WordPress is free, right? Well, sure, but do you know what you’re not paying for? WordPress is a fantastic content management system (CMS), a great place to start. In fact, we use it almost exclusively. It’s a solid foundation, but from there, it takes a lot of bricks to build a functioning, appealing, user friendly website that stands a chance at getting noticed so it can serve its purpose…bringing you business.
When you pay for a professionally developed and/or professionally designed WordPress site, the end product is far beyond what any Joe Schmo could go out and grab for free and plop on the internet. Here’s what you’re paying for and why you should.
Unless you just want a website for your own viewing pleasure, you will need a domain so users can find you. Without a domain name, your site will be located at a temporary url, such as: 476.792.469/~genericsite. A wisely selected domain name will contain your company name or a keyword that describes your product or service, such as: AdroitCreativeSolutions.com (our company name). A domain comes with a yearly fee…and if it contains popular keywords, pricing can go through the roof. So, it’s a good idea to get assistance from someone who knows how to get the best bang for your buck.
The files for your website reside on a server. We call this server your website’s host. A hosting account is a paid service because your website files are taking up limited space, much like rent for an apartment. You want to be careful when selecting a hosting company; just like landlords, some are better than others. If your host is not performing regular updates and backups, your site’s security could be at risk. Adroit Creative Solutions is a host you can trust: check out our plans and pricing.
A theme is more than just the visual appearance of a website. If you own a restaurant, the details and features your site needs to offer won’t necessarily fit into the template used by the restaurant down the street because your business and customers are unique. After a free template becomes so popular, users start to recognize it and it can come off as a cheap, lazy cookie cutter website…that’s not you and not the way you want your company represented. More importantly, free themes can have issues with security and functionality. Creating a custom theme requires the time and skill of an experienced developer, but it will be worth it when you have a website custom designed for your business to meet your customers’ needs.
Plugins are required to add design features or user interaction to any WordPress website, whether it’s a custom or themed site. Even something as simple as organizing your content into columns requires a plugin. Plugins provide capability, but still require some skill to create functionality. For instance, there are plugins for easy to build forms, but the form still has to be built in a user friendly way. Plugins are also used to put the framework in place for an eCommerce site, but again, customization and configuration is still needed to create a user friendly experience.
When you see the price tag on some plugins, it’s tempting to go for a free option that seems to offer similar features. The problem is that many free plugins have low security and offer little to no support when something goes wrong or isn’t working right. Some free plugins are pirated and it’s not easy to tell until your site suffers the consequences. Experience is the best defense. Someone who has worked on many websites with lots of different plugins knows which ones have a solid track record and which they’ve seen lead to chaos.
This one may seem obvious, but its value is often overlooked. You can’t just present a website template to the world; your site needs substance. If you’re a master wordsmith, you may want to supply your own copy, but be honest with yourself. Someone with experience writing for websites knows how to use the appropriate voice, give users the information they’re looking for without losing their attention, and represent your company with legitimacy and professionalism.
Responsive design means making the framework compatible on all mobile devices. This is imperative. Non-responsive websites are punished by Google because they provide such a frustrating experience for mobile users. Code needs to be modified to work on all mobile devices seamlessly, including horizontal and vertical layouts for phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc. Code work is not for everyone. If it’s not for you, hiring an expert is well worth it to avoid frustrating users when they try to access your site from their phone or iPad.
This step cannot be skipped, but not many people know what goes into it. All forms and links need to be tested, along with browser compatibility (ex: IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari), mobile compatibility, site navigation, checkout process and more. Essentially, a good website designer will interact with the site in every possible way, trying to break it or find any flaws a user may run into. You don’t want to be missing out on leads because of a glitch in your contact form, and you definitely don’t want to learn about any oversights from an angry customer. Knowing how to cover all the bases is simply something that comes with experience.
Once your site is up and running, it’s important to make sure it continues to run smoothly. This doesn’t happen automatically. Keeping tabs on WordPress updates and performing regular backups are just a few measures that need to be taken to keep your site secure and functioning properly.
Hopefully this list justifies, or at least provides an understanding of, website cost. If you have questions or are in need of any of these services, contact Tree Ring Digital. We offer everything from hosting, design and development and responsive design to content creation and SEO services to make your website a success.