The True Cost of a WordPress Website

WordPress is free! Isn’t it? Yes, it is true that you can use WordPress software for free. It is a GNU operating system, more commonly known as open-source software, under General Public License (GPLv2 or later), and you can use WordPress without spending a penny. However, this doesn’t mean you have a website available for people to visit.

What is WordPress? is a Content Management System owned by a non-profit company called WordPress Foundation. As a GNU (pronounced g’noo, just out of interest), it is part of the free software movement. This is not to be confused with, a hosting company, where yes, you can build a website for free, but then you’re confined to having their ads and branding on your site, limited space, and limited plugins and themes, a little bit like the free Wix sites. With being a CMS, it is scalable, with no limitations, there are endless themes to choose from, and the users are entirely in control.

For the purposes of our blog, we’re going to be referring to the platform, since it is the only one we use, out of and

So what is meant by free?

There are two interpretations of ‘FREE’ that could apply here. Oxford Dictionaries define them as:

  • Adverb: “without cost or payment.”
  • Adjective: “able to act or be done as one wishes; not under the control of another.”

Which ‘free’ is WordPress?

Free software, under GNU and The Free Software Foundation (FSF), must meet the following criteria:

  • Users should have the freedom to run the program as they wish, for any purpose.
  • Users should have the freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does their computing as they wish.
  • Users should have the freedom to redistribute copies so they can help others.
  • Users should have the freedom to distribute copies of their modified versions to others, offering everyone a chance to benefit from the changes.
  • Access to the source code.

Therefore, as long as users are free to use, copy, distribute, redistribute, study, change and improve the software, then WordPress can charge for certain associated features.

Where do the costs come in?

There are several elements to a WordPress website that can involve costs:

  1. Domain Name
  2. Website hosting
  3. Themes and design
  4. Plugins and extensions
  5. Ongoing maintenance
  6. SEO

Let’s break it down.

1. Domain Name

Your domain name is the address of your website, commonly known as a URL. This is what users type into the URL bar to visit your website. You must have a domain name for your website since it acts as your company’s address on the internet. Most businesses want a name that’s easy to remember.

There are quite a number of options available these days, and domains usually require a registration cost, plus an annual fee. The TLD (top-level domain), like .com,, .net, etc, creates the difference in the costs, though they’re all relatively cheap. For instance, choosing as your domain name would be around R250 per year, would be around R100 per year, and would be around R50 per year.

2. Website Hosting

Your website doesn’t just appear on the internet, ready to pop up on Google. Every website on the internet needs hosting. Think about your website as your gleaming new car. It looks amazing, but won’t go anywhere until you put fuel in it. Web hosting is the fuel.

There are thousands of hosting options available, from as little as R50 per month, and choosing the right hosting can make or break your website.

So, you’re at the fuel station in your new diesel car and there’s a choice between regular, low sulphur and ultra-low sulphur diesel. Yes, your car will run with regular fuel, however, the lower the sulphur content, the better the diesel is for your car, offering superior lubrication, less wear and tear on the engine, greater fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

The same applies to web hosting. You can have a beautiful website, but if you choose the wrong hosting, then your site could be subjected to a lot of downtime, poor security, slow load times and a lack of customer service. The better the hosting, the far fewer chances there are of a website outage, just as a new potential customer tries to check out your site. So yes, you can pay just R10 a month for hosting, but if there is repeated downtime and the response time is incredibly slow, potential clients will likely be put off and you will lose credibility.

We have done our research and handpicked a hosting company that is highly reliable, and stay abreast of new technologies, in order for your website to be able to adapt and grow.

3. Themes and Design

WordPress offers a massive number of themes. Over 50,000! Many of them are free, and they are already packaged designs for your website. The templates are customisable, as per the rules of the free software movement, if you know what you’re doing.

Most of the free WordPress themes are pretty basic, and all of them have limitations for anyone who does not have a developer’s knowledge. If you’re not expecting your business to grow or change, these templates might be enough for you. There are also plenty of paid themes to choose from, with extra features, that may better fit with the needs of your business. Cost-wise, they can entail either a one-off fee or an annual fee.

Within these themes you can change the visual design and layout, so everything from colours, and sidebar positioning, to typography, and line spacing. You do this through WordPress’ CSS stylesheet. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and it’s a web language used to style the HTML elements of the themes.

However, your chosen theme may not perfectly fit with how you’ve envisaged your website. If you’re not a web designer or developer, it’s important to read up about CSS, if you want to change elements of your website, and modify your theme to better suit you.

Within the WordPress themes are the templates, which define the layout of each page. Themes usually include many different templates, however, you cannot install a single template. To change templates, you must install a new theme. You can create custom templates within a theme, but this will require a far greater understanding of web design, including CSS, HTML, and PHP.

WordPress premium themes can cost anything from R300 to R4,000 for a one-off design, or R900 per year.

For a fully customised WordPress website, you might want to consider a designer or design team with the expertise to create a website that fits perfectly with your business. Considering that it only takes 0.05 seconds for a visitor to form an opinion about your website, the extra cost of hiring a good designer will likely be recouped with a great user experience and a higher likelihood of turning website visits into revenue.

If you want to be able to buy and sell goods, digital products or services via your website, you will need an electronic commerce site, or eCommerce website development. These websites have a lot more features and enable your customers to find your product(s), add them to a cart, and pay for the goods or service securely.

Website development on WordPress costs, through a designer or developer, is varied. To give you an idea, our customised five-page websites start from R10,000. It might seem like a lot to some, but WordPress theme and template customisations are timely and complex, and our highly skilled team carefully architect the User Experience and User Interface to motivate call-to-action, meaning that they are worth every penny.

