How much is a custom WordPress website?

If you’ve never worked in the IT industry it can be quite daunting trying to work out a budget for any website, and this includes a customizable WordPress website. You can either decide to work with a small freelance type organization or go with a larger, more established agency. There are pros and cons with each and they are discussed later in the post.

Customized WordPress websites cost more than a pre-built theme simply because you are buying the flexibility to make changes. If you are a small freelance type organization, when you provide a quote you ask yourself:

  • How many hours do I think this will take me? Will I need to sub-contract any part of the work?
  • How much does the client expect to pay? And how important is this project to the client?
  • How easy is this client going to be to work with?
  • Should I charge hourly or by project?
  • Is there any potential for more work?
  • How busy am I?

The answers will heavily influence the quotation.

How much should a custom WordPress website cost?

The range is huge. It all depends on the level of complexity. Be aware, if you force a small business to produce detailed quotations, the cost in time will be added somewhere into the quotation.

Who is the consultant?

Working with a small freelancer will normally be cheaper than working with an agency, simply because Agencies normally have more fixed overhead.

In general, freelancers are great for projects where:

  • The job is small enough for one person to handle the entire thing (most WordPress projects fit this category).
  • The timeline is tight, and you want them to start quickly.
  • Communication channels don’t need to be formal.

In general, agencies are preferred where:

  • You feel it’s critical the consultant is contactable.
  • You are sufficiently flexible you don’t mind working to another organizations processes. Normally, established agencies have a structure they want you to work to.
  • Your project doesn’t need to be delivered as soon as possible. Most agency projects last between 2 to 6 months.
  • Your project needs more than one full time person working on it. This could be due to project scope or time pressures.

Freelancer and agency rates vary enormously. Their rack rates come down to their level of experience and the reputation of the agency, but often there is flexibility in these rates. Consultants often charge less if they’ve worked with the client before, if the work is for a charity or it is a big brand where they believe other work may result. The list goes on and on.

How does the client affect the costs?
The more difficult or time consuming you think the client will be the more money is added to the project. Typically, the sort of things clients do, that incur costs are:

  • The client refuses to provide a single point of contact which makes communication complex.
  • Every decision on the project has to be agreed by a committee or management team.
  • A single point of contact has been allocated, but they do not have the authority to make decisions and/or they are poor at playing the "consultant champion" well.
  • The client is very slow at paying invoices which means you end up completing the job before you've been paid anything. It is very disheartening working on a project when you aren't completely sure you will ever be paid.
  • The client wants frequent progress updates over the phone and/or in person and takes forever to provide you with missing information for the website, such as website content, imagery and hosting information.
  • The client doesn’t really understand their own business and therefore struggles to make decisions.

An experienced consultant will be able to quickly pick up on any warning signs that a client is going to be difficult.

Website types:

Basically, the more complex the website the more it is going to cost. As a guide you can categorize websites as follows:

  • Simple brochure site (2-4 views): Fairly standard but custom home page design, page layout. Stock archive / blog setup with little or no customizations.
  • Simple blog (2-3 views): Archives and single post views only, and a pretty typical layout.
  • Complex blog (4-6 views): Various templates applied resulting in attention needed for page and post formats etc.
  • Marketing site (3-7 views): Normally this is a combination of a simple brochure and a complex blog and needs some design work and attention to the home page to ensure it is easy to use.
  • eCommerce website (10-25 views): Could be a mix of any of the websites above, plus all the needs in eCommerce (like cart/account/checkout views etc).
  • Big non-profit sites (10-30 views): Everything is always on a budget.
  • Big business website (12-30+ views): Big business websites are like regular business websites, but just more of everything. They often have lots of custom content types, advanced search needs and of course huge amounts of content.

Pricing views

There are various ways to estimate, but the most common way is to look at the number of unique views.

There are various ways to estimate, but the most common way is to look at the number of unique views.
What’s a unique view?

Examples of unique views are:

  • The home page.
  • A page. Although archive pages could be classed as a category and be combined into one unique view and can also be merged with a post view.
  • The blog “post” page.
  • Custom page templates and often custom post types.
  • Variable sidebars within sections of the website.

For development the general rule of thumb is for every design hour there will be a development hour to go with it.

Pricing Content

WordPress makes it very easy to add pages and posts, however for this content to be user friendly you increasingly need more structure. The more complexity the higher the costs. Consultants tend to look at content as follows:

  • Less than 10 pages make a simple site.
  • More than 30 pages mean a structure is essential.
  • If there are many pages or posts then categories and tags are a must. Navigation needs to be thought through.
  • If the blog needs to be authored by more than 1 person the structure and set up again needs to be thought through.
  • If before publishing there is an approvals process to be followed this needs to be carefully implemented.
  • If the current CMS isn’t WordPress, the migration of data could be hugely onerous.
  • If the current CMS is WordPress, you need to know what plugins or custom code has been developed.

Custom design vs a pre-built theme

Customized WordPress websites cost more than a pre-built theme simply because you are buying the flexibility to make changes. The danger of buying a pre-built theme is that when you try and make any changes, other than simple changes like color, it is often very complex.

Our recommendation is to carefully gather your requirements, think through whether you need to work with a large agency or a freelance consultant and then start by having a discussion to obtain a ball park price.

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