You might be surprised to know that WordPress.org and WordPress.com are actually two different platforms. The first one is a popular CMS platform with while the second one is a self-hosted SaaS website builder.
The confusion here results from the fact that the website builder is the brainchild of the WordPress.org co-founder. Let’s dot the I’s and define how the two platforms are different.
A Quick Snapshot:
WordPress.org – is an open-source content management system. It was designed to create sites of different types form simple blogs to small business and eCommerce projects. Users may benefit from web designing and customization flexibility thanks to the source code access as well as an endless selection of plugins and third-party services to integrate.
WordPress.com – is a SaaS website builder. A self-hosted system prevents from managing your hosting separately like with CMS. It comes as an all-in-one solution good for only small websites and blogs. Despite the fact, it is easier to use, WordPress.com comes with certain limitations such eCommerce features available only with paid packages or restricted access to plugins or themes.
To choose the platform that meets your needs, you have to clarify the website goals, its type, structure, approximate traffic, and ways to grow, develop or monetize your project. The rest you will learn from our WordPress.org vs WordPress.com review.
1. Ease of use
As a self-hosted platform, WordPress.com is supposed to be easier to use. This is due to the fact, that CMS considers managing your hosting and domain separately. With the SaaS platform, you only need to sign in and pick a plan with all features in the pack. However, this is where the ease-of-use comes to an end with WordPress.com.
Unlike other popular website builders, WordPress is not actually a drag-and-drop tool. The key downside is that you need to edit content separately from the page design. On the other hand, you get a ready-made mockup with integrated apps while the CMS provides full customization freedom although in some aces technical knowledge may be necessary.
While WordPress.org requires manual set up and installation on a chosen hosting, WordPress.com offers a simpler and faster way to sign in. You may connect your Google account with a lick or indicate a username and password to get started. The next stage is to choose a niche depending on your project type. The system offers 4 major options:
- A blog for a simple website to share and discuss relevant topics.
- Business for small business sites to promote goods or services.
- Professional to highlight your works with an online portfolio.
- Online Store for eCommerce projects to sell products.
After you have chosen the niche, you will see a template offered to meet your needs. Here you need to indicate the website name and preview the way it will look like on desktop and mobile. Then press the “continue” button to pick a domain (you will need to pay for that separately unless you opt for a free custom domain).
WordPress.com Website Preview
The system will offer several domain name variations. Ick the one and go to the next stage, which is to choose a plan. The last stage is to complete the purchase and go to the dashboard where you may edit content.
Getting started with WordPress.org only seems to be more difficult. This is due to the need for finding a hosting and registering a domain name separately. However, if used with Bluehost, the CMS is even easier to install thanks to its seamless integration. You only have to pick a plan, indicate the domain, and start customizing the website. If used with non WP-optimized hosting providers, the process requires completing the following steps:
- Register a domain and choose a hosting separately.
- Enter the hosting dashboard and click the “install WP” button.
- Choose a theme and download its files to your hosting.
- Enter the WordPress dashboard and edit your site.
To minimize the risk of error during the setting up process, we recommend using WP-managed and optimized hosting solutions with no need to do the manual setup. Bluehost is the best bet for WP-based sites of any type.
Editing a website with WordPress.com dashboard looks rather straightforward than easy. You actually have the same functionality as with the CMS. The key difference is that with the SaaS platform you are limited to a one and only template offered during the registration process.
On the one hand, creating new posts, upload header images or add new elements is very easy. Moreover, you may change the position of some blocks, while the block collections contain some baseline widgets like calendars, shortcodes, layout elements such as page breakers and separators, galleries, etc. On the other hand, it is not actually a typical website builder with drag-and-drop functionality. Some users find it difficult to create new pages and categories. In addition, you will not be able to edit content together with the web design.
The situation with CMS seems a bit simpler. The dashboard provides full access to both website appearance as well as its content. Although you might still need to switch between modes, at least you may do it within a single dashboard. Both platforms provide access to the page HTML source code. However, to enter it in the WordPress.com, you need to switch to a traditional editor and enable the HTML instead of visual view.
