How Much Does It Cost to Build a Custom WordPress Site?

 In Software Development

If you’re looking to develop a website, you are probably wondering how much it costs to build a WordPress website. Although it may seem like a fairly simple question, there are a variety of factors that can make a big difference. It’s a lot like building a house. Until you purchase the lot and identify the size, structure, features, materials, and overall appearance, the costs could run anywhere from $20,000 for a tiny house up to millions for a mansion.

Over 15 years ago, WordPress released its first open-source content management system (CMS) which was immediately embraced by bloggers. In less than two decades it has been used for over 75 million websites which certainly validates its popularity. Today, WordPress is a viable resource for just about any size and type of website, as its capabilities have been extended in every direction (security, eCommerce, customer service, chatbots, and more.)

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WordPress supports nearly every type of website imaginable and still offers low-cost options. Developers all over the world have contributed to its success by coming up with over 50,000 modules (aka plugins, widgets, and extensions) that extend the functionality of the WordPress website themes. There are over 11,000 WordPress themes, which provide templates and stylesheets for users to create a fairly sophisticated website, even without customization. The degree of extensibility and customization supported by WordPress is one of the reasons it is such a popular platform.

The Simplicity & Complexity of WordPress

A simple, one-page WordPress website can be set up in a matter of hours and it can be installed and available online immediately, assuming it has already set up with a hosting vendor or WordPress.org. Yet even a simple, one-page site will still require some customization. Think logo, branding color schemes, font styles, images, page design, and more.

Building a static company or personal website is a fairly straightforward and quick exercise within WordPress but many organizations have a need to create more interactive and feature-rich websites to attract and maintain clients and customers. This is where it can get more complex and costly.

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The WordPress ecosystem offers installable themes that have been designed by creators to have a modern look and feel, page structure, and even some built-in features. Themes vary greatly in design with some being very purpose-built while others have their own built-in styling tools for end-user customization. While the addition of a theme and some content will typically yield a production-ready content website, many site owners go further by adding functionality to their website. For example, a web store will need a product catalog, a shopping cart, and a means to accept online payments. Even content websites are likely to need a lead generation form or perhaps an image rotator or video player.

So the cost of building a custom WordPress site clearly depends on the objectives of the website, the features needed, and whether there are built-in plugins that can fulfill those needs. At SOLTECH when a client says they want to build a website, we typically start our discovery process by asking some leading questions like:

  • Who are the intended users?
  • How many content pages will the site require?
  • Do you need a custom or pre-built theme?
  • Do you have public content, secured content, or both?
  • Does the site have any ecommerce features like a store or subscriptions?
  • How often will the content change and what types of content will you be posting?
  • What kind of functions and features do you want the site to have?
  • How many concurrent users does the site need to support?

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After being involved in the development of hundreds of WordPress sites, we still remain amazed by the sheer volume and variety of available 3rd party plugins. When building your site on a budget, it is tremendously helpful to not have to start from scratch and code everything from the ground up. However, working with 3rd party plugins can also be a frustrating experience. Like any pre-built software product, plug-ins are designed to work a certain way and most of the time they aren’t customizable beyond a few pre-programmed customizations. In many cases, you simply have to try them out before you can figure out if they will fit the need or not. Also, sometimes plugins don’t work well together, they have unsolvable bugs or you learn the hard way there is no support from the creator.

For these reasons, it’s tremendously important to get the advice of experienced WordPress developers when designing a solution or picking out 3rd party modules for your website.  While individual implementation tasks like picking themes and installing plugins are quite easy, there is still a lot to know about building a solid, performant, and easily maintained WordPress site.

Costs Involved in WordPress Customization

While there is no way we can give a one-size-fits-all answer to how much a WordPress site will cost you to build, we can still provide some useful insights and examples. Below I have broken out the common components of costs that often come up when building a WordPress site.  Try reviewing the different sections and assessing whether your needs are likely to fall in the simple or sophisticated side of each price range.

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1. Setup ($1,000 – $5,000)

WordPress is a platform for building websites and not a hosting service.  WordPress sites will require hosting through a hosting vendor and setup work will be necessary. There are hundreds of hosting services, but they are not all equal in quality or levels of service, so we would not recommend signing up for one without understanding your site’s needs:

  • How much designated bandwidth you will need/receive?
  • The cost of an exclusive domain name
  • Whether you will need an SSL certificate (needed for secure credit card transactions, data transfers, and logins)
  • The quantity of traffic you may expect
  • The processing speed you may need
  • Whether you will need a scalable site if/when your business grows
  • How much control of the hosting environment do you want to have?

