Since 2003, WordPress has become one of the world’s most popular website-building software. Known to be extremely versatile and robust, it is used by individuals and businesses of all sizes. An important point to note is that there are two versions of WordPress – one which is WordPress.com (fully-hosted) and WordPress.org (self-hosted).
There are many articles out there that do a good job in comparing the technical features between the two versions of WordPress to help you choose the right one. However, they may not be very useful to read if you are the kind of person who goes glassy-eyed when you have too much tech jargon thrown at you. Here I will be providing a different perspective – which is that you will need to know which part of the blogging journey you are at right now to decide which WordPress platform works best for you. I will also be suggesting ways to guide you on moving forward.
• You are new to blogging and just want to do it for fun or curiosity. When it comes to tech, you are totally clueless – you do not know what a domain name or web host is.
Start with a WordPress.com Basic Account. It’s free and easy to set up, and perfect for people who just want to dip their toes into the waters. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the WordPress dashboard and don’t be afraid to try things out.
AMATEUR / ENTHUSIAST BLOGGER
• You are getting comfortable with blogging. You know how to write and post blog content, and know what themes and widgets are, or even plugins! You enjoy blogging and have a growing desire to make your blog unique by having your own domain name and customizing your blog design or adding new features.
There are two routes you can consider at this point. One is to stick with your WordPress.com Basic Account but upgrade it to a Premium Account for US$99/year. This will provide you with more options to customize your blog. However, do know that you will be facing a lot of potential restrictions in the future such as a small number of widgets and plugins to choose from, limited file storage space, no premium themes or eCommerce.
To take it to the next level, you can consider upgrading further to a Business Account for US$299/year which I find is quite an overkill for a blogger given its substantial price increase. You will have access to even more features this time but again, do note that there are limits that are likely to frustrate you as your blog needs evolve with time.
Last but not least, if budget is important, sticking with WordPress.com is probably not the most value or cost-effective method in the long run. Which takes us to the next alternative –
SEMI-PRO / PRO BLOGGER
• You are getting tired of WordPress.com/Blogger and would like to step up your blogging game. You have plans to build a popular, highly-trafficked blog or even to monetize it. You are keen on learning how to take full control and ownership of your website.
• You are not afraid to get your hands a little tech-dirty, knowing that there is a huge global WordPress community out there for support and resources, or you are able to hire people to help you. Or perhaps you are tech savvy and enjoy tinkering with websites under the hood.
• You may even be a new blogger who is ambitious and ready to dive into the deep end straight away.
The self-hosted WordPress.org route is the way to go, my friend! The first thing to do is to find a reliable web host provider such as Siteground. Then register your domain and buy a basic web hosting plan which will generally cost less than WordPress.com upgrades and can go as low as US$68/year. A good webhost provider will be able to provide you with an easy one-click 5-minute WordPress Installer as well as a tech support team to assist you. Once the WordPress software is installed, you are free to install any theme that’s out there (Don’t forget to browse through our Blog Spa themes!) and have unlimited access to a world of widgets and plugins to help you build the blog of your dreams. Hiring a professional web designer or developer can also be a good investment to help you in ways you can’t do on your own.
While all bloggers may not fall neatly into the categories above, I hope this article can be useful as a general guideline. I would love to get some feedback from you. Do you know which part of the blogging journey you are at, or do you have any questions? Please feel free to drop me a note or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!