Hey! Chris here, with a big thanks to WordPress, for not just their sponsorship here the last few months, but for being a great product for so many sites I've worked on over the years. I've been a web designer and developer for the better part of two decades, and it's been a great career for me.
I'm all about learning. The more you know, the more you're capable of doing and the more doors open for you, so to speak, for getting things done as a web worker. And yet it's a dance. Just because you know how to do particular things doesn't mean that you always should. Part of this job is knowing what you should do yourself and what you should outsource or rely on for a trustworthy service.
With that in mind, I think if you can build a site with WordPress.com, you should build your site on WordPress.com. Allow me to ellaborate.
Instead of doing everything from scratch when I need a form on a site I'm building, I often choose a form building service that does most of this work for me and leaves me with just the job of designing the form and telling it where I want the data collected to go. Or I might build the form myself but use some sort of library for processing the data. Or I might use a form framework on the front end but handle the data processing myself. It depends on the project! I want to make sure whatever time I spend working on it is the most valuable it can be &mdash not doing something rote.
Part of the trick is understanding how to evaluate technology and choose things that serve your needs best. You'll get that with experience. It's also different for everyone. We all have different needs and different skills, so the technology choices you make will likely be different than what choices I make.
Here's one choice that I found to be in many people's best interest: if you don't have to deal with hosting, security, and upgrading all the underlying software that powers a website...don't! In other words, as I said, if you can use WordPress.com, do use WordPress.com.
This is an often-quoted fact, but it bears repeating: WordPress powers about a third of the Internet, which is a staggering feature. There are an awful lot of people that are happily running their sites on WordPress and that number wouldn't be nearly so high if WordPress wasn't flexible and very usable.
There are some sites that WordPress.com isn't a good match for. Say you're going to build the next big Fantasy Football app with real-time scores, charts and graphs on dashboards, and live chat rooms. That's custom development work probably suited for different technology.
But say you want to have a personal portfolio site with a blog. Can WordPress.com do that? Heck yes, that's bread and butter stuff. What if you want to sell products? Sure. What if you want to have a showcase for your photography? Absolutely. How about the homepage for a laundromat, restaurant, bakery, or coffeeshop? Check, check, check and check. A website for your conference? A place to publish a book chapter by chapter? A mini-site for your family? A road trip blog? Yes to all.
So, if you can build your site on WordPress.com, then I'm saying that you should because what you're doing is saving time, saving money, and most importantly, saving a heaping pile of technical debt. You don't deal with hosting, your site will be fast without you ever having to think about it. You don't deal with any software upgrades or weird incompatibilities. You just get a reliable system.
The longer I work in design and development, the more weight I put on just how valuable that reliability is and how dangerous technical debt is. I've seen too many sites fall off the face of the Earth because the people taking care of them couldn't deal with the technical debt. Do yourself, your client and, heck, me a favor (seriously, I'll sleep better) and build your site on WordPress.com.