Website Costs Are Also About Vision and Story — Not Just Budget
Way back when, American astronauts needed to be able to write in space. The zero-gravity environment, however, made writing with standard ink pens a rather messy proposition. Researchers spent millions of dollars, and many years in research and development, to come up with a fancy zero-gravity ink pen. Up on the International Space Station, the astronauts proudly showed off their newfangled pens to the Russian cosmonauts, bragging about how much money it took to develop the new writing technology. The cosmonauts laughed and handed the Americans a graphite pencil, as if to say, “here’s our technology — it cost 25 cents.”
While this widely shared story isn’t exactly true, as Scientific American explains, there’s a valuable lesson business owners can learn from it: a big budget and unlimited resources can sometimes be a liability, not an asset. Why? It can lead you to overestimate the resources you need to accomplish a task in a time- and cost-effective manner.
This is also a lesson that applies to building a website. If you’re a small business owner looking to establish a web presence, the vision and story you bring to your site will likely count for a lot more than the budget you put into it.
Not your typical MVP
Let’s say you’re a business owner and you want to build a website. What approach would you take if you had a gajillion dollars in your website budget? On the opposite end of the spectrum, what would you do if you only had 25 cents? (Okay, maybe a little more than that — you get the point.)
With a big budget, you might go to a fancy marketing agency, slap a blank check on the table, and say, “build it!” With a more realistic budget, however, you’d need to put on your DIY thinking cap and ask, “What’s the minimum required for a website that’s good enough for what I actually need?” In business parlance, Chris Lema explains, this is called your “minimum viable product” (MVP). And yes, even without being a techie or knowing how to code, you can get a solid MVP website launched in a way that will leave you smiling like the mythical Russian cosmonaut holding his pencil.
Define your MVP
What should you focus on when launching an MVP website? Well, your site should do what it needs to do without breaking your budget or adding unnecessary features that can cause delays. There’s no exact formula — your answers will vary depending on your skills, knowledge, and business, among other things. However, there are three things to consider that will help keep your new website’s costs down and get it launched in a timely manner.
- What sets you apart? There may be other people, businesses, or bloggers doing something similar to you, but there’s nobody exactly like you. Put that difference into words and put those words on your website, front and center. (If it’s not too difficult, use visual aids like photos or videos to tell your story.) If you need help explaining who you are and what you do, consider posing this as a question to your followers on Facebook or Twitter. Let them tell you in their own words why they love, value, and trust you.
- What do your supporters need to do/know instantly? Are you putting up a website about your restaurant? Then they need to know what food you serve, what your hours are, where you’re located, and your prices — right now. Don’t make fans click through 20 pages on your website to find that information. Hone in on the action you want people to take when they get to your site and provide exactly what they need to know as simply and effectively as possible.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel (or the space pencil)! You don’t have to spend weeks, months, or years learning how to code or master web design before you can launch your website. There are many excellent — and customizable — website themes available for a low cost or free. If you use a popular platform like WordPress.com, the themes are even categorized and searchable by business type. So, for example, if you’re launching a photography website, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by choosing a photography theme. Otherwise, you already have the technical skills you need to get your site launched.
Avoid overthinking your website costs and focus on your MVP at this stage. Consider using a customizable website theme or template built for your specific type of business. Focus on what sets you or your business apart and how your website can provide your supporters exactly the information they need. Once you’ve considered these big-picture aspects, you’re ready to dive into the budget details.
What Actual Costs Do Need to be Considered in Your Budget?
As we mentioned in the beginning, WordPress itself has no cost, but running a WordPress website may involve a number of factors that cost money.
- Domain Name – The virtual web address you register with ICANN
- Web Hosting – The cost of the server resources and storage
- WordPress Plugins – The extensions and add-ons that add more features to your site
- Site Security – Protection from accidents or cyber attacks
- Technical Support – Regular maintenance and troubleshooting of issues
Not all of these will necessarily take a ding out of your wallet. For example, you may choose a free theme rather than a premium one. But depending on your needs, each of those might come with a price tag.
Next, we’ll cover all that you need to know about the cost of these different components and how you can build and run a WordPress website that offers you the most value for your money. So let’s start with the first aspect.
A domain name is your website’s address on the web (for example, “WordPress.com”). It’s the first thing that people see about your website, and it sticks with your brand for a long time. That’s why picking the right domain name is crucial.
There are two parts of this address that contribute to the WordPress domain cost: the main domain name and the top-level domain name (TLD) (for example, “.com”). Let’s tackle each of these separately.
Cost of the Domain Name
Since the launch of the internet nearly three decades ago, hundreds of thousands of domain names have been purchased online. As a result, most of the simple and obvious names like “cars” or “shoes” have already been taken.
In some cases, it may be possible to buy a domain name from the entity that already owns it, but it’s going to cost a lot of money.
However, if you’re trying to purchase a unique name for your own website that anyone hasn’t taken yet, the cost of the name itself will be negligible. What matters then is the cost of TLD.
