How Much Does It Cost to Build a WordPress Website?

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All wannabe and first-time site owners want to know one thing. How much does it cost to build a WordPress Website? It’s a simple question with no straight answer, but you can make estimates. 

The total price of a new website depends on its size and the type of project. You can build one for nothing using the free, restrictive WordPress.com plan. Another alternative is to create a website from scratch using the WordPress open source software. This article focusses on the latter.

Know that if you are just starting out and want a low-budget site up and running, you can do this for under $50 per year.  You can always upgrade if and when you need to.  Most of my own students set up their own website using this low budget option, and most don't ever need to upgrade because there are free options for most things you might want to add.  With that said, this article will cover a range of the optional extras as well as the basic low-budget option.

The Cost of Free Software

WordPress.ORG is an incredible, 100% free open source software solution for websites. There are few limits what you can do with this remarkable package. The only potential obstacles are budget and imagination. But why do you need a budget if the software is free and open source?

There are six potential costs for building a WordPress website. The first two on the list are unavoidable. The remaining four are optional, depending on expertise and needs.  

  1. Custom domain name
  2. Hosting plan
  3. WordPress theme (free or premium)
  4. WordPress plugins (free or premium)
  5. Website protection and security
  6. Third-party help, e.g., graphics designer, web developers

The estimates in this guide are averages. Your costs may be higher or lower.

#1 Domain name costs and options

Your domain is the name and address of the website. There are lots of tips and ways to secure the best name for your project. The most crucial thing is to ensure it’s relevant to the theme. It should also be easy to pronounce, remember, and type. Domain costs on average are $15 per year if the one you want is available.

You may need to point (redirect) your domain name servers to the hosting provider. That’s only necessary if you buy it from a different company to the hosting (see next).

Read: How to Choose the Best Domain Name

#2 Web hosting costs and options

Web hosting is inexpensive for small-scale websites. However, it can cost a small fortune for large-scale projects, but those types of sites can afford it. There’s no escape from hosting costs with self-hosted WordPress. Most businesses offer varied plans to meet budgets and needs. Consider plans from the well-established companies for your project.

#3 WordPress themes, costs, and options

Premade WordPress themes start at $0.00 and go up to around $230 give or take. The custom-built options are the most expensive and have no price cap. The downside to free templates is that many sites may already use them, so you don’t get that unique presence. Don’t discard free themes if you’re a novice. There are some superb choices that are sure to serve you well.

Searching for WordPress themes

There’s no shortage of places to search for themes online. Whatever you choose, opt for a responsive template. Responsive types auto-adjust the size and layout of a website so that they work seamlessly with mobile devices.

Read: What Is a Responsive Theme in WordPress to learn more.

The best place to start a new search is from inside the WordPress Dashboard:

Select Appearance from the side menu and choose Themes.

Click the ‘Add New’ button at the top of the next screen.

You’re now at the WordPress themes page. From here you can sort by Featured, Popular, Latest, and Favourite themes. There’s also an option to search for new items from the thousands available. Use the Feature Filter to narrow the search further.

#4 WordPress plugins costs and options

Site owners have thousands of free WordPress plugins to choose from, both official and third-party. However, there are also premium paid plugins that are worth the investment. You can build your site with only domain and hosting costs, and the rest with freebies. But if you want a unique project—one that stands out from the rest—then expect a few extra costs.

Interactive sites should consider plugins in the following categories:

  • Features, e.g., forms, social media sharing, update notifications, etc.
  • Site building tools
  • Advanced website optimisation
  • Advanced website security

The cost of premium WordPress plugins

Prices vary from a few dollars to $200 or more. Some costs are one-off, whereas others are recurring, depending on the product. Plugins do not overrun the best projects as their focus is on quality, not quantity. Costly addons are nothing to worry about for beginners dabbling with their first WordPress blog or website.

Where to find WordPress plugins

You can search for plugins from within the WP Dashboard or the official WordPress Directory.

From the WP Dashboard menu, go to Plugins, then select Add New.

You can break down your search from the Add/Upload Plugin page (see next):

Alternatively, you can search the official WordPress Plugin Directory:

Try to be specific in your search so that you’re not overwhelmed by too many options. Browsing plugins is a good exercise whether you need them now or not. It helps to familiarise you with the different types, authors, free vs fee, features, functionality, and user feedback.

The 7 Essential WordPress plugins

There are certain plugins that most webmasters consider essential. The list can and does change over time, so nothing is set in stone. Still, it gives new webmasters an idea of what to look for.

  1. Contact form plugins
  2. WordPress security & backups
  3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  4. Website analytics
  5. Performance optimisation
  6. Email & Newsletter Plugins
  7. Social Media

Other plugins are specific to business-orientated and eCommerce type websites.