WordPress.org has everything in one place. You have all necessary content editing tools with a chance to add a new element with a click, download photos or videos, add widgets, activate plugins, etc. Users also get full access to website appearance in both visual mode and the editor that reveals the source code.
Using the WordPress CMS, you automatically go live once you have connected your domain with hosting. Users may update the website content from the dashboard with a click. To deploy your website built with WordPress.com, you need to pay for the domain when completing the registration process as well as purchase the plan. The last step is to press the “publish” button in your dashboard and go live.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Although WordPress.com is a SaaS all-in-one website builder, it does not have a typical drag-and-drop functionality. The editing process is even more complicated if compared to using the CMS. It is more confusing in terms of creating new pages with a lack of design customization tools.
2. Features and Flexibility
Both platforms serve the needs of users well in terms of flexibility although in different ways. WordPress.com offers already built-in features depending on the website type and plan you choose. You will appreciate integrated blogging functionality, connected analytics, comments, social bookmarking, etc. You do not need to enable them manually.
On the other hand, the CMS reserves more space for maneuvers. It does not have built-in apps, However, users get full access to WordPress enormous plugin marketplace as well as complete access to the webpage source code. Users may add new blocks, develop exclusive functionality and implement scripts in case of enough technical skills.
Both platforms make it possible to create online shops. The only difference is that WordPress.com offers its eCommerce feature set within a single plan. To launch a store, you will need to pay more if compared to a blog or portfolio. The CMS can be integrated with a WooCommerce plugin that is free in its entry package. You are free to expand its functionality with premium extensions and third-party services to integrate.
WordPress.com prevents users from manual integrations. The plan comes with the pre-installed online store functionality that includes:
WordPress.com Marketing Tools
- Marketing tools – integrated services to promote and market your store, for example, MailChimp;
- Payment – built-in payment options to accept purchased from over 60 countries;
- Shipping Carriers Supported – integration with major shipping services including UPS.
- Premium Store Themes – a wider option of professional templates for digital stores.
The key downside is that eCommerce package will cost you from $45. With the CMS, you may implement the same features manually at a lower price. At the same time, you are free to manage all the plugins and choose only those you really require with no need to stick to a pre-designed package with functions you are not going to use.
Plugins and Add-Ons
What comes as the WordPress.com advantage is its main drawback. Although the platform offers pre-installed widgets, some of them cannot be replaced or expanded. The system has its own widget marketplace with dozens of apps to install. The collection is being updated on a weekly basis.
WordPress CMS Plugins
Nevertheless, it can’t be compared to the WordPress.org selection of plugins. Users may choose from literally thousands of services from tables, dynamic sliders or security means and charts to eCommerce tools. Some plugins are available at zero cost while others require premium subscriptions to take the most of them. The good news here is that website owners have maximum of customization freedom unlike using WordPress SaaS platform.
The WordPress CMS boasts a powerful blogging engine, as it was initially developed for content-based sites. In addition, users have different options to promote the content itself creating SEO-friendly blog posts. The content editor lets you manage the URL settings while SEO plugins are designed to edit meta descriptions, titles, focus keywords, social media page preview, etc.
WordPress.org SEO Settings
WordPress.com comes with already built-in features. They include integrated sitemap and robots files, permalink editing, etc. However, you might need expanded options and additional plugins to install. On the other hand, experienced pros may customize the source code to make it more SEO friendly. It will require some technical knowledge.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Using the WP CMS might be a better option, as you get more customization freedom. With WordPress.com, you are forced to pay for each upgrade within the next-level plan and stick to features provided.
WordPress CMS has an endless selection of templates and themes. They include free layouts as well as premium paid templates. Free offers might be good for simple blogs or portfolios while paid themes come with more exclusive and up-to-date web design for advanced digital stores and small business sites. The price ranges between $30 and $290. Most templates are responsive and come with the desktop and mobile preview mode.
WordPress CMS Themes
If you have enough technical knowledge, you do not need to overpay for premium themes. WP provides full access to templates’ code where you can make all necessary changes or updates. Professional coders and programmers may implement their own scripts, add new blocks, buttons, icons or elements, customize menus, etc.
