Planning to build a website? WordPress could be the perfect tool, easy for novices to use, yet with more than enough power for the most complex business sites. But does it fit your budget? How much does it really cost to build a WordPress website?
The core WordPress software is free, amazingly, but you’ll need a lot more to create a working website. A domain name like techradar.com so visitors can find it; hosting, to store your files; a website design, security tools, backups, marketing tools and perhaps more.
In this article we’ll break down the various issues to consider for different types of sites and users. We’ll talk about when it’s safe to use free solutions, but also explain when you really need to pay, and the costs you need to think about for each of your website requirements.
Hosting (free to $120 a month)
You might expect a powerful platform like WordPress to need very high-end hosting, but, that isn’t necessarily true. InfinityFree, 000Webhost, FreeHostingNoAds and many other free hosting providers all offer easy WordPress installation, allowing you to get started at zero cost.
Taking the free WordPress route does mean accepting some limits. It’s often slow, less reliable, with very little storage, and able to handle only very low-traffic sites (Hostinger’s free plan is designed for around 300 visitors a day, 000webhost fonly 100.) But it might just about be enough for simple personal or family sites, or to begin learning the WordPress basics.
If you’d like to build a simple business or other site, and don’t like the corner-cutting that comes with free plans, budget shared hosting is ideal. Hostinger, Bluehost, Namecheap, Inmotion Hosting and others have capable options which more than cover the hosting basics, yet cost only around $25-$50 for the first year (though some prices jump at renewal time, so check before you buy.)
If you’re creating a sizable web store, a high traffic site (50K+ visitors a month) or any project where speed and reliability is important, then it’s worth considering Managed WordPress hosting. Exactly what this includes depends on each provider, but typically you’ll get servers specially optimized for WordPress, automatic WordPress and plugin updates, malware scanning, improved backups, useful extras (free themes, plugins) and specialist WordPress support. Bluehost, IONOS, WP Engine, Inmotion Hosting and others have high-powered Managed WordPress plans from $10-$120 a month, and Nexcess has plans from $19 a month to a $449 enterprise-ready monster that can run up to 250 WordPress sites all on its own.
Domain name (free subdomain to $100)
One of the most crucial elements in website success, whether you’re using WordPress or any other platform, is to come up with a snappy and memorable domain name. Discussing how to do that is a whole topic in itself, so we’ll assume you’ve thought of a name already (if not, try the Instant Domain Search generator for ideas.) But what is it going to cost?
If you’ve zero budget, some hosts allow you to use a subdomain for free. 000webhost can host your site for free as yourname.000webhostapp.com, for instance, and Googiehost offers shorter options such as yourname.cu.ma. These could work for personal projects, or sites which will only ever be accessed by friends or family. But it’s easy for visitors to see you’re using a free domain (and hosting), making this a bad choice for businesses and anyone hoping to look professional.
Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator, Hostinger, SiteGround and other providers offer free domain registration for one year. That typically saves you $10-$12 for a .com, but beware, renewal fees for subsequent years can vary hugely. For example, Bluehost renews .com domains at $19.99 for one year, .co.uk at $29.99, but Hostinger asks only $13.99 for .com, and $8.99 for .co.uk.
If your favorite web host turns out to charge more for domains than you’d like, keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a domain along with your web hosting. The domain registrar Domain.com can register your .com for five years, for under $50, while Porkbun can gives you 10 years of .com registration and free domain privacy for only $98 (though you can buy a single year, too.) You’ll have to do a little extra work to point the domain from your registrar to its hosting space, but any good hosting provider will have a tutorial to help, and those extra few minutes could save you a lot of cash.
Theme (free to $200)
One of the great aspects of WordPress is that even if you don’t know the tiniest detail about web design, it still allows you to create and manage a stylish and visually appealing site. The secret? Its support for themes, pre-built website designs you can download and use within seconds.
It gets better. Although the default themes are usually a little, well, dull, you can choose from more than 10,000 themes for free direct from the WordPress dashboard (they’re all available for previewing on the WordPress site, if you’re curious.)