Read: How Many WordPress Plugins Should You Install, and How Many Is Too Many?

#5 Website protection and security

Website protection and security at the basic level is free, quite adequate, and easy to manage. Larger, more advanced WordPress sites, though, have additional security needs. That usually means a full suite of tools to protect against hacks and DDoS attacks. Some site owners use real-world services to manage security. These companies can also fix hacked sites.

Take your time; explore all options

Check out the premium plugins with advanced security features. Also, look at any built-in protection your hosting provides if you need extra defence. Some of them now offer sophisticated security tools to meet modern needs. It may cost less than a dedicated service too. A trusted name in the latter is SUCURI. SUCURI’s starter plans begin at around $200 per year.

There are four security components to consider with a site’s protection and security setup:

  1. Advanced website monitoring
  2. Highly-effective website firewall
  3. Full, remotely located site backups
  4. Year-round 24/7 dedicated support

Always consider the advice of an expert if you’re unsure how to protect your site.

Estimated Costs of WordPress Websites

The type of website you build determines its start-up costs. Nearly all the successful large-scale sites started small. The beauty of the WordPress.ORG platform is its scalability. You can add to the project as and when needs arise. Most mature sites have little in common with how they looked and functioned in those early days.

Low-budget vs high-budget Websites

Low-budget WordPress websites tend to be personal blogs or student projects. Those who want to dabble for the first time may also invest in a low-cost plan. You can even build a 100% free site with WordPress.COM if the compulsory ads and restrictions don’t bother you. Otherwise, it’s possible to have a unique, fully-functional, live WP.ORG site for under $100 per year.

Higher budget websites cost more for several, mostly logical reasons:

  • Loaded with high-end features and functions
  • High traffic requires costlier hosting solutions
  • Needs regular maintenance
  • Hires professional developers and designers
  • Needs additional help with day to day running

The most expensive WordPress websites

Custom WordPress websites are the most expensive. Some people and businesses prefer everything constructed from the ground up. That includes templates, built-in features, plugins, and so on. Also, online companies may pay authors to write unique content regularly. The latter cost doesn’t apply to those who write their own material, of course.

Your site, your property

Think of your website as a piece of virtual property. Let’s use a 40-bedroom mansion to illustrate the point. That would take more time, money, and expertise to upkeep than a tiny studio apartment. You can’t see the physical size of a website from the front end, but there can be a lot happening behind the scenes. Your site is your piece of virtual real estate.

Think BIG, Aim High, Start Small

It’s easy to let one’s imagination run away when drawing up plans for a new website. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and dreaming big things. However, few are ever satisfied with the first draft of a website. Those with little or no expertise can experience runaway costs and unexpected extras. The best advice is to think big but start small.

Remember, you’re not stuck or tied into any project using WordPress.ORG. You can add to it, delete, or modify any part as you go along. It’s a genuine case of slow being the fastest and most cost-effective approach. Plenty of mega websites started the same way.

Stay focused, keep costs down

Here are 5 cost-saving tips for first-time website builders and site administrators:

  1. Do a short online course to get familiar with WordPress.ORG
  2. Use free WordPress plugins (apps) and free themes (templates)
  3. Write your own content
  4. Take charge of site maintenance
  5. Use only free, high-quality images (check the license first)

Use the final sections to help break down the estimated costs of different WordPress websites.

Breaking Down the Costs of WordPress

The cost of a domain is the only item that remains constant when building a new website. Larger, feature-rich or business models need more of everything. That includes better hosting, complex templates, and premium plugins, etc.

It helps to break your website costs down into categories and their respective products/services. That way, you can plan for different aspects of your project. It’s also easier to tweak things if you need to make cutbacks should your estimate go over budget.

The 6 basic cost categories of a WordPress website look something like this:

  1. DOMAINS AND HOSTING
    • Depends on expectations and needs
  2. WORDPRESS FEATURES
    • Themes, forms, social media sharing, landing pages
  3. WEBSITE SAFETY & SECURITY
    • Auto-backups, SSL certificates, third-party security services
  4. ON AND OFF-PAGE OPTIMIZATION
    • SEO plugins and or third-party SEO services
  5. ADVANCED ANALYTICS
    • WordPress or third-party free or premium plugins
  6. MARKETING
    • Plugins and or third-party services

Writing this stuff down avoids beginner blunders and helps you to budget better.

About Premium Products

Most of the best-loved plugins come with free and premium versions. You get more choices, power, and flexibility with paid anything, but make sure you need it. An extra is only better if it offers what you need. If not, make do with the free version and save your money.

