So you want to build a new website, you want to use WordPress, and you’re ready to get started. Congratulations, you have already taken the first and most critical step to a new, exciting web site powered by one of the most popular web management framework…. WordPress
The question now is this: Free or Paid? It’s no secret that anyone can build themselves a WordPress website free of charge now days. Just go to wordpress.com and build it. It’s really that simple. And with thousands of free themes and plugins, you really could create the website of your dreams, all free of charge.
For years now people have been asking me the question: Why would I want to pay for a website that I can create for free? What benefit do I get? Couldn’t I just create my website, install the right plugins, and get the same thing as if I paid for a site?
The answer to that is yes… You could create your site free of charge and end up with the same exact site. But would you want to? The answer to that question depends on the pros and cons. Which I’m going to outline for you in this post.
The Pros and Cons
As I already mentioned, it’s very possible to create your site free of charge, perhaps more so now then ever before due to the plethora of free plugins and themes available, however, you will want to make sure that you are making the right decision after all the pros and cons are considered. There’s nothing worse than spending a ton of time and effort on the wrong path.
It’s free!! This pretty much speaks for itself.
It’s conveniently easy to install a free theme from your admin panel. There are many, many free themes available to get the right look and feel for your site. And all you need to do to install them is go to your admin panel, and click on “Appearance - Themes”. You can get free themes from other places as well, but you may want to avoid those (see below)
Free WordPress themes tend to be compatible with a lot more plugins. This is because all official WordPress free themes go through an official review process to ensure a standard level of compatibility that you can depend on.
Free WordPress themes and plugins tend to have less features and may run faster as a result. Less features means faster. If you can find a free theme and set of plugins that meet your needs without all the extra features that may come with a paid site, you may actually be better off.
Official WordPress themes and plugins have passed an official review process. This makes sure that you get a base level of quality and compatibility with the official WordPress base software. Many paid sites choose to break WordPress best practices either to make sure that your site can’t be easily moved elsewhere or just to keep in sync with their own proprietary model.
Vast online community. There are literally thousands of forums, blogs, help sites, and more that give plenty of advice on how to manage your WordPress powered site. If you have a question, you can usually find an answer… albeit with a little time and patience.
No support. Unless you really know what you are doing or are willing to spend the time to troubleshoot bugs and figure out how to get your site to look and behave the way you envision it, you may be out of luck.
Sparse updates. Free themes and plugins usually don’t update as often. This is not a problem for the most part… that is until there is a security hole that needs to be patched and you’re site is left open to hackers. Remember, the developers of these free themes and plugins don’t get paid to plug security holes, so you may be out of luck until they have the free time to patch their software.
Lacking features. Most free themes and plugins are lacking in features as well as user experience for both administrators and visitors. Remember, no money, means no incentive to develop a bleeding edge experience.
Advertisements. Most free themes are fine in this area, but plugins, on the other hand usually come with a plethora of advertisements, donation buttons, and “upgrade to premium” nags that can ruin your administrative back end control panel. As I mentioned, plugin developers don’t get paid for their work. Instead, many of them get paid by serving ads on your site, asking for donations, or premium upgrades.
Security vulnerabilities. Remember, free theme and plugin developers don’t get paid. It is because of this that they either skimp on security or may actually include code that is designed to carry malicious code for profit. While WordPress runs themes and plugins through an official review process, it is still possible to sneak in code that isn’t malicious in and of itself, but may be designed to allow malicious code to be injected into your site after it has gone live.
It may take a non-trivial amount of time to get it right. Remember, it’s free… which means you’ll have to put in the hours yourself. Make no mistake, building a website yourself can be a nightmare if you want something special or envision it a certain way. I’ve literally seen business owners spend months on creating their site themselves only to fail in the end anyway.
Support. In almost every case, you can expect premium support of some kind. This is a huge bonus for those who need help or have questions about their site. For example, Web $en$e websites come with support that you can rely on.
Better Features and Higher Quality. Most paid sites tend to be higher quality and come with many great premium features as opposed to a free site. The reason for this is simple. They get paid… and they want to keep their existing user base. So, for the most part, features just keep getting better and better as more users hire them.
All aspects of design are usually much better. Again, we come back to the fact that developers are paid for their hard work. And it is, in fact… very hard work to get a website to work in all aspects of todays modern internet. Professional developers know that they have to make the site look and work great on many different devices from mobile to desktop and everything in between.
