WordPress is probably the most widely known content management system, it’s used by writers just starting their blog on up to Fortune 500 companies, top universities and more. WordPress comes in two flavors: the WordPress.com service and the WordPress.org self hosted software.
WordPress.com is a service, and you have access to the themes and plugins they provide but can’t use anything outside of what they allow. They also have some restrictions on their platform, collecting email addresses or selling on your site aren’t generally allowed for the free accounts. The difference is that WordPress.com is a service where you can put your site, it runs on WordPress software, but as a service, you’re limited to what they allow and provide, so if you want to use a theme they don’t offer or a plugin they don’t allow you’re out of luck. At their free level, they can place ads on your site and they don’t allow you to monetize your site or remove their branding. It’s far less control. Another drawback, to access search engine optimization features, you must upgrade to a business level account at $25/month.
Other options for your site are services like Wix or SquareSpace. Both of these are services and they don’t offer a self hosted version.
Compare this to WordPress.org which is the open source software that you can install on your own web host with no such restrictions. It’s often referred to as the self-hosted version of WordPress. It doesn’t have constraints on themes and plugins, you can install and use and modify it however you’d like. You do have to have a hosting account to use this and that will cost you a monthly charge, but it doesn’t have to be expensive, you can get hosting for a few bucks a month. We’ll talk about that more in another post on choosing a host.
Self hosted WordPress gives you complete control over your entire website, what it looks like, how it functions, etc. If you want to add functionality, such as e-commerce to sell books on your site or products or have a membership or offer a course, you can do it.
This control is what makes it a great way to get started, because your site can grow along with you.