Everybody and their mom has a website nowadays it seems. You too can jump on the virtual bandwagon. It’s easy!

Whether you’re a business owner in need of a website or someone considering starting a personal blog just for fun, I’m sure you’ve heard of WordPress. It’s considered to be the most popular and easy-to-use online software platform on the market.

There are two, often confusing, options available: WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

They both serve similar purposes but there are many pros and cons to using one over the other.

As easy as WordPress is to use, it’s not always easy to know where to start. So, before you jump in headfirst, carefully consider the differences and save yourself from potential headaches.

Web Hosting: Free (wordpress.com) vs. Fee (wordpress.org)

In this economy, most everyone is holding onto every penny. The same goes for hosting a website.

As such, the most obvious difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is cost.

WordPress.com is the free site version on which people can immediately create blogs and websites without the need to pay to host a website on a paid server. When you sign up, you’ll get a free blog site, 3GB of space to use at your disposal and access to a community support forum if you need help.

In contrast, WordPress.org requires you pay for web hosting on a web server. You will have to handle the hosting of your WordPress website, hence the term, self-hosted website. At WordPress.org, you can download a wide variety of WordPress themes and plug-ins to use for your website or blog. Cheap and reliable web hosting companies are readily available and offer monthly hosting that will make you no poorer than buying a $5 large mocha at your local coffee shop. Starter hosting plans often include unlimited web space, the ability to upload videos and eCommerce shopping carts.

if your blog or website becomes popular and you end up with a high amount of website traffic then your hosting costs will increase and can become expensive.( though if you have high traffic, it will also lead to monetization possibilities and thus pay for your expenses)

If  you are on wordpress.com and plan on growing your website – or maybe you’re hoping to join the list of famous bloggers – and need additional features, it is possible. To incorporate eCommerce shopping carts to sell products or to upload and store multiple videos then you will have to upgrade for a fee.
For example, you can add an additional 10 to 200 gigabytes for a fee ranging from $20 to $290. A website disk space upgrade also allows for the uploading of more file types, including videos. If you need more features, then the premium upgrades might fit the bill.

As you can see, your expenses can quickly add up if you start out with the free WordPress.com option. You could end up paying $299 to build a web store through WordPress.com that may only cost you $60 to build using a self-hosted website.

Domain Names: To Name or Not

Turning down something for free… who does that?
But, if you opt for trying out a free WordPress.com site then you’ll have to make some compromises. You won’t be able to use a custom domain name. Instead, your website will be directly associated with the WordPress.com website and the name of your blog or website will appear as a subdomain of WordPress.com.
In other words, your URL (the web address that shows at the top of the browser) will include “WordPress.com” following your site name (e.g., yoursitename.wordpress.com).

Creating a WordPress self-hosted websites requires buying and using a custom domain name. You can typically buy a domain name from various domain sellers for only $10 a year and up and avoid the unwanted WordPress moniker from the get go. Although this involves a small expense, if you’re a serious blogger looking to add some credibility to what you put out in cyberspace or you’re a business owner with products and services to sell then it probably makes more sense to have a web address and custom domain.
This makes you look more reputable and businesslike without the “WordPress.com” hanging on the end.

If you’d rather have a free website but want it to look just like a WordPress.org site with a custom domain then you can purchase an upgrade. You can either buy a new domain through WordPress.com for $18 a year or, if you already have a domain name or prefer to buy it elsewhere, then you can have the domain name applied to your WordPress.com website for $13 a year. But then again, does that really constitute a “free” site?

Design: Customized vs. Cookie-Cutter

One of the biggest gripes heard from users of the free WordPress.com is that it offers limited customization options, prevents the uploading of premium or custom themes and doesn’t give access to change the color schemes, fonts and general look and feel of your website. For casual users, it may not matter much if you use a WordPress.com theme that is used by hundreds or thousands of other users. With a little over 150 free WordPress theme choices you might get lucky and those who read your blog may never run into other blogs using the same theme.
But, do you really want to take that chance?

Self-hosted WordPress sites allow for creative freedom and few limitations on accessing the coding and files you need to fully customize your sites theme. That way you are free to choose from thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available all over the Internet or you can hire someone to design a custom WordPress theme for you. If a customized look that no one else has is important to you or you want to use WordPress for your business then you might want to consider the self-hosted WordPress.org option.

If you’ve still got your eyes set on WordPress.com, all hope is not lost. There are about 130 premium themes that you can apply to your WordPress.com site for an upgrade fee ranging from $18 to as much as $175. Or, you can pay $120 per year for unlimited access to premium themes. And, you can even gain access to changing your site’s colors, fonts and other customized features but you’re going to have to fork up an extra $30.

Plug-Ins and Ads: Freedom vs. Control Freaks

WordPress is known for the thousands of available plug-ins, which add a wide range of functionality to websites and blogs. WordPress.com has many built-in plug-ins that are automatically included. These include everything from social media integration to anti-spam, however they are very limited in number.
And, those annoying ads! WordPress.com plasters ads on your free site that your readers will see. Not good, especially for business. Plus, you don’t earn a red cent from them.

A self-hosted WordPress website has an unbelievable amount of plug-ins available, many of which are free. These plug-ins are very powerful and are created by programmers around the world. In addition, you have the freedom to add your own third-party ads, from which may be able to make a little extra money from your site. From personal blogs to large corporate websites, there’s truly no limit to creating full-fledged websites with WordPress. This is the reason that WordPress has remained so competitive in the web platform business.

The final decision is up to you but it’s clear to see how WordPress.org is a better choice than WordPress.com for those who need a business website or are looking to get into some serious blogging. There’s nothing wrong with starting out with a WordPress.com site just to get a feel for how it all works. But, consider all of the pros and cons before you get too deep into it. Although you won’t necessarily hit rock bottom if you change your mind, you will be socked with a $129 fee to change your free WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site.

And you? which option have you chosen? and why? did you have any issues?