Something many clients consider when they are investigating their website needs is going the route of doing a DIY WordPress website and assuming this this will be a cheaper route than getting a professional web developer to do this for them. What most don’t understand is the true costs involved in doing this yourself.
This should answer the question, “What does a WordPress website cost” for real for you.
As a WordPress expert, I fully understand all the costs, both obvious and hidden, because I build websites in one day, day in and day out, so here’s an article to enlighten you should you be considering the DIY route yourself and to accurately assess your costs in terms of both time and money.
Time & Credibility
Most businesses, especially small businesses, where owners are performing several roles and multi tasking extensively, don’t have time to invest in learning all the required skills in order to build and maintain their own sites. There is definitely enough information online to teach yourself to create your own website BUT do you have the 10,000 hours that Anders Ericsson says is required to master a skill? Think of what taking 10,000 hours worth of your time out of your business will do for your business? What will 1,000 hours cost if you only spend a 10th of that time? Certainly you would need to spend at least 100 hours in learning some of the skills required. What would that cost you and your business? You simply cannot become good, let alone an expert, at website design and development over night. And besides the time, if you do a rushed inexperienced website for your business, what message are you sending to your potential clients and what will that cost be to you and your business?
So with that obvious one out the way, let’s get down to some more tangible costs…
Domain Registration / Renewal Costs
If you want your own domain name or website address you have to pay to register this (sometimes you get it free with your hosting) and you have to pay to renew it annually thereafter. Average costs are around $20-30 or so for this per annum. This is required. Everywhere, by everyone.
Unless you are creating a free wordpress.com website, you will need to “self host” your wordpress.org website. If you want things like e-Commerce, marketing automation, memberships, subscriptions, and all sorts of other extras, you will want a self hosted WordPress website and not a free blog. If all you are planning to do is blog, you can stick with wordpress.com. Hosting refers to the space you “rent” on a server somewhere where the files and databases that make up your website physically live. NOT ALL HOSTING IS CREATED EQUALLY! Buyer beware. Things you should ensure you have are: adequate server space, memory, daily backups (on and off server). Investigate what potential extra charges there may be for extra emails addresses, bandwidth (if your site becomes popular), server space (if you upload a lot), etc. etc. There are many different options and payment packages … expect to pay roughly $10 a month for good hosting.
Also check if they have support which can assist you to install WordPress or preferably if they have a “1-click install” of WordPress – if they don’t have this facility, they probably aren’t a good enough host and you should stay away!
Here’s a list of hosting requirements I recommend:
1. Linux Hosting with PHP v 7
2. Memory Allocation of 512mb minimum
3. One-click WordPress Install
4. Daily Backups of server (on and off site)
5. No Forced Server caching
6. Unlimited bandwidth
7. 10GB disk space
Now that you have a website address, and WordPress installed, let’s get on with turning your website into something you are proud of …
The first thing you should do is choose a theme – here again … buyer beware! Themes can range from free to over $300 or even more, depending on the theme. The theme choice is very important because this determines the basics of your website like your header area and logo and menu placement, footers, and then also styling of things like your blog posts and pages.
Theme Bundled Plugins – Depending on the theme you choose, some come packaged with plugins as well that can do things like adding animated sliding banners to your pages for example or creating custom areas on your site where you can add things like Team Members, Testimonials, Portfolios, Galleries, or whatever is included in the theme. This can have major ramifications if you need to change your Theme down the line and then lose things like your testimonials or team members or something else. Be vary cautious with themes that come bundled with all sorts of plugins.
Then there’s the actual setup and usability of the theme. Unfortunately every theme demo looks amazing, and you only discover after buying it and installing it how it actually works and how easy it is to actually setup and change things. It’s not unusual to go through several themes when you are learning. Even as professionals we go through several themes over the years (that is part of what you are paying us for is the benefit of our learnings over the years). So imagine paying for 3 themes until you find the right one for example.
Then there’s the renewal cost for updates and support. The average cost of a paid theme is around $59 or so BUT you need to check for what period that licence is. Most themes you buy the cost is for a licence to receive free updates and support (WHICH YOU NEED) for a period of 6 months to 1 year. Thereafter you need to pay again to renew this licence to continue to receive updates (VITAL) and support. Sometimes the renewals are available at a discount and sometimes not. So read the small print! And understand these ongoing costs. We will explain more about the reason for updates further on.
Once you have chosen your theme and you have spent the time getting the overall look of your website perfect, you may need to add some extra functionality to your site and generally this is done via plugins (especially if you are inexperienced and can’t write code yourself). Exactly as with themes above, plugins range in cost from free to several hundred dollars, and again this is normally for a set period, and needs renewal in order to continue to receive updates and support. So the same ongoing costs apply as with themes above.
