WordPress is the most popular web platform out there. Powering more than 35% of the web, its simplicity and flexibility make it the first choice for many budding website creators.

There are two ways to get started with WordPress – either through WordPress.com or WordPress.org. But what are the differences between the two, and how do you decide which you should use?

What is WordPress.org?

The two options are very similar in name, but are fundamentally different. WordPress.org is where you can download the free version of WordPress. This version is open-source, and can be installed on a web server to create one or more WordPress websites.

This version of WordPress is the most popular by far, and is what most people are referring to when they mention a WordPress website. The control is down to the user, which means it has better customisability, but is a little harder to implement.

What is WordPress.com?

WordPress.com is a paid version of WordPress which is hosted by WordPress themselves. Rather than downloading the files to upload to your own web server, you pay a subscription fee to get access to an online WordPress website builder.

This version is not as widespread, but provides the core functionality of WordPress with minimal technical processes.

WordPress: cost

The way you can pay for each of the options differs. As above, WordPress.com has a set of tiered, priced plans which you pay for on an annual basis. There is a free tier, which gives you a very simplistic website for free, but comes with a number of drawbacks:

  • The free plan only comes with 3GB of storage space, so if you intend on having more than a few images on your website, you’d find yourself needing to upgrade quite quickly.
  • The free plan places advertisements on your website, which are then used to generate revenue for WordPress – a tradeoff for you not paying a subscription fee. You don’t have any control over these advertisements.
  • There’s a limit on themes, too. If you’re on the free plan, you can only choose from a limited set of free themes to apply to your website.
  • You can’t use a custom domain with WordPress.com’s free plan – instead your site will be mapped to a domain like yoursite.wordpress.com.

Overall, there’s only a small number of use-cases that the free WordPress.com plan would be suitable for. And the next option on WordPress.com is to upgrade to a paid plan – the lowest of which starts at £3 a month for their Personal plan.

This removes advertising and adds to your storage space, but still leaves some limitations on your site. To start getting the full WordPress experience including plugins, you’d need to upgrade to the Business plan, which is priced at £20 a month and charged annually.

On the other side of the coin is WordPress.org. As mentioned, you can download this for free, but to create a website, you’ll need to upload the WordPress files to a web server. For most users, this involves paying for a web hosting package from a separate provider. Not only does using WordPress.org give you more choice over who you host your website with, but it is often the cheaper way to create a WordPress website.

For example, Fasthosts’ WordPress Hosting package starts at £3.24. For this, you get 10GB of storage – more than triple the WordPress.com free plan – and you get a free 1 year domain included. It provides all of the functionality of the paid WordPress.com plans for a far lower price. But what if you don’t have technical skills?

WordPress: usability

There’s a difference in the technical skills required for each of these options, but setting up your own WordPress site using WordPress.org might not be as technical as you think.

WordPress.com uses a very simple method which requires very little technical skill. It uses a drag-and-drop editor, so is very similar to other website builder products from other sites. This means that you can simply sign up for a plan, and put together a website with all of the most common features such as images, links, blog posts, text, and other embedded items without needing to create or design them yourself.

As the WordPress.org download requires you to upload files to a web server, more technical knowledge is needed right off the bat. However, it’s not as difficult as you might think – WordPress itself has published numerous guides on how to install WordPress, and if you choose the right web host, their customer support will be able to help you set up your website.

But what about after it’s set up and ready to go? Fortunately, with WordPress.org’s unlimited access to WordPress’s full library of plugins, you can make it just as easy to build your site as it would be on WordPress.com. Plugins such as Elementor are free, can be installed on your site, and provide the drag-and-drop functionality which speeds up and simplifies the website creation process.

WordPress: flexibility

WordPress.com’s main drawback is the lack of flexibility it offers when it comes to customisation. A big selling point of the WordPress platform is the ability to customise the functionality, appearance, and features of your website with the huge amount of free plugins available.

While WordPress.com has integrated many of the most popular plugins into its package by default, unless you pay for the Business plan at £20 a month, you’ll be unable to add any more to tweak your experience to be exactly as you like it.

With WordPress.org, you’ll be able to take full advantage of what the WordPress plugin database has to offer, and truly make it your own. With full access to available themes, you can also make your website look exactly as you want to.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

With all things considered, we’d recommend choosing the popular WordPress.org platform over WordPress.com – if only for the control you get over your own website. WordPress.com is quick to get started and works well for straight-forward use cases such as small blogs or informational websites.

However, with the ability to get full access to plugins and themes, as well as being able to monetise your site immediately, WordPress.org comes out on top. And although the setup might seem daunting, Fasthosts WordPress Hosting comes with WordPress installed out of the box, so you can get started immediately. And if you need help, our 24/7 customer support teams will be on hand to assist you on your WordPress journey.