We love comparisons around here, so recently we decided to compare the pros and cons of both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. We found each of them to be useful depending on what you’re looking for in a website builder. They’re both WordPress software platforms, even though one offers hosting and the other doesn’t. They’re both good for different reasons—and those reasons are what we get into below.
WordPress.com Compared to WordPress.org
WordPress.com is what you want to use if you’re looking to use the WordPress site builder with built-in hosting that takes care of the installation for you. It can be a solid affordable option for website creators that don’t want to spend time hunting down third-party hosts but that still want a robust website hosting option with all the bells and whistles. As a site builder, WordPress.com is used by millions of websites today including business giants like NBC, Spotify, and CNN. You can start a free WordPress website with WordPress.com here.
WordPress.org is great for you if you’re solely wanting to use WordPress as your CMS but want to use a third-party host like Bluehost to host your website. With WordPress.org, you’re in charge of bringing together its software, the hosting, and the installation process. Keep in mind this also means absolute control over every part of your site. With Bluehost, you can create a ridiculously affordable website through WordPress.org. They even take care of the installation process for you.
We like to spend a ton of time comparing and contrasting the best tools out there for more informed decision-making. It’s why we thought it was important to create an in-depth website builder guide that reviews some of the top website builders at your disposal. Here’s where you can see all of our top picks.
Where WordPress.com Shines
Customer support: WordPress.com offers unlimited support for all its paid tiers. Though its most basic tier only offers unlimited email support, the rest of its paid plans come with live chat support as well.
Website builder: WordPress.com’s website builder is easy to use. The drag and drop editor makes it easy to edit the layout of your website including fonts, colors, and branding specifications.
Installation process: With WordPress.com, you don’t have to worry about the installation process since they take care of that for you through its hosting service plans. It’s one less thing to think about if you decide to go with WordPress.com.
Free themes: With WordPress.com, you get access to 100 free themes that are ready to use and customize which add to its ease of use and quick setup appeal.
Convenient Payments Block: Are you taking payments through your website? Once you go with one of WordPress.com’s paid plans, you’ll have access to its Payment Block feature through the editor. You can add it to any page or post to easily accept debit or credit card payments for memberships, goods, services, or donations.
Automatic maintenance: With WordPress.com, you don’t have to worry about maintenance and security since they do a good job of taking care of this for you.
Great for smaller sites: All in all, WordPress.com can be a great option for smaller websites looking to get a quick start with minimal fuss and maintenance.
Where WordPress.com Falls Short
Free website support: Though WordPress.com offers stellar customer support for its paid hosting plans, it pretty much leaves you on your own if you decide to go with a free subdomain. Bummer, but true.
Plugin availability: The ability to add plugins to your site, an essential part of the site-building process, is only available if you go with the Business plan, at $25 a month billed yearly.
Flexibility: If you go with a WordPress.com option, some of its tiers aren’t as flexible as if you just went with WordPress.org in terms of access to plugin features or website backups.
Where WordPress.org Shines
Total customization control: The flexibility and scalability of WordPress.org sites virtually know no bounds. With WordPress.org, you have total power over everything from the look and feel of your site to how big it gets and how customized you want to get with your plugins.
SEO: Though WordPress.com is pretty search-engine-friendly, if you want to optimize your site with as much control as possible then you’re better off with WordPress.org as you can use the help of premium plugin features to optimize posts and pages for SEO.
Revenue: Are you planning on monetizing your site? WordPress.org gives you a completely free range on how you want to do that. You can monetize your site with a wide range of plugins and themes both free and paid. WordPress.com can be a bit more limiting in this department.
Ecommerce options: WordPress.org lets you create ecommerce sites regardless of what hosting provider you choose and how much they cost. It doesn’t limit your ecommerce options like WordPress.com does if you go with any tier other than its eCommerce tier, which you have to pay $45 a month for.
Plugin options: With WordPress.org, your plugin options are boundless regardless of the hosting plan you choose to the tune of over 50,000 different plugins that are both free and paid you can choose from
Free and premium themes: There are a ton of both free and premium tiers that you can easily use with WordPress.org. This makes it the winner in the design department, since you can use different theme builder plugins to create stellar professional-looking websites without spending too much.