Replacing Plugins – It’s important to understand that plugins are written by all sorts of developers all over the world at various skill levels and that as an inexperienced web developer you may end up choosing a plugin that suddenly stops working or worse breaks your site after your WordPress is updated. This is not uncommon! Even experienced website developers can encounter this – but we normally have the skill and connections to the right people to solve this rapidly. Would you?
Because I build sites day in and day out I have developed an arsenal of plugins I can rely on, made by companies I can rely on, with track records and history. And because this is my business and my passion and I have my ears to the ground I can anticipate problems, and adjust my offerings as the market and the industry changes.
To give an indication of costs here – on my sites I build – I install a theme worth $100 and plugins worth over $350 for my entry level sites. This totals $454 worth of theme and plugins before you put your logo in or I design a page. If you’re considering a website development service that is cheaper than this you should definitely ask questions such as what themes and plugins they will be using and do your due diligence to ensure you are getting a service that is not going to leave you up the creek without a paddle in a very short while!
No theme or plugin is guaranteed to work perfectly forever … this is why you need …
Updates & Maintenance
So I have mentioned the cost of licence renewals for themes and plugins and that you need this in order to access ongoing updates and support. So you’re probably thinking – “That’s no problem, I just won’t update anything and save myself some money!” – unfortunately that has some pretty dire potential consequences. Let me explain why …
First of all, and probably most importantly, is security … there are some very bored and very clever hackers out there who spend every free moment working out how to hack websites. As fast as they manage to figure out how to hack sites, the WordPress developers, and plugin and theme developers figure out how to patch these weaknesses and release updates. Most hosts will only allow a certain number of previous WordPress versions to remain on their servers (because allowing older versions puts their whole infrastructure at risk) and then will start forcing updates automatically on your website. So whether you like it or not, at some stage your WordPress will be updated, either voluntarily and manually by you or your developer, or forced by your host. WordPress may have patched something that affects something else in your theme or plugin. And if those are out of date, your site suddenly start looking wrong or worst case scenario gives you the dreaded WordPress “White Screen Of Death”. That situation alone, if you’re experienced could take you several hours to figure out and fix, if ever! Ideally you should always keep your WordPress, Theme and Plugins updated to the latest version as soon as possible after the new versions are released. And yes, sometimes even if you do all that right, something can break. Again, it takes experience to figure out how to resolve this when it happens. As a professional I always backup sites and run updates on a copy of the live site to test before doing this on live sites. Anything less is risky.
The cost of being hacked is a whole blog post on it’s own – and the risk of being hacked increases greatly if you don’t keep things up to date. Sucuri will charge you $299 for their clean your hacked website service for example. And the risk of the hack would have been reduced drastically if you used a professional and undertook to maintain or pay someone to maintain your site.
I definitely recommend that my clients sign up to a maintenance programme to keep their site updated. There are professional services out there that can do this for you. I offer maintenance to all my clients as well. The first 3 months of maintenance is free for my clients. Thereafter, most maintenance plans start at around $49 a month or so and go up from there depending on the site complexity and size.
But I haven’t even changed anything yet!
You can see how the costs have already added up rather rapidly … and you haven’t even changed anything on your site yet! Fast forward 6 months and you realize you want to change where your logo is or the layout of your home page, or you want to create a landing page, or add marketing automation, or a subscription service … and you suddenly realise the theme and plugins you’ve chosen doesn’t make that very easy, now you have to pay a web developer an hourly rate to do what you want. Let me tell you if that web developer didn’t build the site they are going to charge you a premium hourly rate because they probably aren’t familiar with the theme or some of the plugins you may have chosen and they are anticipating hours of breaking and fixing time to achieve what you need.
What did those costs add up to?
You do the maths, I would say you are in for at least $200 worth of outlay initially, even going the DIY route and making NO mistakes in your selection! And monthly costs of at least $60 if nothing needs to be fixed or changed! Throw in a few poor choices of theme and plugins and you could rapidly be heading over the $1000 mark! And that isn’t even factoring in your time!!!
I’m not here to scaremonger, I’ve just been around long enough and am experienced enough that I’ve had to fix A LOT of broken websites for clients and other less experienced web developers.
Here in South Africa there’s an Afrikaans saying, “Goedkoop koop is duurkoop!”, the direct translation of which is roughly “Buying cheap is buying expensive!” and means you need to be careful when choosing the cheap route as it often ends up being more expensive than the route you initially thought was more expensive. We’ve all been there … seen that cheap item … bought it and had to replace it with the expensive one we compared it to in the first place after very little time!
It pains me to see clients who have invested time and money on a solution and have to then pay me to start from scratch to do this website thing right!
I’m super passionate about what I do … I know you are super passionate about what you do … so, if you’ve read this far and are ready to start your one day website development process with me, click below to download our preparation guide and let’s get working on your outstanding website!
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