com and are perplexed by the costs of having a professionally designed website built using WordPress software. So here is my attempt to sum it up for you without getting too technical.
In truth, there is only one WordPress and it is open source software.
WordPress.com offers a proprietary service created by Automattic, a company led by one of the co-founders of the original WordPress. The service uses a limited version of WordPress software and hosts your website or blog, typically under a subdomain e.g. yoursite.wordpress.com.
Like Wix and other free web services, you can create an account at WordPress.com and can design your own website based on a limited selection of templates known as themes. This service is either free of charge or with a monthly fee to provide some enhancements. Other web services like Squarespace operate in a similar way.
With WordPress.com, you can create a website or blog very quickly for zero cost. If you pay a monthly fee, you can access extra features which might push your site towards the professional level. You won’t need to worry about software updates and backups because you are using a managed service. But here’s the downside, your site will be very limited and you probably won’t be able to do everything you want to.
WordPress is actually software which can be downloaded from WordPress.org. Professional web designers can install this into a folder on a web server, a process known as web hosting. It is open source, free software but it does require significant technical knowledge to use. Unlike the version of the software available at WordPress.com, it is 100% configurable. People who employ a professional web designer typically pay for web hosting space, domain name rental and the web designer’s time.
WordPress.org and WordPress.com Compared
Both versions of WordPress use themes. Themes govern the design and layout of your website’s material. With WordPress.com, there are several themes to choose from which can only be adjusted in a very limited fashion. With WordPress.org, web designers can modify themes, giving their clients exactly the look, feel and functions that they are looking for.
Both versions of WordPress have a similar Dashboard. This is the the back end or admin area – the part of your website that only editors and admins see. Editing the sites on either platform is a very similar experience and one of the reasons we like WordPress so much is that the back end is so easy for ordinary users to understand and use. Once you are familiar with the Dashboard, updating your own site can become straightforward with either system.
If you are not too concerned about the visual appearance of your website, and don’t mind having a similar look to many other sites, a free or paid for WordPress.com site might suit your needs. However, most people in the creative sphere and the visually conscious become frustrated by the limitations with WordPress.com and end up hiring web designers like us to get their sites looking and behaving exactly as they want them.
What if I want to start a shop online? I hear you ask. Well it is possible on WordPress.com with quite a high annual cost but again, options are very limited.
At JCC Creative we use WordPress software to create beautiful websites, unlimited by a proprietary system. If you have questions and would like to discuss WordPress with us, why not give us a call or send us a message. We’d love to help.