WordPress offers different website solutions depending on where your business is at, and this is something that has taken us much research, trial and error to figure out. WordPress can be used as the backend for any business website whether it is a blog or a standard website.
Like everything related to website development, everyone involved has their niche, experience and opinion. For your standard business owner, sometimes getting a website can be an expensive and frustrating experience with disappointing results.
I have had websites built on a plethora of Content Management Systems (CMSs) that use both custom built and DIY templates including Flash, Joomla, Wix, Doteasy Templates and Custom CMSs. As a business owner nothing has come even close to the flexibility and ease of use that you can expect with WordPress.org.
I know that some purist developers will turn their noses up but this is actually where a lot of problems lie. Website developers are all about functionality and speed and designers are all about look and feel. But in addition to this, business owners need their investment to create results. For most business owners, WordPress can be the ‘almost’ perfect CMS for running their website.
Working with WordPress
WordPress itself is a free, open source CMS and a lot of the plugins, which are used to add extra functionality, are free as well.
If you need it, what you pay for (or not) is flexibility with design and add on features. At it’s most basic level, you can create a functional website with no cost other than the price for hosting (less than $10 per month) and a domain name ($10-$28 per year). At the other end of the scale, those who need serious results from their website could pay upwards of $5000 for a strategic custom WordPress website.
It’s important to note that there are two types of WordPress, which are “.com” and “.org”. If you are using your website for business use the .org version. If you need a comparison check it out here.
Once you have decided on a WordPress.org website there are a huge range of options available depending on your needs and your budget, and this is where the problems start!
It can be hard to know what you do, and don’t, need, especially if it’s your first website. And there are thousands of providers all specialising in different things, with different experience and differing opinions on style, quality and value.
To try and make sense of all the options, so that you can judge which WordPress website is right for your business, this article is broken into 5 categories: Free Themes, Premium Themes, Basic Custom Websites, Mid-Range Custom Websites and Premium ROI Driven Custom Websites.
Note: All budgets quoted do not include costs for hosting and domain name
First, lets cover what “theme” means. The WordPress.org website describes a theme as:
“a way to “skin” your weblog. Yet, it is more than just a “skin.” Skinning your site implies that only the design is changed. WordPress Themes can provide much more control over the look and presentation of the material on your website.”
Free WordPress themes
Average costs: $0
WordPress.org provides the CMS or the ‘backend’ of the website. At the basic level, how it looks is dependent on the theme that you choose.
You can find thousands of free themes online that you can simply download and activate, completely altering the look and feel of your website in a few seconds. These themes have been developed by design houses or individuals, for a variety of reasons, and many look very professional.
If you can find one you like, free themes will suit…
- Novice website owners who want to get some experience before they invest in custom options
- Business owners who are happy to have their website develop as the business does
- Any business who has more time than money to invest in a website
To find free themes…
Look for websites that collate lists of great themes:
Download the zip files for the free themes onto your computer and then activate them one by one in your WordPress dashboard to see which one you like best.
- A good way to learn the ropes of website ownership without the cost of a custom website
- Quick, easy and very low cost
- You can get a good looking site up within a few hours
- Potential security problems; the theme provider may have an ulterior motive when producing your theme, like using it to create backlinks to other websites.
- The themes are generally as is; you will be limited as to what you can change or adjust in the design, so find one that is as close to what you want as possible.
Premium WordPress themes
Average costs: $15 – $100
Premium themes are pre-made paid themes that generally cost between $15 and $100. Similar to free themes there is a huge variety. They are easy to install and may have more customisation options. Many companies have both paid and free themes so the one that you choose will come down to preference on the design.
There are also standalone WordPress frameworks; the leaders being Thesis and Genesis. These frameworks have advanced functionality, SEO options and far more design options. These frameworks are the functionality parent for your website, upon which you can attach a child theme which gives you the look and feel.
After much research and a preference for one of their child themes (Prose) we went with Genesis for some websites, based on external comparisons, including this one. For a single site and theme you can buy Genesis for under US$100 and for unlimited sites and child themes you can buy it for US$249.
Similar to free themes, premium themes will suit…
- Website owners who can’t find a free theme that suits them
- Business owners who are looking for a cheap entry point yet still require a professional looking website
- Website owners who need more functionality, flexibility, SEO, security, support and design options than a free theme
For premium themes try …
For framework themes try either
- Similar to free themes except with more functionality, support, SEO and security
- Quick, easy and low cost
- You can get a professional and customisable site up very quickly
- Even though you may have more functionality and flexibility than a free theme, you still will have some limitations, especially if you have specific design requirements..
Custom WordPress websites
In WordPress land the term “custom websites” can be used for two kinds of websites:
- Websites that are genuinely created from scratch
- Websites that are created by adapting an existing theme
There are many over laps in the custom themes arena. And unfortunately there are very few measures that define the differences you can get in quality, price and expertise. After much personal experience I will share with you a general idea of what you can expect for the price range. There will however always be exceptions. As this industry is unregulated, you must also use your instinct in regards to the people you deal with for producing custom websites – and trustworthy referrals are gold!