As you’d expect with a library this large, there’s likely to be something close to the look you need. And ‘close’ is usually good enough, because any theme is just a starting point, and you can easily customize the colors, layout, menu style and everything else as necessary.
One issue with using a free theme is there may be tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of sites around the world that look much like yours. If it’s a blog, you might not care in the slightest. But if you’re a business looking to build a distinctive brand, it might be worth paying for a premium theme.
Exactly what you’ll get varies widely, but opting for a premium theme could bring all kinds of benefits: more pre-designed page types, custom sliders, special fonts, new widgets and page components, designs optimized for particular site types (architect, creative agency, a CV/ resume), or just loads more visual style.
Premium theme prices range from $10 to $200, but budget for $20-$80 and it’s likely you’ll find something that works for you. TemplateMonster is a huge site with 20,000+ paid themes to explore, making it an ideal place to start looking.
SSL certificate (Free to $200)
Every WordPress website needs an SSL certificate, a special file which allows visitors to make secure encrypted HTTPS connections to your content. No SSL means no reassuring padlock in the address bar, and ‘not secure’ warnings every time they visit, a sure-fire way to let everyone know that you’ve no idea how to create and manage a website.
Fortunately, the majority of paid web hosting plans come with free SSL, and that’s almost certainly enough for personal or business websites which don’t take payments or have any special privacy needs. But if you’re building an international web store, or anything else where trust is your top priority, then an upgrade may be worthwhile.
Most free SSL certificates are ‘Domain Validated’ or DV, for instance: they prove you own the domain, but nothing more. Buy an ‘Organization Validated’ (OV) SSL certificate, though, and the registrar does some manual vetting of the buyer, then adds its name and address to the certificate. An ‘Extended Validation’ (EV) certificate has even more extensive checks on the buyer’s identity, giving additional reassurance to users that you really are who you say you are.
There are many other SSL variations, and prices can range from $10 to more than $1,000 a year. An annual budget of $50-$200 will cover you for most situations and most providers, though, and if you’re happy to sign up for long contracts, there’s big money to be saved. Namecheap has a wide choice of OV and EV certificates for around $50-$100 a year on its five year plans, for instance, a fraction of what you might pay elsewhere.
Backups (free to $120)
Building a quality website is an intensive task which takes a lot of time and effort, so unless you’re totally unconcerned by the thought of starting again after some data disaster, regular backups are a must.
Many hosting plans include some form of free backup, but there are huge variations in what you get. GreenGeeks’ cheapest hosting plan saves a single daily backup, for instance, so you can restore the last day’s version only. But even SiteGround’s most basic offering keeps 30 daily backups, allowing you to go back up to a month, far better if you don’t notice a site problem for a while. Whenever you see ‘free backups’, read the small print carefully, make sure you know exactly what you get.
Another option is to set up your own backup scheme with a WordPress plugin. Our favorite, UpdraftPlus, can run scheduled backups anything from every few hours to once a month, then save the results to your own Google Drive, Dropbox account or other storage space. Basic backups are free, but UpdraftPlus Premium adds a bunch of valuable extras - fast incremental backups, multiple storage destinations, website migration tools, no ads, more - with prices ranging from $84-$230+.
Plugins ($0 to as much as you can afford)
We’ve focused on the core WordPress hosting essentials for this article, but large, high-traffic or business sites in particular may need more features, and there are thousands of free and paid WordPress plugins which can help.
If your site isn’t as fast as you’d like, a caching plugin will probably help. These work by saving copies of your site pages, then serving them directly to your visitors, reducing the need for WordPress to run scripts, access databases and otherwise tie up your system resources. Prices range from free to $60 a year to get started, and WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are the plugins we would try first.
WordPress sites are a hugely popular target for hackers, so it’s vital to keep yourself protected, especially for high-traffic or business sites (infecting your visitors with malware is guaranteed to destroy your reputation.) Sucuri Security and Wordfence Security have free versions which block many of the worst threats, and Sucuri’s Basic plan adds many more features, includingl automatically removing malware if it’s found, for around $200 a year.