Where WordPress.org Falls Short
Support: Although WordPress.org is a great option for sites that want more flexibility and have long-term growth goals, it doesn’t really come with any built-in support. At best, you’ll have to lean on any support through community forums, any technical help your hosting provider can offer, or the hired help of a WordPress developer if you run into troubleshooting issues that are beyond your wheelhouse.
Ease of use: WordPress.org is built for more independent website creators that want more control over every aspect of their website. But, this also comes with less overall ease of use, more run-ins with technical configurations, and site maintenance.
installation: WordPress.org leaves the brunt of the installation work on you. This means you’re responsible for finding and installing your own domain name, finding hosting, and installing the WordPress software. Though this is a shortcoming for WordPress.org, keep in mind that there are many hosting solutions like Bluehost that take care of this for you because of how involved and technical the process can be.
The Final Verdict on WordPress.com Compared to WordPress.org
Before we get to the final verdict on which option is best for what, here’s a look at WordPress.com’s pricing:
- Free – Start a free website under a subdomain with limited options
- Personal – $4 per month billed yearly
- Premium – $8 per month billed yearly
- Business – $25 per month billed yearly
- eCommerce – $45 per month billed yearly
WordPress.com also offers a customizable VIP enterprise solution for websites that need a best-in-class customer experience at scale. Though those prices start at $2,000 a month. If you want to learn more about this particular tier, you’ll have to get in touch with its sales team.
Overall, WordPress.com’s pricing is pretty affordable and takes a lot of the maintenance and software installation tasks off your plate without charging you too much. Though if you really look through its plans, the most valuable plan worth getting is its Business plan at $25 a month since that’s when you can start installing plugins, get access to advanced SEO tools, and automated site backups.
Sure, you can start a free website through WordPress.com but it’s such a limited option that it’s almost not worth doing, especially if you’re planning on significantly growing or monetizing your website.
However, you’re in for a wider array of options if you’re thinking of going with the WordPress.com VIP enterprise solution. Though it comes at a hefty price of $2,000 a month. Once you take a closer look at the price tag, it might not be worth it considering lots of third-party hosts you can use with WordPress.org can offer enterprise solutions that cost less than half of the WordPress.com VIP plan.
Now, what do prices for WordPress.org look like if you decide to go with a more independent third-party hosting option?
Well, that’s when price comparisons start to get a little tricky since what you end up paying with WordPress.org can vary by a lot depending on the hosting provider you choose, if you decide to hire a developer (though it isn’t totally necessary), or if you throw in the price of your theme and calculate that as part of your site costs.
To illustrate, consider a scenario where you use WordPress.org with a hosting provider like Bluehost. Bluehost offers super affordable hosting options for beginner websites that can go as low as $2.95 a month and that come with 50 GBs of storage, around-the-clock customer support, a free domain name, and a free SSL certificate.
When you compare using Bluehost with WordPress.org to going with a limited starter plan with WordPress.com at $7 or $14 a month, the choice is pretty much a no-brainer.
- Basic – $2.95/month
- Plus – $5.45/month
- Choice Plus – $5.45/month
When compared to WordPress.com’s hosting plans, how does using WordPress.org with a third-party host hold up? Well, you have a few options to weigh as well as tradeoffs to consider.
With WordPress.org, you’ll have access to more affordable hosting solutions. With WordPress.com, though it does offer a standard $4 a month personal plan, it doesn’t allow you to install plugins, earn ad revenue, or optimize your site for SEO. You’d have to invest in the $25 a month Business plan to even start getting access to such features.
On the other hand, deciding to go with WordPress.org to build your site means you’ll have to be a little more responsible with making sure your site is updated, for maintenance, or even for things like periodically creating site backups. The good news is the right third-party host can be proactive and helpful at taking care of this for you in the background, depending on the plan you choose.
In the end, it comes down to control. The more control you want over your site and the more boundless growth you’re after, WordPress.org starts looking like a better option. However, if you want to be more hands-off with your site and don’t mind paying a bit more money to start, then WordPress.com can make sense for you.
Wrapping Things Up
The eternal “which one is better?” question when it comes to WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org boils down to what your website needs are, how much control you’re after, and which option can better fulfill those needs. In the end, neither is inherently better than the other and each has their virtues.
Now, we’ve spent a ton of time comparing the best website builders out there, picking over their features, pricing plans, and more. So, our website builder guide is one don’t want to miss. You can check out the full guide here for more and see a summary of our top choice below (including WordPress).