For most businesses the decision to spend more than 1k on a website means that you are serious about the results you expect from it, and I have broken this section into 3 main categories; Basic Websites, Mid-Range Websites and Premium ROI Driven websites.
Note: I will not speak about ecommerce options here, except to say that there are good options in particular with premium custom websites.
Custom Websites – Basic
Average costs: $500-$1500
For this price your custom website is likely to be either a basic custom website or more likely a customised premium theme.
With a basic website your team will often be a one person team, who may have been trained as either a designer or a developer. They are often really good at one and not so good at the other.
The people who design basic custom themes seldom have much understanding of internet sales and marketing so understand this when you begin.
Basic custom themes will suit
- Business owners who have requirements for their website outside of what they can find with existing themes.
- Website owners who need a specific design to match their branding.
- Business owners who are happy to have their website be an online business card rather than a dynamic business generator.
- Bloggers who are taking it to the next level
- Lower cost than the other custom options.
- If you know them personally and you have the skills they lack, you can guide the design or development to get what you want.
- More flexibility than free themes and premium themes.
- The potential for a great looking website.
- Often there is little understanding of web marketing, strategy and sales flow
- Compared to high end custom websites a basic one will generally lack in design or functionality (often both).
- Basic in features
- Inflexible design options and layout options (but many new website owners will not notice this).
Custom Websites – Mid Range
Average costs: $1000-$2500
Mid-range custom websites are usually a huge step up from basic ones and you normally get two people on the team, a designer and a developer (or one person who sub-contracts the other).
You will generally get a website that looks good and is well built. You will give them your brief and they will probably have plenty of ideas, skills and experience to contribute as well. The only major component missing is usually a clear understanding of consultative analysis & a plan for website sales flow and visitor behaviour.
Mid-range custom websites will suit:
- Business owners who are upgrading their website and are clear on what will make the difference to their sales numbers and stats
- Website owners who want their website to stand out
- Website owners who need something very professional and functional
- A good reflection of your brand
- More affordable than high end options
- Most mid-range websites will be flexible, well designed and well coded
- Have experienced designers and developers work with you
- Project management process
- Website built to your brief
- Website built to your brief but can be without thought for USP (unique selling point), sales flow etc.
- A large investment when the developers and designers are not sales flow or results oriented.
Custom Websites – Premium ROI Driven
Average costs: $2500+
If you have a massive budget for your website (think $50,000+) you can afford to work with an agency that specialises in making websites that are perfectly designed to be found and make money.
For most small businesses however this type of investment in a website is not even a consideration. Unfortunately this means that you miss out on a crucial piece for website success… the ability to hire an industry expert who understands planning websites around income generation.
The good news is that after years of scouring the market place for the ultimate WordPress small business website we have finally found a company who brings this level of understanding and makes it accessible for small business owners.
Premium ROI Driven websites are the crème de la crème of WordPress custom websites and the difference is one thing, a deep understanding of web sales and marketing. You may get a fabulously knowledgeable and experienced developer or a cutting edge creative designer (or both) in your team but to get that with a solid experience and genuine understanding of internet marketing, user behaviour and sales flow is very hard to find.
These service providers will work with you on your niche, unique selling proposition and understand your target audience. They will help you develop website strategy and integrated sales flow design. They will hold your hand through the consultation process and design your website to complement and capitalise on your marketing strategy. Of course, they will be experts in both design and development as well!
Premium ROI driven custom websites will suit…
- Website owners who already have built at least one website for their business.
- People who have a good understanding of the limitations that their existing website places on their results.
- Business owners who are unsatisfied with the results they are getting with their current website and are ready to take it to the next level.
- People who want to give their web business the best chance of success and are willing to invest in expert help.
For premium ROI driven custom websites we recommend Chris at Octoply
- Experienced web business consultant to create sales and conversion strategy
- Website designed specifically for target audience and to capitalise on your USP
- Website complements marketing plan
- The best in website design and development practices.
- Web team accountable and interested in your websites success and return on your investment.
- More expensive option than other WordPress websites.
The Wrap Up
As you can see there are a lot of options for WordPress!
The Grassroots team have worked our way through the plethora of options on a variety of websites to understand the right place and time for each in the business website lifecycle.
We do enjoy sharing what we have learned over the years and so if you have any questions at all about where to start or where to upgrade to, please feel free to post them here, on our Facebook page , by email or in the comments below.
We will do our best to answer them and share our resources with you.
Need a WordPress website for your business?
If you’d like a WordPress website for your business, but you’re not sure which option is best for you, contact the Grassroots team.
Whether you need help planning a website and figuring out what you need, finding a web host and installing WordPress, creating a website with a custom theme or upgrading to a ROI driven website, we can either help or we’ll do our best to refer you to someone who can.
Serena “Social” Star Leonard