Just like you need an office space in the real world, your website requires an online space in the virtual world. In other words, it needs to be hosted on a server that will keep all your website’s files and data.
The better hosting you get, the more files you can store and the more traffic your website will be able to handle. The aspects of your hosting plan that affect the cost include:
Type of Hosting
At a basic level, there are three main types of WordPress hosting:
Shared Hosting: In this type of web hosting, your website shares a server with other sites. This is an economical option, but it does make your website vulnerable to issues with other websites that are part of the same server and can cause slowdowns if other sites are experiencing high traffic.
Dedicated Hosting: In this type of hosting, you are leasing an entire server for just your website from a hosting provider. This can give you more flexibility and control over how your hosting functions, depending on which web host you use. However, it’s an expensive option and mostly unnecessary for small businesses or bloggers.
Managed Hosting: Managed hosting providers are companies dedicated to websites. They configure their servers specifically to the WordPress platform, along with additional features like automatic upgrades and dedicated technical support.
The more storage space you need for your website and the more websites you want to host, the higher the cost of hosting will be.
Speed & Performance
A hosting environment that makes your website load quickly needs additional bandwidth that can add to your cost. You’ll also want your website to have an uptime as close to 100% as possible.
Cost of Website Security
There are several aspects to take care of when securing your website, many of which can be handled by your hosting provider if you have a managed hosting package.
For security features that are not already a part of your hosting, you can install certain WordPress plugins to get those features. These include:
- Spam Protection: You can install anti-spam plugins to remove spam comments.
- Malware Protection: This plugin protects your website against malicious and dangerous interference.
- Website Backup: Automatic daily backups are essential in case something goes wrong and you want to restore your website from an earlier point in time.
- Activity Log: This means keeping a record of all the activity on your website so anomalies can be detected.
- SSL Certificate: This is a data file that encrypts users’ connection to your website so that any data they send (such as credit card details) is kept private. Not having an SSL certificate can trigger a warning in most web browsers that your website is not secure. So having SSL enabled is essential to establish credibility and provide a good user experience. A basic SSL certificate starts from around $50 per year, but it can go up to $600 on the higher end.
As we discussed, there are security plugins available to tackle these aspects, and your cost will depend on the pricing and feature set of these plugins.
Dealing with all these aspects one by one to make your WordPress site secure can be daunting. That’s why all sites have the security features we discussed above ready to use by default, along with a free SSL certificate.
Cost of Support
Building and running a website is a lot easier with WordPress than it would be to code a site from scratch. But it can still be challenging. Dealing with different plugins, themes, and technical issues can be tricky, and you may not always know what to do.
On top of that, WordPress is free, open-source software. So it doesn’t come with a dedicated support team. However, you can turn to the following entities for help, each of which can incur certain costs depending on your existing arrangement with them.
- Your Hosting Provider: Most reputable hosting providers offer support for hosting issues.
- Theme/Plugin Developer: A free plugin or theme typically offers no support, whereas a premium theme or plugin bundles a 6-month or 1-year support into the cost of the product.
- Your Own IT Staff: If you are part of a medium or large enterprise, you might have an in-house IT department or web designers to help with troubleshooting and optimization.
- 3rd-Party Support Companies: If none of the above options are on the table, then you can seek support from a WordPress expert or web developer.
In terms of support, a managed hosting provider like WordPress.com can make running your website hassle-free. It offers a dedicated team of WordPress experts who can help with any problem you might have. You get various levels of support depending on your pricing plan:
- Personal plan and above – unlimited email support
- Premium plan and above – live chat support
- Business plan and above – 24/7 priority live chat support
- eCommerce plan – personalized expert support sessions
Now that you’ve seen some pricing details, let’s broaden the scope back out again.
How much will your particular website cost?
Whether you create a blog to share photos from your backpacking trip through South America, or an e-commerce store to sell your homegrown spice blends, WordPress offers several tiered plans to fit your website needs.
So, how much does a website on WordPress cost, and which plan is the right one for you?
WordPress pricing depends on your site needs.
- Do you want to create a website for fun or to have a creative outlet?
- Do you want to build an online portfolio or personalized resume?
- Are you hoping to make some extra money on the side?
- Or do you want to launch a business to sell your products and services?
With these questions in mind, let’s break down cost by category.
Small business owners
Finally, the most robust and versatile option is the Business plan. It’s ideal for small business owners who want customized themes and full control over the design of their websites. At this level, you have the option to install plugins and implement Google Analytics so that you can track website statistics to glean insights about your customers.
A Business plan includes access to everything found at the other plan levels, in addition to search engine optimization tools to help your business climb up in search results.
So How Much Does A WordPress Site Cost?
By now you know that it’s hard to zero in on an exact number, but you can definitely estimate a base cost by accounting for basic factors such as domain name and hosting plan. In addition, you keep a cushion budget for things like themes, plugins, security, and more.
WordPress websites for any budget provide you the best value for your money.