wordpress logo on a dashboardWe ran our first Introduction to WordPress workshop last week. We thought we had done our preparation well – slides, workbook and separate training area. I had set up users for all the attendees and tested all the credentials. So far so good.

In our workshop, we start with a guided tour of the WordPress dashboard. At that point we found out that some of our attendees became confused. The screen grabs we were showing and the dashboard on the training site did not match their experience of WordPress. The mystery was solved when one of the attendees logged onto her site – on WordPress.com.

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

WordPress is a website and blogging platform. It was developed and is maintained by and for the community: hundreds of people around the world work on it. As it is an open source project, anyone can download and install a copy. All you need is a suitable host. Most companies who offer hosting will either set up WordPress for you or provide a way for you to do it yourself.

The wordpress.org website is the hub of the open source project. From there you can download WordPress and a wide variety of free themes and plugins that you can use to customise your site. It also holds the documentation on WordPress: a bible when developing themes or plugins.

wordpress.com is  hosted WordPress. While is is built on WordPress, it is essentially a commercial offering. The interface has been customised so the company can manage what options are available.  This allows them to offer a free subscription with limited functionality, while enticing you into paying for more.

wordpress.com is not the only company offering this sort of hosting but is probably the most well known.

Under the surface

When we investigated further, while the navigation is different, the everyday basics of creating and editing posts and pages remains consistent. The editor is the same, as is the media manager. Our attendees can use the skills learned at our workshop on their WordPress site, regardless of where it is hosted.

The main difference lies is the administration functions:

  • all customisation is carried out through the customiser
  • themes are less flexible, especially in the free version
  • you can only use pre-installed plugins
  • analytics is only available if you pay
  • you have to pay to use your own domain (rather than mybusiness.wordpress.com)

How to choose?

The key decision you have to make is the usual one of cost vs. flexibility.

wordpress.com makes it easy by restricting your choices. The free version also includes advertising. If you can create a website that suits your business using their themes, colour schemes and functions, go ahead.

Using a native WordPress installation, you have full control over themes and customisations. You can make your site look exactly as you want it too. The downside is that this involves more work and a higher level of expertise.

One option is a service such as ours. We do the hard work of styling your site and keeping all the software up to date. You manage the content of the pages. Please contact us for more details.