WordPress recently turned 18 (it can officially go to the pub now) and the latest stats show it powers a whopping 40% of the web. That’s huge.
Lots of people opt to design a WordPress website as they can download a pre-built theme and build a site with virtually no knowledge of code, or best practices for design, UX or website optimisation.
Unfortunately, this means that people will offer to ‘build’ your website for a relatively low cost. It’s an unregulated industry, where anyone with a hint of IT skills may profess to be an ‘expert’.
What’s the real cost of going cheap?
Yes, a genuine expert or team of experts will cost more. But in our experience, opting for the cheapest website build at the start will cost you more in the long run…
- In time, regarding digital marketing (i.e. your credibility score with search engines like Google) and
- Potentially with your reputation too
We discussed before what a website can cost, but let’s look at why the cheapest option isn’t the best option.
It is understandable if you are starting out and don’t have a budget to appoint a web design agency to create it for you. But you should be weary of who you appoint and how they are going to build your website.
We’ve picked up a LOT of clients who come to us after having paid someone to design a WordPress website for them initially. But after a very short space of time, the website has become unfit for purpose. Perhaps it’s just slow, maybe it’s become compromised (e.g. hackers are able to access it) and it may have a malware infection, or the way it has been designed and structured simply isn’t converting visitors into leads or actual customers.
Time and time again we hear about the person who built the site becoming uncontactable when problems start to arise. So, simple things like finding passwords or details about the hosting become a challenge. The more time between noticing an initial red flag and fixing it naturally increases the chances of major issues arising. Particularly regarding data that’s accessible on your site when in the wrong hands.
So why does the website become problematic?
We often find that cheap WordPress website builds have been created using an off-the-shelf WordPress template, purchased from somewhere like Themeforest. Or it’s a in-country-based person saying they will develop, but they outsource to a company overseas, who have their own template they’ve coded as a one-off and re-sell it. Then to help the person create the pages they have installed a ‘page builder’ plugin on top of this.
Therefore, due to a lack of technical knowledge, every time some sort of functionality is required, a plugin has been installed. For example, a slider might be needed so something like Revolution Slider is installed.
Now, this all leads to a very quick process of getting a website live. So what’s the problem?
Let’s have a look at why these types of WordPress builds become problematic, and the issues we’ve experienced with them over the years.
Keeping up to date
WordPress, being an open-source platform, regularly has updates made available. Perhaps they fix a security issue or provide new functionality.
Likewise, themes and plugins need to be updated. Otherwise, exploits will be found. New functionality added. Or perhaps the theme authors needed to make some changes to ensure it works with a new general WordPress update.
Unless you regularly maintain your website or have a maintenance agreement in place with your web agency, things can quickly become outdated.
This can be problematic for various reasons.
Firstly it poses security risks. We’ve seen a lot of sites become infected with malware as the owners haven’t kept their themes up to date.
Secondly, it can actually break the site. Perhaps WordPress has made core updates that conflict with the theme code. Or maybe they don’t run on the latest version of PHP (the code language used for WordPress).
Thirdly it will affect site performance. Sites with out-of-date code will become slow and bogged down with a bloated database.
Now points 1, 2 and 3 will affect your business. Your reputation is at stake, and people don’t hang around these days on slow-performing sites. The longer it takes for a page to load – you tend to just leave the page, right? It’s the same for your customers/clients on your site.
Google doesn’t like them either, so your website rankings will suffer.
Lack of originality
The other problem with using a pre-built template to design a WordPress website is you aren’t the only person using it.
Most sites will have some uniqueness in that the branding may be different and the photos changed. But there is a very common look and feel to a website built with some of these templates.
Usually, if your website is built (and not designed first) then this suggests that the person building the site hasn’t separated out the process. They haven’t designed from scratch how your website should look and pages link to each other for the quickest and best customer experience. They haven’t planned how to truly represent you and your brand or business.
Most agencies will design a WordPress site with knowledge and experience from 3 key areas, creative, strategic and technical. Chances are there is an expert for each area. One person building your site couldn’t possibly be an expert in all 3 (if they are, pass me their number I want to hire them) so your website will suffer in some shape or form.
It’s often the case that when a prebuilt template is created, the author builds it in such a way that they want it to offer as much functionality as possible and make it appealing to as many different industries as possible.
To do that the templates need to have a LOT of code.
Perhaps they are pulling in multiple JQuery libraries to offer various slider features, or loading in a whole bunch of web fonts to give you a wide choice.
So your website ends up loading a tonne of code it doesn’t need. This slows it down, affecting user experience and Google rankings.
There’s only so much various optimisation techniques can do in terms of caching, minimising code and providing a responsive site.
A high-performing optimised site starts with how it’s built. Or should I say coded? Anyone can build a website, and therein lies the problem.
So what are the benefits of a custom-build?
Using a custom-built theme to design a WordPress website will be unique and bespoke for you.
It will be coded to provide only the functionality you need, keeping code bloat low. This means a leaner, faster-performing site.
Not being reliant on certain updates, a custom theme needs much less maintenance and will be future-proof. They need to be much more open to future developments should your requirements change and evolve.
The site will be more secure (you still need to keep any plugins and WordPress core up to date!) and won’t be reliant on a ‘page builder’ plugin to create pages. A well-developed site will make full use of the fantastic built-in WordPress Gutenberg editor.
Need to design a WordPress website – conclusion
Your website shouldn’t be seen as a cost or something which you just need to do. Going for the cheapest option isn’t going to benefit you long-term.
It’s an investment and can make or break your reputation. What’s the first thing you do when researching a business or product? You look them up online.