The Real Cost of a WordPress Site Explained

Some say that a custom website is a business investment, others insist that a theme will do exactly the same for a fraction of the cost. So who is right?

The answer is simple – it depends on how much risk you’re willing to take. When you chose a cheaper option, you’re playing Russian roulette. It’s nice to think that you saved money until the theme’s support team sends you an email saying that your modification request will cost thousands of dollars.

If your theme developer doesn’t provide customization services, you’re a left with two options: you can either live with a non-functioning website or hire a developer. And there is no guarantee that a developer can do the job since it takes too much time to decipher the code someone else has written.

Of course, this doesn’t happen to every business owner. Some people choose the right WordPress theme to avoid future complications. But even then, the risk is high.

In this article, we’re going to explore the two processes: the low-cost process, that involves buying a ready-made theme, and a custom design process.

The low-cost process

This is how most business owners think:

  • I need to get a website up as fast as possible
  • I need to spend the minimum amount of time
  • I want to spend minimum effort
  • I want to keep the budget extremely low

Everyone wants maximum results with minimal resources. But is it a realistic expectation? Just like you can’t expect to find a high performing laptop for $100, you can’t create a winning website for a penny.

Time, effort and budget constraints are prioritized while getting a working website isn’t on the agenda at all. But isn’t the whole point of getting a website is to make it work for your audience and your business?

Apparently, there are a lot of misconceptions about websites. They are seen as nothing more than a stepping stone to success. In the online world, however, a working website that drives traffic and converts, is your single point of contact with the consumer. It’s both the first thing and the last thing people see when they make a purchase.

The problems that occur as a result are minor but when combined together, they can undermine your business:

  1. The theme doesn’t fit the company’s brand. There is not a single business owner who wouldn’t want to change something in the theme design. But when a couple of blocks are moved around, the perfect composition gets ruined.
  2. The copy is redundant. When you deal with templates, a web copy is created based on the placeholder texts. The copywriter comes up with long sentences and superfluous words that don’t add anything to the brand.
  3. The site gets hacked. If you didn’t care about the website from the start, you probably don’t care much about its maintenance either. The site might get hacked and you can lose all the valuable content.
  4. You end up neglecting your business needs. Small business owners wear many hats, but they often don’t realize how much time it takes to install and customize the theme. You spend hours trying to tweak one line of code, while your clients are bombarding your inbox.

The correct process

Here is the correct website design and development process, that allows you to get a site that engages and converts.

Step 1. Discovery
The website creation process starts with a goal in mind. Once you envision the goal you can lay down the steps to achieve it. The goal is your North Star that informs all decisions.

Knowing your target audience is another aspect of web design that can make or break the project. You have to put yourself into customers’ shoes to create a website that propels visitors to action.

Step 2. Wireframing
You want to take customers on a journey, and by the end of it, they must have an immense desire to buy your product. Not all websites need to convert, some carry an informational value. Your goal is to identify what your target audience expects from a website and find the right structure.

But even informational websites can be improved with some psychological tricks, that ensure the visitors pay attention to the information.

Step 3. Copywriting
You might be surprised, but copywriters work best when they are given a blank page. A blank page allows for creativity, while a prefilled dummy text takes the focus away from creativity towards “need to fill up blank spaces” mindset.

Some WordPress templates already contain text relating to your industry. And if you’re using that template, your copywriter will just take the text and rewrite it. And it won’t be the copywriter’s fault either. Because this is how our minds work – we are wired to seek the easiest solutions.

Blank pages are intimidating, but they force copywriters to see the bigger picture.

Step 4. Design
Wireframes and copy allow designers to focus on presentation. The best designers can do both wireframing and design, but often by the time they finish prototyping, they start worrying too much about functionality and less about visual appeal. It’s hard to keep the balance. That’s why it’s best to have a UX designer and a graphic designer in the team.

Step 5. Development
Here you need to involve the whole team for optimal results. You want the team members to specialize at the start but as the launch date approaches, everyone has to look at what they’ve created and adjust their work based on the intra-team feedback.

As you can see, each stage of website creation process requires the involvement of an expert, be it a UX designer, a copywriter, a designer, a developer or a project manager.

The cost of a custom website

Depending on your needs the cost of a custom website can range from $3000 to $30 000 and more {INSERT AGENCY’S ESTIMATIONS}.

The cost is usually determined by making the list of features and then multiplying the hourly rate of each person involved (UX designer, copywriter, graphic designer, developer and project manager) by the number of projected hours.

A WordPress site can’t cost $100 because even with low hourly rates, the amount of time that goes into planning, copywriting, design and development is calculated in weeks. It takes on average 40 hours for planning and wireframing, 80 hours for copywriting, 80 hours for design and 120 hours for development.

WordPress templates are certainly cheap, but they employ the scale effect – the theme owner has to make at least 1000 sales before they can return the initial investment.

When you decide to work with a theme, you turn the correct design process upside down, ignoring your business needs and goals.

But let’s be objective here and list the problems that might occur with custom design:

  • You have deliverables – when you hire a team, they will do their best to launch the site in the shortest timeframe possible, so you’ll have to contribute and follow a project plan.
  • The custom design takes more time and costs more money.

Despite those cons, the advantages of a custom design are obvious:

  • There is less risk of a security breach
  • You get a unique website unlike no other, that helps you stand out from the competition
  • Your website is up to date with the latest technology and is performing at the optimal speed
  • You have a website that works, converts and positively affects your bottom line.

Final Word

The lesson to be learned here can be summed up in three words – make strategic decisions.

If you’re planning to get a one-page informational website, there is no need for custom design.
But also keep in mind, that as the business grows, you will want to add features and make design tweaks. Some WordPress templates don’t allow for significant modifications, so you’ll have to recreate the site from scratch.

If you’re getting the majority of leads from online resources or if your business model is solely based on your website performance, consider a custom built website. You might spend more money but you will also save yourself a lot of headache in the long run.