When you are starting out it can all seem very confusing. There are so many choices and often people recommend this or that and some people love one one web host or another. Deciding what is best is difficult and this is partly because you are not sure yourself what you want or what you need.
You should learn to walk before you try to run and that means starting out with something simple rather than trying to do too much too soon.
So what are your options?
Most popular blogging platforms
There are many different ways to build a website or a blog and get your content published on the internet. Some of the most common include:
There are many more and there is no end to the web hosting companies and websites that want your custom. Some are free, but others require a monthly or annual subscription.
As a general rule of thumb, the easier the platform is to use, the more limitations are imposed on you. Services like Blogger, Tumblr, Medium and others make it very easy to get started and little or no technical knowledge is required.
However, sooner or later you will either outgrow the service and you will need features and functions that just aren’t available. You will grow beyond simple website builders and blogging services.
A self-hosted installation of content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal is harder to set up and requires more work, but there are no limitations and you can grow and expand without end. There isn't anything these cannot do one way or another.
Additional features and functions can be added and whatever you want to do is possible with a little effort. Basic websites are easy with these CMS. It is true that some things might be beyond your knowledge and you may need to hire an expert for very advanced stuff, but nothing is beyond the capabilities of these content management systems.
Some people prefer the simplicity of the blogging and website platforms listed above, but if you are serious about building a website that makes money and don’t want to be held back by rules and lack of features, you should choose a self-hosted CMS.
WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal vs others
There are many content management systems and common ones include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, but there are several others.
The most used CMS on the web today is WordPress and it occupies a huge segment of the market. This is because:
- It is easy to use and is designed for non-technical people
- It is easy to set up and requires minimal effort and technical knowledge
- Its popularity means there is an abundance of themes, plugins and experts who can help.
Some people find self-hosted WordPress complicated, frightening and confusing. You should try the other CMS! seriously though, learn just a little about WordPress and it will get you a long way. You won’t be able to do everything, but most people can learn to build a site and fill it with content fairly easily.
WordPress is the recommended content management system. Use it to build your website whether it is for fun or for your business.
You can make money from a WordPress website and it is available in two versions - wordpress.com and self-hosted, which is often called wordpress.org.
What is wordpress.com?
A common question that people often ask when starting out blogging and building a website is whether to choose wordpress.com or .org. What does this mean?
If you go to the wordpress.com website you can build a website for free. It takes around five minutes to set up a website or blog and it will not cost you anything. There is a very simple interface that enables you to customise the look of the site and to publish pages and blog posts.
It is brilliant and simple and perfect for people that do not want to be bothered with the technical details of setting up and maintaining a website. All the difficult tasks are managed for you automatically, enabling you to focus on posting great content for your website visitors.
When people talk about WordPress.org they mean the DIY version of WordPress that is installed and run on your own website. It’s often called self-hosted WordPress because it is run on your own web server.
In order to use it you need a web server and this means buying a web hosting plan at a web hosting company and then purchasing a domain name. Usually there is a minimum hosting plan of a year and it costs from $50 a year to more than $1000 depending on what features you need.
At one time you had to install WordPress on your web server yourself, which isn’t easy, but these days web hosting companies do all the work for you. If you can fill in a form and click a button, you can set up WordPress.
When you purchase web hosting, you get a menu system (cpanel for example) that enables you to click a button to install a CMS like WordPress. Some web hosts offer dozens of CMS, but WordPress is the most common.
You are asked a few simple questions in an online form like the name of the site, your username and password preferences, then there is a simple button to click and WordPress is set up for you.
You can then log in and start building your site. It is almost the same as the wordpress.com version, but it has extra features that make it more useful, and no limits on what you can add.
.com vs .org - which is best?
Pros of wordpress.com
- Free website and free hosting
- Easy to use interface with no complicated admin functions
- Your site is managed for you and it looks after backups and upgrades
Cons of wordpress.com
- No plugins - you’ll want plugins
- WordPress places ads on your site
- You are not allowed to place your own ads
- Limited choice of themes (website designs)
- Limited analytics for monitoring visitors
Pros of self-hosted WordPress (.org)
- No restrictions on what you can do
- Thousands of plugins to add extra features and functions
- Thousands of themes (website designs)
- Add adverts, shopping carts, paid memberships and more
- Analyse visitors in detail
Cons of self-hosted WordPress
- You must pay for web hosting and extras like backup
- Some features require technical knowledge
- Security issues can cause problems
- You are responsible for everything
Self-hosted (.org) WordPress is mostly like wordpress.com, but it it also has a few advanced features that are more complex. It is a bit harder to set up, configure and maintain, but it is not beyond you. Most people can get to grips with WordPress.
A self-hosted (.org) WordPress is recommended, even though it costs you money, because there are no restrictions or limits on what you can do or how much you can earn from your website.
Get started - build a website
WordPress.com is a ‘lite’ version of WordPress that does not have all the features of the self-hosted version that is recommended. A number of key features are missing and sooner or later you will want them. You will then either have to pay to upgrade or pay to move your website.
However, this guide will begin by building a wordpress.com website. Why?
Imagine you have never driven a car before. If you are put in the driving seat of a powerful car you won’t know what to do, how to control it, and you may well crash it. It is best to learn to drive in a smaller, less powerful, easier to drive car. Then when you have learnt to drive, you can go out and buy and enjoy the powerful car you want.
It’s like that with WordPress. If you have never built a website before, it is recommended that you get a wordpress.com website for free and use it to learn how to build a site or blog. It is the perfect place to learn WordPress and it is safer and easier to begin with.
If you have never built a website before, sign up with wordpress.com and create an 5 to 10 page website. Learn how to create posts and pages, and what the difference is, experiment with configuration settings, try some different themes and see how they affect the look of your website and how they affect the way content is presented and visitors interact with it.
Your first website will probably be rubbish. Mine was. However, you will learn valuable skills and the second time you build a website, it will be much better.
Use wordpress.com to learn WordPress and practise website building, then when you have mastered it, go and get a self-hosted WordPress website and start earning money.
Start the course
To help you get started on your way to making money from your website or blog, an online course has been created with easy-to-follow step-by-step guides.
Learn the basic WordPress skills you need in the first part of this course, then take the advanced course to create your money-making website!
This article is part of a Make Money Online course. It continues with a series of lessons looking at self-hosted WordPress with a focus on making money. Go to RAW Guides for more information.
Get your own Bluehost WordPress website and continue the course.