Cost of Building a WordPress Website

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Dan Galorath presses the issue of website creation - a weighty topic.

At Galorath we eat, sleep, and dream project success. Most everything is equated to cost, schedule, risk management and measurement. In this regard we have had a number of questions about WordPress and its uses, cost and risk. This blog introduces the topic.

WordPress Is A Viable Solution for Websites

As I understand it, WordPress runs about 25% of the world’s websites. And because it is free, the barriers to entry are virtually non-existent.

I have worked with at least seven organizations with some kind of revenue intent converting their websites to WordPress over the past few years, not counting those my kids have built. I watched my own organization, Galorath Incorporated, go through a WordPress conversion as well.

I generally helped or managed these as a favor to those organizations or people. And, yes, we could use SEER-IT to estimate the costs, but costs are minimal and data is plentiful, so it is probably just as easy to use simple heuristics.

Implementation Costs

WordPress sites are not hard to build. But novices can work themselves into corners that can be a mess.

Content is king… People often look at the cost of a site as the IT costs of installing and configuring it. But that is not difficult. Producing correct content is the most important element.

Do It Yourself

The least expensive WordPress site I have been involved with cost $10. It used a free template, which I paid someone in the UK to tailor. I could have done so, but it didn’t make sense with $10 startup cost paid to another.

Professional Website Building and Porting

Our own galorath.com site cost us $2,500 to move from its prior content management system to WordPress. This included the template, protected content, the plugins such as membership, Google Analytics, SEO, etc., and porting over 200 pages from the prior content management system, and ensuring they were viable. This was a bargain price. And they were slow to deliver. The largest quote we had was from websitemovers.com, something like $4,700 for the same task. We have expanded this site over time including items such as an eLearning system for course delivery. This eLearning plugin (LearnDash) cost about $150 plus something like $250 for a professional to install it. And we probably pay about $500 to $1,000 annually for other site enhancements.

Another site: iceaaonline.org converted to WordPress when a dispute arose with the former static HTML programmer. WordPress freed them of that burden. I can’t remember the conversion, but it was a few thousand dollars. And I am sure it has paid back with the current ease of change and enhancement.

My martial arts school site elitetrainingcenter.net conversion from static HTML to WordPress was fixed priced at $1,000, including everything from installing WordPress, tailoring a chosen theme and porting probably 30 pages and a blog.

Another site (name withheld) that is about to be reworked has a quote of $5,000. The site has little content at this time, so most of the effort will be template and plugins. This isn’t a bargain, but isn’t unreasonable either. The big advantage is the existing relationship between the WordPress implementer and the internal customer.

Typical WordPress Development Cost

From elegantthemes.com we find rough pricing for those not wanting to “do it yourself”:

“Hourly: $50-$100 per hour

Flat Rate: $500-$1000+

Monthly: $30-$50/month (in addition to the initial hourly or flat rate fees)

A-la-cart Extras: $100, $200, etc. per strategy document, training course, and so on.

Rough Totals: $500-$2,500+ (plus possible monthly or a-la-cart services)”

websitebuildersexpert.com states that “if you want something really unique it can cost a lot.  But typical website building for a really nice site could cost about:

  • Premium Template and Alterations $300-$1,000
  • Website Building costs $500-$5,000 (depending on how much content you have and how many pages). Read more: How much does a website cost

Custom WordPress Development Cost

There are few organizations that need totally custom WordPress developments.  If they do go forth with such any custom WordPress design and development work falls within the following price ranges:

  • Custom WordPress Theme: $3,000-$6,000 for design and development (why a custom theme when tailoring $60 themes is so effective)
  • Custom WordPress Website: $6,000-$15,000 (for design and development, with custom plugin functionality)
  • Custom WordPress eCommerce Site: $6,000-$20,000 (why when existing plugins are hundreds of dollars)
  • Custom WordPress Web App: $15,000-$60,000+ (this is not for the faint of heart…. Building a plugin, unless the goal is to sell it. and there are so many excellent plugins I can’t see many needs…)

Virtually No One Needs Custom WordPress Development

Perhaps the New York Times, in their WordPress development did spend the dollars for custom development and custom web apps. But they likely developed the site in-house. It could be done if they started from scratch without a template (I don’t know why anyone would do that) and developed custom software (plugins) rather than using WordPress plugins… This is also a recipe for disaster as maintenance could be a continuing drain.  And there are WordPress plugins for nearly everything.  HOWEVER, if one takes the view that IF we developed from scratch something might be worth big dollars and we can do the same thing using existing WordPress infrastructure and plugins, then I suppose this is the same argument SAP and others use… Use our existing software, tailor it, and save most of the cost.  But SAP charges a license fee as our SEER and do most others that use that logic.

"If You Build It" Doesn’t Mean They Will Come (Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search)

Pay Per Click (or Pay Per Impression)

Two organizations pay thousands each month for Google Pay-Per-Click Plus with outside management fees. Neither can prove Google Pay-Per-Click has a positive return on investment, but both can see MANY clicks on their ads. The assumption here is that using Google Pay-Per-Click gets the site to show up where YOU want rather than just where organic search puts you.

One of the challenges with pay per click is determining the value. Number of clicks is a widely used measure. And clearly if someone clicked they were interested. One difficulty is people searching for the organization then clicking when they are not new to the site. For example, at one time the martial arts school was getting, and paying for clicks from existing students that just searched to find out what time class was.

Pay Per Call

We have tried this on two sites and it was a disaster in both cases. Again, students using the paid call number to get information, etc. There must be cases where it does work.

Pay Per Impression

One, a worldwide non-profit organization tried Multiview.com, which promised a huge influx of traffic. Three months of use and $6,000 later there was zero effectivity so they canceled.

Yelp

Three of the above sites were convinced by Yelp to pay for monthly advertising and were put on contracts. In each case they did so with promises of huge revenue. And in two cases they were afraid if they didn’t pay their negative reviews would be highlighted while their positive reviews downplayed.  None of the three organizations renewed their contracts with yelp.com after their initial, disappointing, results.

Local Search Engine Optimization

One organization pays for Google local search engine optimization. That has been a clear win, with each of their locations appearing near the top of search page one.  But it took a specialist to make that happen.  I tried to implement it for them and was not successful.  Then I hired an SEO firm that was not successful.  Third time was a charm as the local SEO organization has produced so well.

Risks

Poor Implementations

WordPress isn't complicated but there a lot of things one can do that wont work some of the time. It is best to use someone that knows how to deal with WordPress if doing any customization. Do it yourself is OK for simple sites with standard templates. And you can buy amazing templates for just a few dollars. For example elitetrainingcenter.net looks really good in my opinion. The template (there are thousands to choose from) cost under $60.

Version Upgrades and incompatible Plug-ins

Just recently one of our sites stopped showing the pictures associated with blog entries. It took a few days for anyone of us to notice. It was easily repaired but it was a surprise. Also occasionally plugins are no longer maintained. Another recent surprise on one o our sites was google analytics stopping working. It appeared someone had purposely turned off the plugin. It was a simple matter of turning it back on. But WordPress is not “set and forget” like static HTML might be.

Vulnerability

Because WordPress is so widely used it is constantly attacked by those with malicious intent. This means it should be upgraded regularly. Some hosts provide automatic updates. But when an update occurs that could cause difficulty with a plugin.

There are several approaches to mitigating such risks.  Several of the sites I have been involved in use sucuri.net, which scans and protects.