Needs & Expectations

It’s not possible to give estimated costs across all project types. That’s because websites and site owners have very different needs and expectations. Thus, the examples below are there as a guide only. They show you how to work out estimates based on types and requirements.

You won’t need everything in the lists, and there could be items missing that you do want. Some tools or services will be permanent add-ons, whereas others are only needed for a while. The idea is for you to think carefully about the features, tools, and service costs for your project.

Tools, Plugins, and Services Defined

Below is a quick definition or these WordPress tools, features, and services.

Hosting Services

You need somewhere to upload, store, and display your site content on the web. This is the role of an internet hosting service provider. It gives you access to a web server or supercomputer, technologies and services.  Your site would not be visible without a hosting account.

Domain name

Your visible website address is a Uniform Resource Locator, usually shortened to URL. Your domain name is what you call the site, e.g., teachingxyz.com. It’s the human-friendly interpretation of the computer-readable domain which is a series of numbers. The geeks call this number the Internet Protocol (IP) address. You can buy domains extensions other than .COM.

Responsive themes

Hosting Services

Responsive web designs use themes (templates) that adjust smoothly to various devices. It means websites are easy on the eyes and simple to navigate on different screen sizes. That includes large monitors, right down to small smartphones and other mobile devices.

WordPress plugins

Small, usually lightweight software programs that contain enhanced features and functions. They help to improve the look, feel, or functionality of a website, or add something new. Plugins can be free, or premium (paid) and most have settings pages for further customisations. Always check that a plugin is compatible with your theme before you download and activate it.

Page builder

Modern page builders are user-friendly programs that make website construction easy. Most the popular ones are drag-and-drop, so they don’t require any tech skills or coding. Some companies specialise in software tools that build blogs, business sites, or online stores.  Although WordPress now includes its own page builder – Gutenberg, it is limited and buggy.  The most popular page builder currently available is called Elementor.

Autoresponder

Autoresponders are simple yet useful email marketing tools. The let site owners sent series or emails or newsletters at set schedules. Autoresponders are invaluable for commercial type sites. They collect emails by consent and keep in touch with customers, clients, and site members.

Landing page

Landing pages are another valuable asset in a site owner’s arsenal of online marketing tools. These visually attractive—usually static—designs help to draw visitors in. Webmasters use them the sell or promote someone, someplace, something, or a feature. To put that into more salesy language, the job of a landing page is to convert your visitors into leads.

Form builder

There are several reasons why websites use online forms. Today’s tools are easy to use drag-n-drop programs that even the novice can handle. They let you create attractive, versatile forms that benefit the site and those who visit it. They can collect data and allow visitors to apply for things. They’re also useful for support tickets, and to let visitors contact the site owner, etc.

SSL certificates

SSL Certificate protection is now a must-have requirement for all websites. They offer a safe, encrypted connection between sites and visitors to protect sensitive data. Moreover, search engines prioritise sites with SSL certificates over those with none. You can install free (basic level) SSLs or choose premium ones for added security (recommended).

For more on SSL protection, read What Are SSL Certificates and Why You Need One?

Cost breakdown of a low-budget WordPress website

Estimated cost per year is around $50

A low-budget website built with WordPress.org software should cost less than $50 per year.

ESTIMATE COSTS (BUDGET WORDPRESS WEBSITE)

Domain (per year)

$12.00

Hosting Plan paid annually

$36.00

Total Estimated Cost:

To see my recommended budget host and registrar, please read this article.

$48.00

Premium extras that can add to a basic site cost may include some of the following:

  • Upgraded hosting. Add $20–$50/mo., for faster speeds and extra features
  • Premium responsive themes from $30 upwards (one-off cost).
  • Theme designer and page builder, e.g., Elementor Pro Personal from $49/yr.
  • Autoresponder, e.g. Aweber, for newsletters and mailing lists from $19/mo.
  • Landing Page conversion tools, e.g., Lead Pages, cost from $25/mo.
  • Form builder plugins, e.g., Ninja Forms, Pabbly, etc., from $10/yr.
  • Premium DV SSL certificates for personal sites from $6/yr.

Next up is the cost analysis for a more feature-rich website.