Security is a HUGE priority for paid developers. I can’t stress this point enough. Believe it… the last thing that a paid developer wants is for a site that they designed to be hacked. It’s bad for business and they have the money to spend on making sure their sites meet the highest security standards. Also, when a new threat emerges, they are the first ones to patch any holes.
You get what you want without having to spend a lot of time. The great web developers can listen to a customer and bring their vision to life rather easily. Especially those who have been doing it for a decade or more. So, be prepared to be wow’ed when you see what your paid developer comes up with for your company.
Better admin tools. With a paid site, you can expect better tools that allow you to administer or manage your website. For example, with Web $en$e websites, you get a premium, state of the art page builder with several built in modules that make it easier than ever before to create new pages and manage existing content. With free WordPress, you get a single “Page Content” editor that you simply put all your content in. There is no way for you to lay out your content in a way that creates an impact on your visitors.
More frequent updates. Paid sites tend to keep up to date with the latest WordPress revisions, security updates, and more. There are thousands of issues that can arise with outdated website software and plugins. The best way to avoid issues is to keep up with the official WordPress repository. And paid sites tend to be better at keeping up.
Price. Obviously, it’s not free… And sometimes, the price point isn’t what you’d like or doesn’t fit your budget. Let’s face it, budgets are getting smaller and smaller and adding a premium website on top of that may seriously dip into your piggy bank.
Paid themes and plugins do not have an official review process. Since these themes and plugins are not posted in the official WordPress library, they don’t undergo an official WordPress review process. If you do go paid, just make sure that you check out the provider before purchasing to make sure that they are following official WordPress best practices. Web $en$e websites, for example, do follow the highest possible standards.
You might get features you don’t need. If you are looking for a simple website that doesn’t do much more than give visitors your contact information, then you may be paying for many features that you don’t need. Also, this may not necessarily mean that your site will be slower, but it is certainly possible.
If you decide on going with a free website
If you’ve already weighed the pros and cons of a free website and decide this is the route for you, then I’d like to give you some things to be on the lookout for.
Only use a free WordPress theme and free plugins from the official WordPress repository. Never, ever, ever… ever, ever… use a theme or plugins that you downloaded from some website out there. It could contain malicious code and unless you can have the code reviewed by a security firm, you are just asking for trouble.
Make sure that the developer of your themes and plugins is active and makes updates regularly. When you are browsing themes and plugins, take a look at the date of the last update, how many reviews they have, and how many installs it has. Once you have the whole picture, you can make an educated decision on whether or not to use that theme or plugin.
Be prepared to spend some time. Remember, no support means that you’ll have to do all the work yourself. In the case of a simple site, this may be well worth the time and effort. Just keep in mind that if you want a really nice site, you’ll have to burn the midnight oil in addition to your day job.
If you decide on going with a paid website
If, on the other hand, you’ve decided that you don’t have the time to make your website yourself and you’d rather be doing your normal job, then you should also be on the lookout for some gotchas.
Only go with the most reputable web developers. There are a huge number of web developers out there who do not care about quality, security, or overall customer satisfaction. The only thing they care about is the sale. Always do your research, look at other sites they’ve done, and check out their reviews, testimonials, and endorsements. Also, another thing to look at is how long they’ve been in business. A new company may not have the right experience, or may go under, and if that happens, your site won’t be maintained. The company that provides Web $en$e, (Snap Web Systems) has been in business for 15 years and has plenty of experience building professional websites.
Check out your support and maintenance options. There’s nothing worse than having a page that doesn’t look right and waiting days to get it fixed. Make sure that your provider responds in a timely manner to your requests. Also, if you have a website that needs to be updated continuously, you may want to check to see if they offer some sort of maintenance contract. Web $en$e, for example, offers a plan that that will give you free page updates whenever you need them.
Figure out your budget before purchasing. These days, professional development goes for $60 to $150 an hour, so… figure out what you are willing to pay, and then divide it by $100. This will roughly give you the number of hours of labor that you will get from a professional web developer. If you believe that the site of your dreams can be built within this time window, then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. If it takes longer, what you can expect is an equally proportionate price tag.
There is a silver lining for those who don’t have a lump sum of money to spend right now. The answer is Web $en$e. With Web $en$e, you will pay for your development monthly over the course of a full year. There is no up front lump sum to pay and we have the right package for you, so check us out.