Once a hosting solution is selected, installation and theme customization can begin.

2. Theme Development ($1,000 – $15,000)

As we mentioned earlier, there are thousands of available themes to choose from. Although they are somewhat “plug-and-play”, there will always be the need for customization. For example, the theme will need to be built out to coincide with your company’s brand in terms of style. Do you have a logo, company colors, specific fonts, etc.? Will you want your online traffic to be able to link to any of the company’s social media pages? Will the site be used for blogging, eCommerce, portfolios, or multi-purpose uses?

Although many of the themes cost less than $100, the time involved with customization is where the costs vary. If you are familiar with HTML/CSS and have a creative eye, then you might be able to do the customizations yourself, but many folks will want to engage a vendor to perform this work.  Additionally, if you want a website that meets stringent brand guidelines, you may need help building a custom WordPress theme.

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3. Content (Highly Varied)

All websites require content.  Some are very simple, single-page sites with some scrolling content and a few images.  Other sites have high quality, curated premium content that users pay money to access. Many organizations will ultimately pay more to generate site content over time than the original implementation costs for the site. If your goal is spreading the word, sales, or lead generation, then content will need to be written or produced on an ongoing basis to support an SEO strategy. A regular flow of content and a solid SEO strategy is one of the primary methods to increase traffic and grow your audience.

Content can take the form of blogs, videos, animations, case studies, infographics, and white papers. If this rigorous task is to be useful and effective, it will need to be constant, unique, and engaging. This can be accomplished internally or outsourced to content specialists. Obviously, if you can write the content yourself, there is no cost involved whereas engaging 3rd parties to regularly write content for your site can be a significant cost over time.

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4. Adding Functionality ($3,000 – $10,000)

The cost of plugins is relatively inexpensive individually, yet, installation and setup do take time as many sites can use up to 10-15 modules, each of which requires configuration and testing. This can also be an area where surprises occur like discovering a plugin doesn’t work the way you thought it did or it has an unfixable bug.  Additionally, not all modules are compatible with every theme, so it is important to work with a developer that is familiar with the best, most harmonious extensions to get the best result and avoid costly surprises like glitches, slow page loading, rework, and more.

5. Custom Plugins ($5,000 – $30,000)

In some instances, your requirements may require custom plugins, which means the developer will need to create a purpose-built plug-in just for your website. This is common when you have functional requirements and features that are important for your site but for which there is no pre-built plugin to be found.  While custom plugins can be expensive, it is important to remember that they are often far cheaper than building the website as a custom web application. Additionally, custom plugins are usually the unique feature or function, which draws users to the website that no one else has.

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6. Custom Integrations with Internal Systems/Software ($5,000 – $25,000)

Large enterprises often have a suite of tools and applications in their portfolio and the website is just one system.  In these situations, it is often imperative that the new website be integrated with the existing systems to avoid duplication of data across siloed systems and to surface back-off information into the website. One of the most common examples of integrations is the sharing of online web orders with back-office fulfillment systems.  At larger volumes of online orders, it doesn’t make sense for an internal staff member to have to enter online orders into back-office fulfillment or resource planning solutions when an integration between systems can be built.

Similarly, it is also common for websites to be integrated to inject online lead capture forms directly into an organization’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. A CRM integration allows marketing to follow-up with offers and additional engagement to turn a lead into a sale.

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In Summary

WordPress is an excellent tool for creating a website that can go the distance for your company at a cost that is affordable. Yet, keep in mind that in many cases customization is necessary. Without customization, your WordPress site may not achieve the branding or effectiveness required to engage your target audience.

This is where additional costs come in and why it is difficult to provide hard and fast prices prior to understanding the goals. You can anticipate that costs will vary between $15,000-$85,000 depending on the amount of time required for the specialized techs to code in all of the necessary adjustments.

This case study will give you a good idea of how SOLTECH can help with WordPress, custom software, and all of your website needs!

And remember, spending quality discovery time upfront with your web developer will save time and money. We have prepared this informative eBook, “Beginners Guide to the Discovery Process”, which will help you understand the length of time it takes to complete the full discovery process and that which it entails.

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