WordPress.com cannot boast such a huge selection of themes. The platform currently offers somewhere around 400 templates. They refer to blogs, portfolios, business sites, eCommerce, etc. All themes are divided into free and premium or paid options as well as in CMS.
Here you may overview the chosen variant although a static mobile preview mode won’t let you check how the website looks like on a smartphone. It only shows the picture of the main slide instead of highlighting each block separately. You will need to enter live demo to see the rest of the template in the mobile preview mode. The overall template quality is a bit down to earth with a few truly exclusive template designs.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: WordPress.org looks better in terms of templates selection and design although the SaaS platform still has several hundred theme to choose from.
4. Customer Support
All-in-one websites generally come with fully packed support. WordPress.com lets users keep in touch only using a traditional email ticketing system available in the Help Center. There you may submit your question and wait until the support manager comes back with the resolution. No Live Chat or phone is available in the entry plan. If you want to use those features, you need to upgrade to Personal plan or higher.
On the other hand, the platform has a huge knowledge base with expert tips and guides. In addition, it offers a set of baseline articles that cover 4 different stages of creating a site. The articles are divided Start, Create, Customize, and Connect stages with the relevant info for newbies.
As for the WordPress.org, it does not have a customer support team with the exception of premium accounts. At the same time, you may find numerous blogs with dedicated WP experts ready to help. A huge WordPress global community represents endless videos and tutorials, articles and blog posts. How-to guides and plugin installation tutorials. Moreover, when used with Bluehost hosting, users may count on versatile customer support including live chat.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: The lack of Live Chat and Phone support in entry plan puts WordPress.com aside from the list of top SaaS website builders. On the other hand, CMS users will never be left along with their issues considering the enormous WordPress online community.
5. Pricing Policy
Depending on your goals, you need to have a flexible budget to work with WordPress.com. It has a free plan, which is good only for tiny personal blogs with little traffic and overall structural simplicity. The plan includes only baseline JetPack features and 3GB of storage space, which is not enough for growing projects. The rest of the plans are as follows:
- Personal starts at $5 per month with
- Premium costs $8 with Live Chat and email support, up to 13 GB of storage and free domain.
- Business costs $25 with premium site customization features and up to 200 GB of storage.
- eCommerce starts at $45 with a full pack of marketing and customization features, tools for monetization and promotion.
The WordPress CMS is free itself. However, you will need to pay for hosting and domain registration, which is about $5-$10 per month depending on the service you choose. Users have a chance to cut down on hosting and domain costs. Hosting providers often launch special offers and discounts.
WordPress CMS Hosting Cost
For example, Bluehost reduces its prices by more than 50% in case of annual subscription. You may get the entry plan with seamless WP integration and features for less than $3. Extra costs may include premium WordPress themes around $30 and $250. Extra eCommerce extensions and premium plugin subscriptions also vary.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: WordPress.org delivers more financial flexibility with a chance to implement features you need. It is a great opportunity to manage the budget and opt for more affordable assets. WordPress.com offers packaged plans and you will need to use the tools only delivered by those plans.
WordPress.org and WordPress.com are the two completely different website building platforms. They both help to create different website types but with the opposite approach. To choose the best-matching offer, clarify the needs and realize the site functionality. What features does it need? How will you promote and market it? What is the budget?
WordPress.org – is the world’s popular CMS that is good for any online project despite the budget. Although you need to manage some of the starting steps manually as well as keep your software updated all the time, WordPress.org delivers a maximum of customization and web design freedom. You are in charge of the site assets management with no need to stick to packaged offers.
WordPress.com – is an all-in-one website builder. The platform has a free plan for tiny blogs and simple one-page sites. As a SaaS software, it is supposed to be easier to use. But it’s not. Editing content is a bit confusing, while advanced packages are not as affordable as you may expect.
As a result, WordPress CMS is still in the lead, as a more flexible and easy-to-manage website building solution to meet different needs.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Comparison Chart