I recently read an article that compared the different website builders. In it, the article exclaimed that WordPress is a free website builder.
Technically, you can download the software, put it in a host, and create a website. So as far as that is concerned, you are not out any money. There is this adage that rightfully states that time is money.
There is a massive problem with people thinking that WordPress is free – they don’t appreciate the care and knowledge that goes into making a website on WordPress correctly, nor the amount of time that goes into developing and maintaining the site.
WordPress does make it easier to build and maintain a website. A person needs to understand that it takes work and time to put together.
Why make a deal of someone saying WordPress is Free?
When someone says that WordPress is free, it sets unrealistic expectations. The thought is it must be simple and easy to use and set up to be successful.
Out of the box, WordPress removes all the work of having a secure base website with basic structures like posts, pages, etc. There are several themes out there that can be used directly or can be manipulated to look as you want.
To take into consideration speed, structural optimizations, searchability, readability, design, and more requires time, research, and to some degree, experience.
Can this be done by someone new to WordPress? Yes.
I encourage people to understand their website and get dirty. I want people to get in and try things. The only way to learn is to do.
It takes time to do this. Something we only have a finite amount of, which I find precious.
There are many ways you can create a website. Some are more prebaked than others, such as can be seen with offerings from Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify.
Don’t forget about site functionality.
There are a number of things you will need to pay for with a website. This includes the host. WordPress.com can lower the introduction to hosting prices, but the lower ranges are somewhat limiting with what you can do.
Some of the more reputable and secure hosts offer several additional services like backups, other development environments to continue to work on design and development without breaking your live site,
Kinsta, Pantheon, Flywheel, WPMU are examples of excellent hosts.
I am currently hosted on Kinsta and couldn’t be happier at this time. The security is tight, but not so tight that I have to go to development to install site updates and then push through staging to live.
Hosting starting at $30/month
I’ve hosted many WordPress and Drupal websites with Pantheon. It is a great platform to host from Development, Staging, and Live Environments. It is likely one of the most secure platforms since all updates have to be applied in Development before releasing to Staging and Live Environments.
Hosting starting at $29/month for an annual price, otherwise, it is $41/month
Flywheel has a tool that makes developing a website more accessible and uploads directly to Flywheel. This tool is also available for development with other hosts, but YMMV. This is a pretty solid choice and streamlines the offline to online development process if this matters to you.
Hosting starts at $23/month for an annual price, going for $25/month alternatively.
WP Engine was developed with WordPress in mind explicitly. It is pretty solid, but I’ve found it to be more confounding over the other platforms for hosting. I’ve also discovered my support needs ending up not being met or answered correctly. It is frustrating because of the advertising work they put into it to get people there, but disappointing people with technical understanding. Again, YMMV.
Hosting starts at $29/month for the annual Startup plan and $35/month.
WPMU gives you several great tools, including SEO, Image minification, optimization, etc. I’ve used the tools regularly for years, but I let my best option go, which I should have stayed on top.
Hosting is $49/month and gives you $30 of hosting credits, which can be applied towards three bronze level hosted sites.
Does this mean you shouldn’t use WordPress? No.
I want people to go into site ownership with open eyes. There are hidden costs to the Free concept that people don’t consider, and I think that they should know what they are getting into when building their website.
If you need a developer to help with your WordPress website, you are in luck as there are a large number of people to support you, each with their level of skill. I know some excellent WordPress developers and happy to lend a recommendation to them. I would tread carefully as some of the less skilled could open your website to potential security issues.
If you are starting and have decided that you are going with WordPress, know that you can begin at WordPress.com in a locked-down situation to try it out at first. Getting a Business plan will give you the ability to install your plugins and do some customization.
If you want a more managed website with fewer variables, I might suggest using Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify.
You can set up for booking time, managing your (un)professional profile, building community, and are well designed for search optimization.
Each you can buy a website and offer eCommerce solutions. Shopify is likely better equipped for eCommerce and can be extended the furthest.
Several templates will get you started that you can modify in their online builder. I have helped some Wix websites, and they do provide the ability to place analytics where they need to go.
Pricing starts at $13/month
I’ve helped and supported many people with their sites and have a developer account that allows a website to be extended further, but note that this takes a person a bit further outside of the managed support if you do something custom.
Pricing starts at $12/month annual or $16/month.
Shopify is the most extendable of the three options. Back up for Shopify is a little more verbose. Most I’ve supported on Shopify have used it for the commerce connection, but they do support straight blogging. If you are considering selling, this is a viable solution.
Pricing starts at $29/month.
WordPress may be free to use. I hope you can see that it is not free to use and understand why. I would recommend trying it out to see for yourself. You can also try the others I included for free. If you want your custom domain, it will cost you, but you will see what you are in for using them.
Best of luck!