A long time ago, when WordPress.com first came out, I was very split on my thoughts of the service. On one hand, I was happy to see it as an easy to use, free service that opened up less tech savvy people to the advantages of WordPress as a publishing system, but I felt as though the biggest advantage to WordPress(.org) was how extendable and easy to customize that it was.
Customization in the form of plugins was completely stripped from the WordPress.com experience. Some would say that this is ideal as it is very rare to need plugins to run a WordPress blog and it opens up security risks, but I’m not one of those people. When I first install WordPress, I have nearly half a dozen plugins that automatically get uploaded to provide me with features that WordPress doesn’t provide out of the box.
Over time features have been added to WordPress.com, and the number of holes that I saw in the user experience were diminished, so much so that I moved my personal blog to WordPress.com.
Why would I do this? I no longer had to worry about my WordPress installation being hacked, updating plugins, upgrading WordPress, traffic to my blog, or really any software or hardware issue. I could focus entirely on content and design.
Of course, there were still limitations, and days where I wished I could install certain themes or plugins, but month by month, those issues are slowly melting away, at least where personal blogging is concerned.
One issue that still crops up is related to cost. The amount I pay for WordPress.com is a bit more than what I was paying to host my personal blog on HostGator each year. Yes, WordPress.com is a free service, but if you want to have your domain pointed to your blog, you’ll pay. If you want to have full design customization, you’ll pay. There are a number of other “premium” services that you’ll pay for if you really want to make the site feel professional rather than being on a sub-domain with a stock WordPress theme.
When it comes to building a business, I still believe that WordPress.com is too limited in what it allows, and with all the advancements in the WordPress platform and the hosting of the software, I think that the barrier to entry is now so low that almost anyone with the knowledge of how to install a program on their computer could install and manage their own independent WordPress installation.
Why would I recommend that people use WordPress(.org) for business use? Simple things like contact forms, more detailed SEO control, and real control over design are all major reasons. Secondary to that is the advertising control. If you intend on monetizing content through banner or search advertising, you’ll want to avoid WordPress.com, despite some recent changes in how they deal with such things.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a WordPress.com convert, and I believe it has its place, but for making money online, you’ll want to have your own installation. Just make sure you put aside time to properly manage it or hire someone to do that for you. There is nothing worse than having to restore a backup of your site because of a WordPress exploit you didn’t take the time to patch.
If you are just starting out, and want to take WordPress for a test drive, I suggest creating a WordPress.com account and learning the software in a free, secure, hosted environment. It really doesn’t suck.