A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a man who wanted me to build him a website. He had already signed up with wordpress.com and wanted me to build the site there.

I tried. I really did. But after two days of struggling, I had to phone him and tell him I would have to give him his deposit back. I just could not do it.


Because I am a designer and a developer, and the restrictions I found in place on wordpress.com were preventing me from doing my job.

That’s not to say that there is anything intrinsically wrong with wordpress.com. It’s a good basic platform for bloggers and for people who want to do it themselves, and who are willing to have limited customizations available, in return for not having to deal with the basic setup and configuration.

But for someone who has been working as long as I have with self-hosted wordpress.org, it’s way too restrictive. I could not use the theme I wanted, could not add the plugins I needed, and could not create the elements I wanted to, in order to make a unique website.

I’ve been looking for a way to compare the two “flavours” of WordPress, that would be detailed but at the same time easy to understand. I found this infographic, which compares them side-by-side, in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

But whether you purchase your own hosting (this is the .org kind) or the (starts at) free WordPress.com hosting, at some point, you’re going to have to pay to play.

While most self-hosted WordPress (the ORG kind) sites won’t have the many optional costs noted with the above WordPress.com (such as the “kill the ads”, and your own domain name options), a year of web hosting for your .org version isn’t going to save any appreciable amount over the .com version.

So if it’s not the money, what should be the deciding factor?

The answer is simple — it’s you. This is your site, your brand, and your voice. The deciding point is how you wish to present yourself and your business to the world.

For casual blogging or personal sites, WordPress.com hosting offers an inexpensive method to share your thoughts and images, and connect with others. For free, or near-free (you can see the pricing here), you can probably ignore the clumsy domain name, the many design limitations, and all the general ad and link clutter that will appear on your site.

On the other hand, if you want to run a professional site — a business, your portfolio, an industry blog, or if you want to set up an online store to sell real or virtual items — then you are much more likely to need control over your hosting, advertising, branding, and more. You’ll want to pick a unique domain name, a great theme, and whatever plugins suit your needs.

To present the best aspect of your voice and brand, you’ll probably also want to dive — or hire a pro to dive — directly into FTP, PHP, and SEO – all the other goodies that can bring your site climbing to the top.

With WordPress.org, the sky is the limit, and you won’t need to pay to remove third-party ads. With no restrictions, you can modify the core PHP, add fancy jQuery elements, use any theme you like, and/or install any plugin you want.

And if you’re currently hosting with WordPress.com, don’t worry — your site can be migrated to a self-hosted platform at any time.