I better start with some honesty here, I can’t directly answer this question in a blog post. You could have one WordPress website that costs nothing, and another that costs hundreds of thousands. That said, I can provide some context as to why things cost what they do, and lay out some options for you if you wanted to save money building a site.
Firstly the basics. WordPress is a free and open source platform. You can download WordPress right now for free (here), set up Mamp on your computer (here) and have a WordPress website running for free within minutes. But that’s just the default WordPress installation running locally on your computer.
In order to have something that looks the way you want, fast and accessible to your customers, with the content you want and the desired features, you are going to have to do some work.
These are the basic 5 things that cost you money when it comes to launching a website using WordPress.
If you want customers to see your site, you can’t just have it tun on your computer, you need it to be hosted somewhere up on the web. This can be done using an entry level shared hosting provider for as little as $1.99 per month. Or you could pay hundreds or thousands to host a large, high traffic site on a properly managed WordPress hosting platform.
Generally though for most people, hosting is pretty cheap. In the range of $10 – $100 / month and you’re away.
The inbuilt WordPress installation includes a basic theme to get you going. And you can configure it to some extent – add your logo, change the fonts etc. But really most people want their website to look a certain way. That’s particularly true if you’re a business and you have a brand to uphold.
You have 3 options here.
- If you pay a designer to design you a theme from scratch, it can be quite expensive – I’ve seen pricing from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. When I had WP Curve we paid our designer $10,000 just to design our site. The WP Master design cost me nothing (more on that below). Then if it’s a custom design, you need to pay a developer to develop the theme for you, which I’ll explain below.
- You can find a WordPress theme that looks more or less like what you want and just tweak it a bit for your needs. This is what I’ve done on my personal blog for example (check it out at dannorris.me). The site is mainly a blog so it’s a free minimalist blogging theme that I’ve tweaked slightly. Not only did the theme cost me nothing but it costs nothing to develop it since it’s already developed. Not all themes are free but most are pretty cheap, maxing out at around $100.
- You can find a theme that has powerful drag and drop features, and you can essentially configure the design yourself right from within WordPress and make the site look however you want it to look. That’s what I did with WP Master, the site uses Pro / X Theme and I used their inbuilt content elements to build the site in a matter of hours. Of course if you have a savvy and honest developer they can do this as well quite efficiently. Pro / X Theme is $100, and you pay it annually to keep updates going.
As mentioned above, if you have a fully custom designed theme you then have to develop it into a workable theme. You can either do this by creating a theme from scratch, creating a ‘child’ theme out of an existing one, or potentially by configuring a powerful drag and drop page builder in a way that it looks just like your design.
Most agencies will probably build the theme from scratch and it can be quite expensive. All of this is a big consideration in working out how important it is for you to have a site that looks a very specific way.
So for this one if you want to save money, use a sophisticated page builder theme and do it all yourself! But if you want to get someone to help, it may not be cheap.
The blank WordPress installation has a few temporary pages but your site will need specific content about your business – possibly even articles or blog posts to help you rank better in Google. When you build a new site, often the agency will build these content pages for you, but the process is quite inefficient. If you are up for doing it yourself and you have a trustworthy and reliable agency or partner, you can just get them to get the theme ready for you and you do the rest.
This is also where a powerful drag and drop page builder can come in, because it’s possible to make things look more or less however you want them to with enough configuration.
So again on this one, the choice is yours. Pay an agency or freelancer to add the content for you (at least initially) and expect to pay a fair bit. Or get stuck in yourself and it costs you nothing but your time.
Most websites will want more than just pages and posts. Back in the day each feature had to be coded from scratch, our purchased as ‘add ons’. These days, with WordPress you just install plugins. Almost anything you can think to do on a website, there will be a plugin that will enable you to do it. But like the other items in this list, you need to know your stuff to do it yourself.
So again it’s how long is a piece of string. Do you want to brave it yourself and install and configure things yourself, or pay a developer to install them for you and fall back on their expertise to know which ones are best and how to set them up.
The good news is building a website in WordPress in 2023 is cheaper and easier than ever. This website for example only cost me $100. It uses Pro / X Theme, I configured it all myself and I used my existing hosting plan to host it. They key is to understand where your skills and desire are to do things yourself, and how much external help you need.