When thinking about setting up a website, many would prefer to use third-party sites (like WordPress.com, Blogger, Wix, Weebly, etc.) because they are free or low-cost and don’t require you to have web design skills. It may be great for individuals wanting to set up personal websites to share with their families and friends, but it’s not recommended for businesses.
While third-party hosting providers may be free to use or charge you very little, they do not offer you full customization of your site besides some color changes and other limited customizations such as changing font size and type. Even with a gallery of free templates to choose from, you still cannot fully customize them. A web professional cannot help you much either due to those limitations. Some third-party hosting providers would not allow you to back up your site and transfer it to other hosting servers once you decide to self-host your site – which means you would be stuck with that third party site forever. For example, one client used VistaPrint for hosting her website and could not transfer it to WordPress. And many third-party providers would require you to let place their ads on your site to make up for their free services for you. If you make money from your ads, you may be asked to split your revenues with them.
Self-hosting a website, on another hand, would give you full freedom of doing with your website in any way you want as long as you know how to design, develop, and maintain your site or have a web professional do it for you. You can set up WordPress on your server from WordPress.org, for example, and if you decide to migrate to Drupal or Joomla or any CMS later, you can do that without losing your data. You can also back up all of your information and restore it in case something happens on your current server or if you decide to move it to other server. Last, but not least, you can make your websites more user-friendly when you self-host them and you can choose to post ads and keep all profits for yourself.
Nowadays most websites run on CMS (content management system) – including even simple websites without blog feature. The reason for using CMS is because it’s easier for those not familiar with coding to update sites by just changing text and images without having to deal with coding. It is similar to creating documents using Microsoft Word.
WordPress is the most popular CMS used for various types of websites ranging from simple brochure-based to complex e-commerce sites. You can either sign up for WordPress.com to use them as a third-party hosting provider or download the CMS from WordPress.org to your own server.
If possible, I would recommend that you buy a domain name, use a web hosting company, and download CMS from WordPress.org to your server for the reasons explained above.
Here is an example of fee differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org:
- WordPress.com – Free website, but you cannot have your own unique domain name, i.e. “mydomain.com”. It would be “mydomain.wordpress.com”. If you want to use “mydomain.com”, you would need to pay $18 per year plus $8 if you want to keep personal details from public records. If you want to get rid of ads, you pay $30 per year. If you want to do custom design of your website, you pay $30 per year (for just changing CSS), and even with that you still do not have full control and also cannot use plugins. It would cost you about $78-86 a year in total with many limitations.
- WordPress.org – You download the CMS for free, don’t need to get rid of third party ads, can use any themes (many of them are free) and as many plugins as you want and can customize them as much as needed. You can have your own unique domain name by paying about $11 a year to NameCheap (that also includes making your personal details private) and $35 a year to A Small Orange for hosting a website – all which would total only $46 a year with a full control of your basic website.
You can start hosting your website either way, but if you want to do more customizations (either by yourself or hiring a web professional) and still host your site on WordPress.com, you would need to install the CMS from WordPress.org on a web hosting provider (it could be A Small Orange or any other reputable provider) and migrate your data from WordPress.com to there.