WordPress.com is a great place to start your WordPress venture, and many fans stay there forever. But there are several reasons that you might decide to strike out on your own and set up a self-hosted WordPress site. Most commonly, it’s because you want to customize your site beyond what WordPress.com allows.
Here are the two features that can compel otherwise happy WordPress.com users to move on:
Themes. WordPress.com site owners can choose from a collection of barely 200 themes, while self-hosters get to pick from well over a thousand themes in the WordPress theme repository (and still more if you’re willing to trawl the Web). More important, you can modify any theme without restrictions, which lets you do everything from swapping in your favorite Google Web Font for headlines (Using Fancy Fonts) to redesigning the site so that it works like a product catalog (Chapter 14).
Plug-ins. You can’t add plug-ins to a WordPress.com site. Instead, you’re limited to a very small set of preinstalled plug-ins, chosen by Automattic. But on a self-hosted site, you have your choice of thousands of plug-ins that can extend your site with useful features, like better search optimization (Boosting SEO with a Plug-In), new tools for multi-author collaboration (Browsing an Author’s Posts), and money-making options like ads and donation buttons (Signing Up with PayPal).
Making the jump from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site can be awkward, but it’s nothing you ...