4. Plugins and Extensions

WordPress plugins are add-on features for your website template, that enhance the functionality. There are almost 60,000 to choose from, with many of the leading ones requiring an additional cost.

There are a number of plugins that are highly recommended for improving the overall performance and convenience of your website.

Contact forms
A plugin customised contact form is important if you want to capture more information than is standard. With a plugin form builder, you can create email subscription forms, online order forms, payment forms, surveys, polls, and any other type of online form.

Live chat
You can really stand out from the crowd with live chat. This type of plugin gives you or your team an opportunity to talk directly to customers, and answer their questions in real-time. Not only will this elevate the user experience, but can help your conversions by directing customers to the best product or service options quickly. It will also help to build connections with customers.

Mobile experience
Earlier this year, it was calculated that 36.45 million South Africans accessed the internet through a mobile device. In 2026, this figure is projected to be almost 43 million mobile internet users. A mobile plugin provides an adapted version of your website, so that users who are visiting your website from a mobile device, can view everything without losing out on user experience. The additional benefit of this type of plugin, is that it will prevent a drop in your SEO rankings.

Caching is the temporary storage of copies of files so that they can be accessed more quickly. When a user visits one of your web pages, a request is sent to the server, then it’s processed, and finally, the result is sent from the server to the user’s browser. Sounds quite data-heavy right? Especially with larger websites. How a caching plugin boosts websites, is that it speeds it up by temporarily storing some files, essentially duplicating the same content that has already been served, so that webpages load more quickly and the user experience is improved.

Lead generation is essential for your business. There are plugins that will help you generate more subscribers, leads and sales from your web traffic, and can even convert abandoning visitors into subscribers.

There are a number of different analytics plugins. The best ones better connect your website to Google Analytics, enabling you to gain insights into how people are finding your website, and what they are doing once they land on it. This is essential for being able to adapt your website based on user activity, helping you to increase traffic and create a superlative user experience.

Social media integration
It’s unlikely that you have a website and no social media platform(s). There are plugins that add social sharing buttons on your website, and ones that can even showcase your latest Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube content directly on the web page. This keeps your website fresh, without you having to update the actual site itself.

The security of your website, and ultimately the protection of your business, should be at the top of the list for any owner. There are plugins that offer website firewalls and malware protection, preventing web attacks on the site.

These are just a few of the many types of plugins available. For the really worthwhile plugins, that will get you more customers, you’ll likely need a premium solution and those range from R500 to R3,000, with some options requiring an annual fee.

5. Ongoing Maintenance

So you have an amazing website, with plugins and features that you’re happy with. However, it doesn’t just stop there. It’s essential that you maintain your website on an ongoing basis. You’ll need to regularly create a complete backup of your website, check and update the files, check and update the themes and plugins, test all forms and interactive elements, optimise any backend databases, run performance tests, and find and fix errors. This can be time-consuming and it’s important that you factor in that time, to ensure you do not end up losing out on traffic and therefore, potential customers and revenue.

Think about your capacity and adopt a solution that works for you, whether it’s taking time out yourself, employing someone to be responsible for this, or using an outside source to take care of your website maintenance.

With our WordPress website development, we can implement a built-in CMS interface, that empowers you to manage your website by yourself. This is will give you the control to create and edit the digital content easily. Or we can manage it for you, through one of our packages.

We offer retainer packages with our website builds, leaving us to keep on top of the maintenance of your website, so you can concentrate on other valuable aspects of your business.

6. SEO

And now you have a fantastic website, with plugins, features and CMS or a maintenance package. Is there anything left to consider?


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is crucial for your business, as it will help to improve the quantity of your website traffic, as well as the quality of the visitors. In actuality, SEO should have been considered throughout the content build on your site, rather than adding it in at the end. Since it entails taking your online content, and optimising it so you appear higher in search engines like Google, the copy on each of your pages should have been written to include researched keywords, not just in the body of the pages, but also in the metadata and metatitles.

There are WordPress SEO plugins that can help you improve engagement and increase traffic. Or if you’ve engaged a quality designer or developer to help you with your website, then they should have a copywriter who can create content that is keyword rich.

The cost of an SEO plugin will depend on the scope of its features. There are some free plugins, with basic features, and more enhanced plugins, that start from R150 per month.

With our SEO service, we will craft a strategy that aligns your site with Google’s best practices, and we stay abreast of the latest trends.

So what IS the true cost of a WordPress website?

The answer to that question, all depends on you and the needs of your business. You can get away with a simple website, that you create yourself from a theme, without extra features, or just with free plugins, and only pay for a domain name and hosting. That way, you can spend as little as a few hundred Rand per year. Don’t forget to factor in your time for putting it all together. WordPress might be popular, but you still need to find your way around its features.

However, if you want a fantastic, beautifully designed website, that offers a seamless experience, is entirely user-centred, perfectly represents your brand and ultimately increases your business’s performance, you will want to turn to the experts.

For a successful, well-performing website, expect to pay a minimum of R10,000.

Contact us to chat about your website requirements, and let us prepare a proposal and quote to suit your budget.

Neill du Toit

Neill’s appetite for anything related to technology is ever-growing. Fresh out of school, and straight into the workforce, Neill was thrown into the deep end couple years ago, having to learn terms like “SEO” and “PPC”. Thankfully he’s a sponge for information, and it wasn’t long before he was moulded into our SEM guru, and he is currently busy completing his degree in marketing management. Neill has a dream of flying a plane, and would love to travel the globe one day.

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