Ultimately, WordPress.com might be the right thing for you. There are just a number of things you can’t do in WordPress.com. The class is focusing on managing a WordPress.org install, which is what we took the time to install today. Using the free software from WordPress.org gives you complete and total freedom, something you don’t have on WordPress.com. There are three reason why people use WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com: domain, plugins and themes.
When you use a free account at WordPress.com, you only get to use a subdomain. For example, you only havehttp://something.wordpress.com instead of having the ‘full domain’ at http://something.com. See the difference? If you have a WordPress.com subdomain, it looks really unprofessional, especially for businesses. (http://mcdonalds.com is a lot different than http://mcdonalds.wordpress.com) For a lot of people though, they don’t need or want their domain, so using the WordPress.com subdomain works just fine for them, this might be your case as well.
Using WordPress.com also limits the types of things you can install as plugins. Plugins are a major part of the WordPress experience, and you can lose a lot of functionality without being able to install one of the 30K+ plugins out there. For example, if a organization wants to install an event calendar, they are pretty limited to what WordPress.com offers, if they offer one at all. Otherwise, if you install WordPress yourself using WordPress.org, you can install anything. This gives site managers a lot more functionality and freedom.
Lastly, WordPress.com is made for getting people to start blogging quickly, while making it look good. “Themes” are what make sites look ‘pretty’ and WordPress.com offers a lot of really great ones. The theme on the site you installed today is purposefully made to be very ‘vanilla’. The theme is actually called ‘Twenty Fifteen’ because every year the core team creates a new plain default theme. WordPress needs a theme to run and WordPress.org needs to ship *something*, so they create and ship a default theme. However, themes are HUGE part of WordPress. It’s super easy to add a new theme to your site, and there are lots of great ones for free out there. If you go to your WordPress Dashboard > Appearances menu you’ll come up on the ‘Themes’ page. There you can upload and install a new theme, or install one right from the Dashboard. If you Google Search ‘Install new WordPress theme’ you should find some quick and easy instructions. Your theme will change the whole look of the site, and it is very easy to tryout and change new themes.
Ultimately the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is control. WordPress.com offers a really nice solution for folks who just want to get content up, want some options, but want most things handled for them. WordPress.org (what we used today) is for people who want full control on their website.
It’s a bit like renting vs buying a home. When you rent a home, it’s not yours. You maybe have some limited control, maybe you can change the paint or something. But there are probably more rules than freedom. Maybe you can’t put in hardwood floor or have pets. But it’s cheaper and you don’t have to worry about fixing the water heater or paying taxes, the owner does that (WordPress.com). When you own the home (WordPress.org) you have a lot more responsibility. You have to pay taxes and are solely responsible for keeping things working. However, you have way more freedom, like installing a pool or renovating the bathrooms.
So WordPress.com might be what you are ultimately looking for, and that’s no big deal! You should really figure out what’s best for you, and we’ll be happy to help guide you on that. The sake of the class though is about WordPress.org, and the things we want to teach aren’t possible on WordPress.com.