The Differences Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

WordPress was launched in 2003 as an open source content management system built for blogging.  Since then, WordPress has become the most popular way to build a website. According to W3Techs, WordPress powers 32.8% of the world’s websites as of December 2018.  This includes both WordPress.com and WordPress.org which leads us to the question – what’s the difference between two?

WordPress

The code at WordPress.org is a free open source content management system. To use the WordPress software, you download it from WordPress.org.  Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com give you the ability to create and edit pages, posts, add photos and PDFs through the dashboard without seeing any of the underlying code.

WordPress.org

While the code is free, putting your website into the world requires you to purchase hosting from a hosting company.  WordPress.org gives loads of customization options and the responsibility of maintaining the code.  In a nutshell:

  • You need a web hosting account to run your WordPress site (most hosts offer one-click installation though I recommend hosting specifically for WordPress with daily backups of your site)
  • You can add plugins to extend the functionality
  • Access all backend code, database and files for more control of the how the website looks and performs
  • Use free, premium or custom themes (website layouts)
  • Forums where you can post questions but no email or live chat support
  • You’ll need to purchase your domain name, about $15/year.

There are loads of companies that can host WordPress websites.  I look for companies who have 24/7 phone support, are U.S. based (including tech support), provide daily backups and easy site restore features.  The backup and restore features make your day better in case a plugin update doesn’t work well, you’ll be able to get your site back online quickly.  This hosting usually runs between $72/year and $150/year.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is based on WordPress.org code. You sign up for a WordPress.com account and have a working website right away. 

WordPress.com allows you to set up a website for free:

  • Your domain name will be something like:  mywebsite.wordpress.com instead of mywebsite.com
  • WordPress.com will have its logo at the bottom of the page
  • Is best for small websites & blogs (no online store)
  • Can only use the themes (website layout) and plugins (add new functions) that are preinstalled for you
  • Have access to email and live chat support
  • Your premium plan comes with an SSL certificate

If you want a business website with WordPress.com, you will have to pay at least $96 a year plus your domain name registration which usually costs about $15/year.  This means to have the premium plan with WordPress.com, you’ll be paying about $111/year to keep your website on the internet.  WordPress.com also offers a business plan for $300/year which would be similar to hosting your website using the code from WordPress.org.  Even with the paid premium plan, you’ll:

  • Have limited access to plugins and themes (paid themes are available)
  • No ability to tweak backend code if you’re feeling adventurous

When to use WordPress.com

If you’re not interested in paying for hosting, managing your code and plugin updates or paying someone to take care of that for you and do not need a highly customized website, WordPress.com can be a good solution for you. 

When to use WordPress.org

If you want to have a highly customized website, with functionality beyond a contact form (i.e. photo gallery, search engine optimization tools, etc.) then WordPress.org is the way to go. 

I also recommend you purchase an SSL certificate for several reasons:

  • When you log into your dashboard, your username and password are encrypted
  • Google now factors this in its algorithm
  • It’s considered best practices for websites

WordPress Dashboard

The WordPress Dashboard can be a little daunting to the first time user.  Below is a quick overview:

The Dashboard

WordPress Dashboard.

  1. Dashboard title – This is where you will see the name of the site (upper left in the top horizontal menu bar).  If you click on your site name, you’ll link to the front end of your website.
  2. On the right hand side of that same horizontal menu bar is the name of the user that is logged into the dashboard.  Hovering over your name brings up a popup window – this is where you can log out of the dashboard.
  3. The left sidebar menu is the WordPress main menu.  This is where you’ll create Pages or Posts, access the Media Library, see the Comments made on your Posts and Pages, access Widgets and Themes under Appearance, add Plugins to your website, see who is a User on your website and more.
  4. Screen Options – click on this button and a window will drop down.  In this window you have the opportunity to choose what you see on Dashboard.  Screen Options is also available on Pages, Posts, Media  Library, Plugins, etc.
    1. Clicking the Help link will drop down a smaller window where you can get help related to the page you are on.
  5. Welcome to WordPress – this is quick links to customize your site (blue button), write a blog post, manage widgets and more.
  6. At a Glance will quickly tell you how many Posts and Pages you have in your website.
  7. Activity will list your recently published Posts.
  8. Need to start drafting a Post quickly?  Try Quick Draft.
  9. WordPress Events and News will include upcoming WordPress Meetups, recent WordPress updates, WordCamps and other news.
  10. Footer
    1. On the left –  a link to WordPress.com
    2. On the right – a quick note to let you know what version of WordPress you are using.  This information is helpful when you’re considering adding a plugin.  Remember to make sure new plugins are compatible with your version of WordPress.  Note:  You should always be updated to the most current version of WordPress.

User Roles

WordPress uses a concept of User Roles, designed to give the site owner the ability to control what users can and cannot do within the site. A site owner can manage the user access to such tasks as writing and editing posts, creating Pages, defining links, creating categories, moderating comments, managing plugins, managing themes, and managing other users, by assigning a specific role to each of the users.  https://codex.wordpress.org/Roles_and_Capabilities

WordPress comes with six roles with varying capabilities:

  • Super Admin – gives access to the site network administration and all features
  • Administrator – gives access to the administration features within a single site
  • Editor – gives the ability to publish and manage posts, including posts of other users
  • Author – gives the ability to publish and manage their own posts
  • Contributor – gives the ability to write and manage posts but cannot publish
  • Subscriber – gives the ability to manage their own profile

Creating a New User

Creating a new user role in WordPress.

