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WordPress is Free, so Shouldn’t a WordPress-Based Website be Cheap?

WordPress logoThere’s a question that has come up more than once!

The answer, of course, is that a WordPress website can be cheap – if cheap is what you want.

But, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Here’s how a WordPress site can be cheap:

  • Find and sign up for free website hosting
  • Download and install WordPress (or use the 1-click installation option if your free hosting provider offers it)
  • Find and install a free or cheap theme
  • Install a few free plugins
  • Write some content
  • Hit ‘Publish’

And here’s at least some of what you will get by following that process (you may not get all of these, but you will definitely get some of them):

  • A website that loads slowly
  • A website without any specific objective
  • A website that doesn’t convert
  • Advertisements that have nothing to do with your business appearing above and/or below your pages
  • Slow (or possibly no) response to help requests when you need something
  • A design that’s probably being used by hundreds, if not thousands of other websites
  • A design that will inevitably require you to compromise in some way on your design requirements
  • Weak content that’s not structured for the web
  • Poor or no security safeguards which means your site will be wiped out if it’s hacked, forcing you to start again

Please don’t get me wrong – if that meets the needs of your business there is nothing wrong with it. But it depends entirely on what you want your website to do.

Here, however, is why a good WordPress-based website is not cheap

To fail to plan is a plan to fail

A website should be an integral part of your business’ growth strategy and, as such, it should have a specific role, with a specific overall objective. Each page on the site should have its own objective that drives towards the overall objective.

So the first thing we look for when talking to a new client is to understand what they want their website to do.

Is it going to sell products? Services? To which target market?

It’s critically important that a website is planned properly. Its role within a company’s overall growth strategy must be clearly agreed and understood by everyone involved.

Content is king, and design is the king’s clothes

The king can be dressed in the finest of robes, but if he’s either a psychopathic dictator or a complete wimp his clothes won’t matter a whit. His subjects will either be terrified or contemptuous of him.

The task of a website is to convert, whether that is product or service sales, or newsletter signups. If a website is not converting it’s merely an expense.

And it’s the content, not the design, that will define whether or not it converts.

So what is your content strategy? What is your key message? Who will write or record it? How experienced are they in producing content for the web?

These are questions that we ask prospective clients but to which we rarely get clear answers. In most cases the production of content, within a content strategy, is barely given a thought.

But without a clear content strategy and good content, the website will not convert – it will be nothing more than an expense.

And what about the king’s clothes (design)?

Design is secondary to content in the job of getting conversions but it’s still important. What happens if no one can find your critical content because of poor design?

Where do you place your calls to action? If there’s only one message you want your visitors to take away from your site what would it be and where would you place it..?

If no one can see your most powerful content because the design and user experience is so poor, then that content is wasted.

So thought and planning must be given to the user experience, or what we call the ‘user journey’.

Whereabouts on your website do you want your visitors to end up? (It’s usually the sign up page or the shop page, or the page where the conversion happens).

Once you know where you want them to end up how do you get them there, from wherever they entered the site, in the quickest and easiest way possible?

And remember: a website visitor can enter your site through any of the pages, not just the home page.

Content is king, but if the king is wearing only a pair of overalls he will not be recognised as such.

WARNING! Attack page ahead!

Ah yes – this can happen to any website at any time: it gets hacked.

And the ways hackers can get in are numerous.

Earlier, in the section on how you can get a cheap WordPress website, I talked about adding a few free plugins.

Well, there was a period during which if you had added the SweetCAPTCHA plugin you would have found your website infested with Adware. I read this article recently that discusses that.

There are myriad ways in which plugins, even good ones, can let hackers into your site. This article describes how even trusted plugins can become open doors for hackers – click here.

Free themes, too, often have malware code inserted by their creators. And then you have those free website hosting providers, who don’t take as much care over security as their more expensive competitors.

The use of weak passwords is still frighteningly widespread – and using weak usernames and passwords on your WordPress admin login page, using non-secure FTP connections and so on, is like handing the key to your front door to the neighbourhood thief.

And then, of course, you can go through the process of inserting malware into your own website by installing malevolent free themes or plugins.

The point being this: a cheap WordPress website, hosted on free hosting, is like a beacon for the hackers and, once your website is hacked, you will be wiped off the search engines results pages until you can prove to their satisfaction that you’ve cleaned everything up.

Even if you’re not concerned with getting visitors from the search engines (“. . . my website is only going to be an online brochure . . .”), people typing in your URL themselves will still be blocked from visiting your site.

Your more expensive WordPress website will have security against hackers built in and support processes that will enable you to recover from a hack quickly and efficiently, if or when it happens (some details on that here).

So where does the cost of a WordPress website come from?

The short answer is: in addressing the points I’ve covered earlier!

But, more specifically, here is what drives the cost of a WordPress website:

  • Developing a clear plan for your website and for each page of your website
  • Developing content that converts and is structured for the web
  • Developing a unique design that incorporates your company’s branding (colours, logo and fonts)
  • Ensuring that your key takeaway message is placed so that it is seen by as many visitors as possible
  • Developing the best possible user-journey
  • Ensuring that the tone of the website matches the tone of your company (a jaunty home furnishing company has a very different tone from a conservative construction company)
  • Installing plugins that are reliable, properly supported and free of malware
  • Same with a theme (although we don’t use pre-made themes at Abledragon – we design all our websites from the ground up)
  • Locating reliable, safe hosting
  • Adding additional security against hackers
  • Providing support processes that enable you to recover quickly and efficiently from a hack

Each of those steps will most likely take a lot longer than you originally imagine, both on the part of you, the customer, and the consultant developing your website.

I had a discussion a while ago with a customer who was convinced it should take no longer than a couple of weeks to complete the re-design of their site. “All the content is there”, they said, “all you have to do is set up the new design”.

“3 months”, I replied, “based on my past experience”.

But I was wrong. It took 5 months.

Benefit of WordPress

So what, you are probably asking, is the benefit of basing a website on WordPress?

It is this: you are getting a powerful content management system for free, that would otherwise cost you many thousands of dollars.

This allows you to add content, organise content and publish content through a user-friendly administration panel, without any coding knowledge, whenever you want to, as many times as you want to.

And, since keeping a website’s content up to date is becoming ever more important, that is a powerful benefit.

But, more than that, it is a lot cheaper for us (and, therefore, for you) to develop a website on WordPress than to build it by hand, because we don’t have to build all the underlying code.

Summary

So to answer the original question: yes, you can have a cheap WordPress website, if that’s what you want.

But if your website is to perform an important role within your company’s overall business growth strategy, then you will need something that is professionally done, incorporating all the points I covered earlier and more.

That takes time, knowledge and experience – all of which cost money.

If you have questions or need clarification on anything we would be delighted to help – to contact us please:

Cheers,

Martin Malden

Here to help: Hi, I’m Martin Malden. If you’re worried about the ever-increasing flow of new security threats online, don’t have the time to maintain your site properly, or you could use some WordPress training, please get in touch.