WordPress is the top online publishing software. It comes in two similar, yet distinct, flavours. Both are free.
- WordPress.com is the hosted version, the software is so simple you can have a site online minutes after signing up. Anyone can use WordPress.com, it requires little technical knowledge. Although WordPress.com offers thousands of design choices, there are restrictions.
- The software at WordPress.org is similar. There are minor differences, but you have to find your own host which usually will cost you money. This gives you far more flexibility over the look of your site and the way it functions. There are thousands of plug-ins and themes — some free, some paid-for, to spruce-up your site.
The price you pay for flexibility is complexity. While WordPress.org can be straightforward, it can get technical. If you like, you can dig around in the code to your heart’s content.
My WordPress journey started with the free .com version. After a year I wanted more flexibility and moved to .org. I still run a few .org sites, but this site has been back to .com for a little over a year.
WordPress.com is a better choice for my needs because it lets me focus on writing and not the mechanics of running a website.
What I gained moving back to WordPress.com
Time. Self-hosted WordPress lets you tinker with site design and functionality. I would spend hours each month tweaking — trying to make the site look better or work better.
That was great for learning more about WordPress. It wasn’t great for productivity. Now I spend that time on other matters, including writing more posts. That paid off with higher traffic.
Reliable. WordPress.com is rock-solid. In the past year I’ve seen just 85 minutes of downtime — some of that was scheduled. During my time with two New Zealand-based hosts I could see that amount of downtime in a single month.
Compare those figures with those from the last twelve months of my self-hosted site.
Performance. WordPress.com is faster than any New Zealand web host I’ve used. This graph from Google Webmaster Tools shows how much:
Switching from self-hosted to WordPress.com saw the average page download speed drop from 2200 milliseconds to 400 milliseconds. I posted about this after moving a year ago. Since then the average page speed has crept up to 600 milliseconds, some of that is because I now post more images.
Money: Cost wasn’t my reason for switching back from self-hosting to WordPress.com. I paid around $160 a year for local hosting on a shared server, WordPress.com is free. You can’t argue with the price — the downside is WordPress sometimes inserts ads on my site. I expect to pay US$30 a year for the no-ads option in the next few months.
Last year I paid US$30 for the custom design add-on. This allows me to tweak designs and use different fonts. I played with it for a while, but decided not to use it because I was in danger of being dragged back into the WordPress tinkering black hole that sucks all life out of the universe.
I paid my NZ host around $30 a year for my domain name — I now pay US$13 to WordPress. Again my choice is about convenience not saving pennies.
Conclusion: Moving back to WordPress.com worked well for me. I may change back if circumstances change, for now this is the best option: Faster, more reliable, less distracting and cheaper.