To add a new user, navigate to Users in the left hand sidebar of the dashboard.  When you click on Users in the menu, a carrot will appear on the right of the menu bar and the Users option will drop down revealing three options:  All Users, Add New and Your Profile.

As with creating pages, posts or adding another image to your Medial Library, simply click on the Add New link under Users to create a new user.

 

Image showing the form fields for adding a new user.

After you click on that Add New link, you’ll be brought to a page called Add New User.  Here you will have the opportunity to input:

  • Username, which is required
  • Email address, also required
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Website
  • Password – WordPress will generate one for you – just click on the Show Password to see and copy the password.  Remember to save this somewhere safe!
  • Role – here is where you choose the new user’s role.  The system automatically defaults to the subscriber role.  If you want to grant someone  more privileges than that, click on the caret and select a different role for your new user.

You also get the option to send the new user an email notification about their new role in your WordPress website.

Once you’ve completed all the form fields, click on the Add New User button to complete the process and make the new user an official part of your website.  Added bonus:  as an administrator, you’ll also get an email from WordPress letting you know a New User has been registered.  A great way to keep track if you have multiple administrators.

Changing a User Role

If sometime in the future you’d like to change a user’s role, here is what you can do (assuming you have the administrative privileges of an admin user):

  • Navigate to Users >> All Users
  • Hover over the User you want to change.  Below their username an Edit link will pop up
  • This will bring you to the Edit User ___________ page
  • In the name section, immediately below the username is the Role option with a drop down list.  Change the role and scroll to the bottom of the page to Update User.

 

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme, or template, is a collection of files that work together to create the layout and design, ie your sidebars, font styles and colors.  The Theme may give images a border or change the font style for a caption on an image.  Your theme changes how your website looks without changing any of the core WordPress code (that is the heart of your website) or any of the information contained within your website.

Where do you get a WordPress Theme?

You can get WordPress themes from the WordPress Theme Directory.  These themes have been inspected and checked for compliance with the WordPress core code.  They are free for downloading.  The directory allows you to search by popular themes and latest themes.  You can also search by layout, features and subject with the feature filter.

WordPress Theme directory.

How do I download a WordPress Theme?

You can download a theme into your own theme directory using the Add New Themes option in the Appearance sub-menu.

  1. Add new WordPress theme.Log into your WordPress dashboard/admin panel
  2. Select Appearance from the left side menu
  3. In the menu that pops up, select Themes
  4. Select Add New
  5. You are now looking at the WordPress theme directory.  Use the search or filter options to find the Theme you want to use
  6. Click the Preview link to preview the Theme’s features or Install Now to upload the theme to your Theme Directory

If you have downloaded a Theme to your computer, you can use the Upload link in the top row to upload a zipped copy of the Theme you want to use.  This will upload the Theme into your directory.

Learn more about Themes at the WordPress Codex.

Ok, you have a Theme, how do you start using it?

  1. WordPress Theme Details, Activate and Live Preview.Log into your WordPress dashboard
  2. From the left sidebar menu, select Appearance then select Themes
  3. From the Themes panel, hover over the Theme thumbnail image for the Theme you want to use.  You can learn more information about the theme by clicking Theme Details.
  4. Continue hovering over the thumbnail to:
    1. Click the Live Preview link to see a live preview of your Theme, using your website content or
    2. Click the Activate button to active the Theme you want to use.

Your Theme selection will become active immediately.

Note:  If the Theme preview is blank, do not activate the new Theme without looking into this issue.  There could be a problem with the Theme’s code and your website may not display properly.

HTTP Error and WordPress

Have you ever receive the incredibly unhelpful HTTP Error while trying to upload an image to your WordPress media library?  If you have and called tech support, was the issue easily solved?

I purchased a new compuHTTP Error and WordPress.ter and imported my browser settings into Chrome.  While working on a new WordPress website, I found the staging site I just created incredibly slow. Then I started getting HTTP Errors when uploading an image no matter the size, .jpg or .png.  Calls to tech support over several days did not resolve the issue, though support truly tried.

During this process I sent an email to my IT specialist at API Technology and he suggested I make the webhost’s website a Trusted Site with Chrome.  I did make this webhost a trusted site and the issue was resolved.  I thought I’d post the info here in case it is helpful to someone else.

Creating a Trusted Site in Chrome

If you need to create a Trusted Site in Chrome, here are the steps:

  1. Click the Chrome Menu icon on the far right of the Address bar (icon of three short horizontal lines).
  2. Click on Settings, scroll to the bottom and click the Show Advanced Settings link.
  3. Click on Change proxy settings (under Network)
  4. Click the Security tab > Trusted Sites icon, then click Sites.
  5. Enter the URL of your Trusted Site, then click Add.
  6. Click Close > OK.

I hope you never come across the HTTP error, but if you do, I hope this helps you out!