Costs breakdown of a feature-rich WordPress website

Estimated FIRST-YEAR costs between $350 to $1200+

Premium features, tools, and services for a feature-rich WP website may include:

  • Feature-rich hosting plan. Expect to spend $15+/mo.
  • Premium responsive themes, e.g., Astra, StudioPress, from $47+
  • Optional theme designer and page builder, e.g., Squarespace from $144/yr.
  • Powerful WordPress form builder plugin, e.g., WPForms from $40/yr.
  • Marketing, e.g., Constant Contact for forms, newsletters, mailing, etc., from $20/mo.
  • Social media share plugin, e.g., Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress, $22
  • Premium security, e.g., Wordfence w/ real-time protection for $99/yr.
  • Backup plugin solutions like Jetpack and BackupBuddy from $99/yr.
  • Advanced search engine optimisation tools, e.g., Premium SEO Pack from $44/yr.
  • Landing Page and Conversion tools, e.g., WIX starts from $12/mo.
  • Premium SSL certificates for personal sites from $6/yr., or business $36/yr.

Next up is the cost analysis for a small business WordPress website.

Costs breakdown of a small WordPress business website

Estimated FIRST-YEAR costs between $400 to $1200+

Premium features, tools, and services for a small WordPress business website may include:

  • Business hosting plans. Expect $20–$30/mo., or more for high traffic sites
  • Premium responsive themes from $30 upwards (one-off cost).
  • Business theme and page builder, e.g., Divi $89/yr., Elementor, from $99/yr.
  • WordPress site speed enhancers, e.g., WP Rocket from $49/yr., Perfmatters $25/yr.
  • Lead generation /plugins, e.g., OptinMonster, AWeber, and Thrive, from $19/mo.,
  • Search engine optimisation, e.g., RankRanger $69/mo., YOAST Premiun, $89/yr.
  • Website security plugins and services, e.g. Wordfence $99/yr., Sucuri Firewall $120/yr.
  • Cloud backup & storage, e.g., Microsoft 365, Dropbox Business, prices from $5/mo.,
  • Premium Organisation (OV) SSL certificates for business sites from $19/yr.

Next up is the cost analysis for an eCommerce WordPress website.

Cost breakdown of an eCommerce WordPress website

Estimated FIRST-YEAR costs between $1200 to $4000+

Premium features, tools, and services for an eCommerce WordPress website may include:

  • Hosting plans for eCommerce start at around $9/mo., upwards
  • Premium responsive themes from $30 upwards (one-off cost).
  • Custom form creator, e.g., WP Forms Plus $99/yr., Gravity Forms, from $59/yr.
  • WordPress slider plugin, e.g., Soliloquy, from $19 (one-time payment)
  • eCommerce site builder, e.g., WIX from $23/mo., Shopify from $29/mo.
  • Marketing, e.g., OptinMonster, Omnisend, and Aweber Pro. Prices start from $9/mo.
  • Backup Solutions, e.g., BackupBuddy $99/yr., DropBox For Business, from $20/mo.
  • Site security protection, e.g., Sucuri Firewall $120/yr., Wordfence Premium, $99/yr.
  • Speed enhancer, e.g., WP Rocket, from $49/yr., Sucuri Firewall w/ caching $120/yr.
  • SEO tools for eCommerce, e.g., YOAST Premium, $89/yr., Squirrly Pro $72/mo.
  • Domain (DV) from SSL certificate for eCommerce, starts at around $20/yr.

Next up is the cost analysis for a custom-built WordPress website.

Cost breakdown of a custom-built WordPress website

Estimated FIRST-YEAR costs between $1200 TO Unlimited

You can have a custom-built website made for a few hundred dollars. However, there is no limit on how big or how costly these sites can get. Imagination and needs are what drive decisions. Consider free versions and trial periods with whatever you can until you know what you want. Also, take ideas from the above cost examples for your type of custom-built project.

Premium features, tools, and services for a custom-built WordPress website may include:

  • Consider WP managed hosting plans, e.g., Flywheel $23/mo., WPEngine $30/mo.
  • Premium responsive themes from $30 upwards (one-off cost).
  • Theme designer/page builder, e.g., WIX $156/yr., Elementor, $99/yr., Divi $89/yr.
  • Marketing tools Aweber $16/mo., Sendinblue from $25/mo., Benchmark from $14/mo.
  • Landing Page Conversion, Leadpages from $300/yr., Instabuilder from $77 (one-off cost)
  • Form builders from WPForms, $39.50/yr., Ninja Forms $29/yr., Gravity Forms $59/yr.
  • Premium SSL certificates from $6 for Domain (DV) or $19/yr., for Organization (OV)

Add anything else to the above website projects that you feel necessary. Checklists like these are a simple yet effective way to get you thinking about the start-up costs of a new site.

Closing Thoughts

Websites built using WordPress.org open source software can be cheap and cheerful. But any site that starts to grow in size and popularity demands more time and maintenance. You can start any kind of WordPress project for very little initial outlay. Don’t worry if running costs begin to soar. When that happens, the site is usually paying for its upkeep anyway.

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