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WordPress is a dominant force in the website creation world. Boasting ease of use, flexibility, and a massive community, it’s no wonder many are drawn to its platform. It is now powering 40% of all websites worldwide. But before you jump in, it’s important to understand the true cost of building a WordPress website. While the core software itself is free, there are hidden costs to consider that can quickly add up. Let’s delve into the world of WordPress finances and explore what you might be missing.

Free as in Beer, or Free as in Speech?

The first distinction to make is the nature of WordPress’s “free.” It falls under the umbrella of open-source software. This means the core WordPress software is free to download, modify, and distribute. In essence, it’s “free as in speech.” However, there’s a difference between the software itself and the infrastructure needed to run your website. This is where the hidden costs creep in.

Domain Name: Your Website’s Address

Imagine your website as a house. The domain name is its address. It’s the unique identifier that people type into their browsers to find you. These are typically purchased from domain registrars and can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 per year. While some hosting providers offer a free domain name for the first year, it’s important to factor in renewal costs when budgeting.

Website Hosting: The Foundation of Your Home

Now, picture your website’s files and database residing on a rented server space. This server space is provided by web hosting companies, and it’s where the magic happens. Your website’s code, content, and images are all stored here, making them accessible to visitors. Hosting plans vary in price depending on features, storage space, and bandwidth. Basic plans can start at around $3 per month, but for more robust features and traffic, expect to pay upwards of $35 per month. You can see the hosting companies we recommend here.

Website Support: When Things Go Wrong

Even the most user-friendly platforms encounter issues. Whether it’s a plugin conflict or a theme malfunction, having access to website support can be a lifesaver. Many hosting providers offer basic support with their plans, but it might be limited to technical server issues. For more in-depth WordPress-specific assistance, you should consider additional support options. Many companies offer this, and Sumy Designs does too with plans that include everything from the basic technical maintenance (backups, security, uptime, and updates) to plans that include website adjustments and changes as well. Check out our plans here.

Themes and Plugins: The Finishing Touches

The core WordPress software is a blank canvas. Themes and plugins are what bring your website to life. Themes control the visual appearance of your site, offering pre-designed layouts and customization options. Plugins add functionality, from contact forms and galleries to SEO optimization and e-commerce tools.

There’s a wealth of free themes and plugins available, which is fantastic for getting started. However, some limitations come with free options. They might offer fewer customization options, lack important features, or have limited support. Premium themes and plugins often provide a more polished look, advanced functionality, and ongoing updates and bug fixes. These can range from a small one-time fee to annual subscriptions costing hundreds of dollars. This really depends on what you need your website to do. Many basic websites can get by using freely available plugins and themes. But when you need additional functionality, like e-commerce, membership capabilities, event calendars, etc. That’s when you may need to look into premium plugins.

The Cost Breakdown: A Realistic Picture

Here’s a breakdown of potential costs to consider when building your WordPress website:

  • Domain Name: $10 – $20 per year (renewal fees)
  • Website Hosting: $3 – $50+ per month (depending on features)
  • Website Support: $50+ a month
  • Themes: Free (limited options) – one-time fee or annual subscriptions
  • Plugins: Free (limited options) – Freemium model (some features locked behind paywalls) or paid plugins with varying costs

While you can certainly build a basic website with free options, it might lack the functionality and polish you desire. A more realistic budget for a professional-looking website with ongoing support could range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per year, depending on your specific needs and desired level of customization.

What about a WordPress hosted site?

When I talk about hosting for WordPress sites, sometimes that can get confusing. The confusion surrounding WordPress often stems from the existence of two distinct entities: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. While both leverage the same core WordPress software for building websites, they offer fundamentally different experiences.

WordPress.com functions as a hosted service. Think of it as an all-inclusive apartment building. The hosting, security, and maintenance are taken care of by WordPress.com, allowing you to focus solely on content creation and design. They offer a free plan with limitations, and paid plans grant access to additional features like custom domain names and advanced customization options.

On the other hand, WordPress.org is the open-source software itself. It’s more like owning your own house. You’ll need to find a separate hosting provider, manage security updates, and take responsibility for maintenance. However, this self-hosted approach grants complete control and customization over your website. You can install any theme or plugin you desire, and the possibilities are limitless.

If you have decided to move forward with us, we only work on self-hosted WordPress sites that’ll be hosted on the servers you choose.

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Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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