Let’s be honest, in this day and age, not many of us have the time to deal with all the technical ins-and-outs of setting up a new website. So when it comes to choosing WordPress as your CMS, the difference between self-hosted and a site at WordPress.com often means all the difference between getting set up quickly, albeit sacrificing some level of control in the process.
If you do want want full control of your website and plenty of advanced features to go along with it, then picking up the self-hosted WordPress will be a wise choice, otherwise going with the WordPress.com option will get the job done.
By “job” I mean, sharing your content with rest of the world.
About Self Hosted WordPress vs WordPress.com
First, it’s worth pointing out that there is huge confusion between these two options, and the moment we sign up for a WordPress account, the confusion increases further.
This happens as the core WordPress team asks us to create our first website, and we do it as it is extremely simple. If you still haven’t signed up for an account, then go ahead and do it.
The moment you setup the first website after getting a free account, you’ll get behind that blog and will have access to its Dashboard area.
This is where we first start to see some big differences. To explain them, let me provide a clear definition of both the options.
Have you used Blogger platform in past? It’s a Google-owned platform, allowing users to quickly setup an online blog and start sharing their thoughts. If you’ve used it or even seen it in action, then WordPress.com is almost a replica of that idea.
It offers a free platform to setup a blog within half an hour (or even less, depends on how far you wish to play with the customizations) and start sharing your thoughts. It works like a normal website and can get tons of organic traffic too.
There is an inclusion of social media integration to help your thoughts share quickly, and a built-in Like system, so that other bloggers on the platform can appreciate your work.
For the record, there is also a premium option if you pick a custom domain and enjoy a few other enhanced features, though you’re still fairly limited when compared to the all-consuming web building prowess of a self-hosted WordPress site.
Self Hosted WordPress option
In this option, you need to buy a hosting server and a domain name separately, and then using some software tools (like SimpleScript), WordPress script is installed on your hosting account. This is the first and prime difference as you’ve to do the installation, manually.
The moment that installation is complete, you gain access to the Dashboard area behind the newly created website. Go ahead, login into the system with the credentials (either you chose or using the WordPress’s default).
Now the second difference will appear, with the WordPress dashboard presenting many more options than its .com counterpart. It can let you pick your own theme, change every possible setting, customize the way you like it, and even add third-party functionalities, better known as Plugins.
When we talk about plugins, we’re essentially referring to a tool which uses code to add a particular functionality to your site which isn’t offered by the core WordPress platform.
Now, because of this Plugin option, you can use most types of software or script into the system, which is compatible with the WordPress core inside. For example, you’re allowed to use Google Analytics to keep a track of every visitor arriving on the website and noticing its activities. Like this, there are lots of powerful tools available online which makes the web way faster, way more functional and way more enjoyable.
And, all this is possible because of Plugins.
Plugins aren’t the only thing which can add a functionality, a powerful Theme can also be a big help in adding user interaction and visual attraction to your new site.
Assuming you’ve picked the Self Hosted option, you can install and use any sort of compatible theme available online. There are many premium and free themes available to pick and trust me, the more you spend, more functionality you can get.
Usually, the Premium theme these days come up with their own Options Panel available in the Dashboard area, which offers a GUI tool to bring possible changes into the visual and functional part of the website.
Again, this isn’t possible in the WordPress.com option. Even if you find few options to bring customizations, still they will be limited to a certain level.
So, in other words, WordPress.com is an option where the core WordPress team picks what’s best for you, and in the Self Hosted WordPress, you’re allowed to pick whatever you think is best for the website.
Making the decision
If you wish to customize, develop, and manage a website which is truly according to your taste and requirements, then go ahead with the self-hosted WordPress option, as the other one doesn’t have any such options. All it can promise you is a base platform to quickly share your content of multiple types like videos, and images.
Which one are you picking?
So, now you’re aware of the exact differences between these two methods of starting a website (just a blog in WordPress.com case). I personally picked the self-hosted option as I’ve to learn everything about WordPress, how it works and how I can make a living out of it. If my plan was just to start a blog, I would have definitely picked the WordPress.com option.
Did I leave anything uncleared? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll try my best to clear up the confusion.