If you’re skilled in SEO (search engine optimization) then you’ll have written and presented your content in a Google-friendly way, winning yourself a high spot in the search rankings. But if you’re not so confident, a good SEO plugin can analyze your site, highlight problems and give advice on how to improve each page. Yoast SEO and All-in One SEO for WordPress has features for everyone from individual users to international corporations, and starter prices range from free to $100 a year.
We can’t begin to cover everything you might want to use, but here are a few of the best: OptinMonster (from $10 a month) excels at lead generation; WPForms (from $40 a year) builds contact forms, order forms, surveys and more; Smash Balloon (from $49 a year per platform) makes it easy to display Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other content on your site; and MonsterInsights (from $100 a year) is a powerful Google Analytics plugin which helps you understand exactly what’s working on your site, and what isn’t.
So, how much does it cost to create a WordPress website? The figure varies hugely depending on your exact needs, but this is the sort of budget you should be considering for various site types.
(We’re quoting the minimum figures you can expect to pay for the first term of any contract, which could be up to three years. Costs might rise steeply when you renew, or if you need a shorter contract, especially if it’s monthly. Check the small print with your preferred host.)
Small personal project (free)
If you’re building a site for fun, to learn more about website design, or WordPress, then you can do that for free. But beware, that’s likely to mean accepting poor speeds, occasional unexpected downtime, ads, an unprofessional subdomain (yourname.freehosting.com) and traffic limits as low as 100 visitors a day.
Simple personal or business site ($24 to $60 a year)
Spending $2 to $5 a month buys you shared hosting with a free domain, 1-click WordPress installation, and often enough bandwidth to handle 10,000 or more visitors a month, sufficient for many small sites.
But beware: although you can also buy specialist WordPress plans at this price point, they’re relatively basic and likely to have significant limits. The IONOS starter WordPress plan is only $2 a month for year one, $4 afterwards, for instance, but it has minimal CPU power and only supports a single email address.
Small personal or business site with high traffic ($60 to $120 a year)
Move up to the $5-$10 range and there’s some surprisingly impressive hosting available. Accuweb’s WordPress Advanced ++ plan, for instance, supports unlimited websites, has free SSL, a free domain, and the company says it can handle half a million visitors a month.
Although this budget can get you hosting with a lot of features, it typically doesn’t buy you many extra server resources (RAM, CPU time.) Although your plan should still be a little faster than simple shared hosting, it’s not going to deliver the performance that a demanding site needs.
Mid-range personal or business site ($240 to $600)
Spend $20 to $50 a month on your WordPress project, and that gives you all kinds of options.
If performance is your priority, a good VPS (Virtual Private Server) plan outperforms shared hosting and can run all but the most demanding websites.
Bluehost’s Managed WordPress plans are more about the features, with a free domain, free SSL, daily backups, marketing and SEO tools, PayPal integration for e-commerce, and more.
IONOS WordPress Pro combines the two, with a VPS which includes some specialist extras (speed optimizations, malware protection, smart WordPress and plugin updates.)
E-commerce or high-end business site ($900+)
If you’re building a web store or any business-critical site, then it’s important to choose top quality services which deliver the speed and reliability your visitors will expect. But that doesn’t have to be expensive, and a budget of $900 for the first year can get you a very long way.
$50 to $60 a month ($600 to $720 a year) gets you speedy VPS products, and feature-packed WordPress plans for the likes of Bluehost and WordPress (a domain, SSL and decent backups are usually thrown in.)
Comprehensive plugins such as HubSpot forms, live chat, email marketing, analytics and other tools to help engage your visitors, entirely for free. The freebies won’t do everything you need, but you can add something like Constant Contact’s excellent email marketing tools for $10 a month ($120 a year.)
There’s still cash left over to spend on delivering your high-end site, from $50-$100 on a stylish theme, to $100 Malcare’s malware scanning and removal platform, and whatever other features you most need.
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Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.