Do Most WordPress Developers Charge Too Much?

Eric Binnion

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I have seen WordPress development costs range anywhere from $500 – $2,500+ for just a fairly simple website (a blog page and 1-3 inner page designs).

When you can get a professional looking WordPress theme for just $50-200 that comes with very simple options to customize the theme, is $2,000+ justified?

Before we can answer that, I’d like to share some stories with you.

Bad WordPress Developers – Overcharging and Underdelivering

I recently read an article on DIYthemes where Derek Halpern said, “I ended up paying a ton of money for a design that was unusable. It was so bad, in fact, that if I wanted someone else to use it, I would have had to bribe them…”

On that same article, Rebecca tells a story of how a client paid $30,000 for a mediocre site… at best.

In both of these stories, the client admitted to paying a lot for a design that they felt was not worth the money. Derek even says that it was so bad he couldn’t give it away!

If you read Rebecca’s comment she mentions how the site was hard to work with because everything was coded in PHP and there was no easy way to edit the stylesheet. I’m assuming that she means the styles were also included in the PHP.

Now, I don’t know what exactly happened in this story, but I can tell you this… Just because a person is a talented designer and they can build a beautiful, functional website, that does not mean they are a WordPress developer.

If you are paying $2,000+ for a WordPress developer, you want to have an amazing website. With any programming, there is a right and a wrong way to do things, and it takes a WordPress developer to correctly build your next WordPress site.

 

Good WordPress Developers – Overdelivering at a Premium Price

The issue here is not necessarily price. The issue is whether or not WordPress developers are delivering enough value for the price you are charged. The real answer here is that it depends.

The question you have to ask yourself is the developer delivering functionality that demands a $2,000+ price? I used to be surprised that Bill Erickson charges $2,500+ to do a Genesis based WordPress website (and that’s if you have the design already done). But, the more I read into his services, I realized that he provides  amazing value.

Bill goes above and beyond by future proofing your website (this is one example). The idea here is that if there is any functionality that you want to maintain in the next version of your website, it needs to be factored out into a plugin.

Bill has also established himself as an experienced WordPress developer by contributing to the core code of both WordPress and Genesis as well as speaking at various WordPress functions.

Is Bill worth spending $2,500+ on for a website? If you can afford it, hell yes. That being said, I’d like to note that there are many WordPress developers that I consider great. I just happen to be most familiar with Bill.

Bottom Line

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If you’re willing to spend at least $1,000, and likely $2,000+, then you deserve to have a great WordPress developer. Great WordPress developers are well worth the money and will deliver a greater quality website than a WordPress developer that simply knows how to cut a template up into basic header, index, and footer files.

Here are some things to look for in a great WordPress developer:

  • Properly enqueueing styles and scripts. This will ensure that styles and scripts are loaded at the right time as well as integrate better with plugins such as Better WordPress minify.
  • Putting any custom functionality into a plugin instead of the WordPress theme. This is important for future redesigns.
  • Delivering clean, light code that validates. Having a website without code bloat is very important for the page speed of your website, while validated code could reduce cross-browser inconsistencies.
  • Recommending plugins that perform well. How many times have you installed a plugin that doesn’t function properly? A competent WordPress developer will know which plugins to use and which to stay away from.

How Can I Be Sure to Get a Great WordPress Developer?

WP Engine maintains a Favorite Consultants page where they list their top choices of consultants that provide services for your WordPress website. I recommend this as your first stop in finding a good WordPress developer.

WP Engine also runs a finely tuned consultant series where they interview top WordPress consultants. You can use this to get more information about prospective developers before you even approach them!

Before you hire any WordPress developer, be sure to ask them these questions:

  • Can you provide references? A competent WordPress developer will gladly provide references and examples of his work.
  • How long have you worked with WordPress? Although programmers learn at different rates, I would suggest that you look for a WordPress developer with 3+ years of experience. This is a guideline though, and not a hard and fast rule.
  • What contributions have you made to the WordPress community? A rockstar WordPress developer will have made many contributions to the WordPress community, whether they are contributing to the core, or releasing a plugin or theme.
  • What experience do you have with PHP, CSS, Javascript, and MySQL? Any good WordPress developer will have a good working knowledge of each of these and will be able to give you their likes and dislikes of each.

What Do You Think?

WordPress developers may be expensive, but are they worth the price? What is your experience with WordPress developers? Leave a comment below with your opinions.

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Comments

  • Good stuff man. My knee jerk reaction is that they do in fact charge too much, especially if they’re building something on top of a framework like Genesis, Thesis, Headway, Builder, etc.

    But you have a good point about Bill Erickson.

    It’s one thing to add custom design, but it’s another if they are adding custom functionality. Plus if they really know what they’re doing, it’s worth the money, because at that point you’re paying for experience, and sometimes, especially with how fast web development trends change, you can’t put a price on that.

    When I see sites like ChrisBrogan.com and Yoast.com, I have to wonder how much they paid for that!

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Chris,

      Always glad to see your comments.

      I like how you differentiate between a custom design and functionality. That thought was a large reason for this post. One thing that you may find interesting is that it looks like Bill was behind the development of Yoast.com

  • Jean Galea says:

    Being a WordPress developer myself, I’m not sure about the ‘most’ part of this title, since I haven’t tried the services of many other developers. On the other hand, I have collaborated with a few others, and the difference is easy to tell, as you rightly indicated via your points.

    I think Bill is a perfect example. I’ve never hired Bill myself, but seeing his contributions and tutorials I can easily deduce his passion for this work, and the added value he will bring to the table. In such cases, $2,500 is worth it. Spending such money on an unknown developer would of course be risky at best.

    People need to understand that for many sites, a developer is there to provide much more than the actual coding or PSD to WP conversion. He is there to provide performance advice, sometimes even design and conversion tips, suggestions on which plugins to use and why, and the list goes on.

    A cheap developer won’t give you any of that, in fact you’ll be lucky to get a decent conversion of your design, one that will validate and won’t break at the next WordPress update.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Jean,

      Thanks for the input. You made a good point that developers do much more than convert a PSD to WP. This reminds me of a theme I was using where the developer was not only using a deprecated function, but the developer also had a tendency to change complete function names between updates.

      A good WordPress developer that has a deep understanding of WordPress and where it’s moving is well worth the money.

  • Chris says:

    Hey Eric,

    I noticed your theme is no longer responsive, and the look has changed. Have you changed themes?

    While your website certainly looks great, the look you had before was better. But, that’s just my opinion.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Chris,

      I liked the last theme too. But we wanted to experiment with something that is more minimalistic. So, I took some inspiration from a few websites and programmed this theme myself. The site will be responsive today. Had to take care of some other tweaks before.

  • Zimbrul says:

    I think it depends what money you’ve got in your pocket and what you are going to do with your website.
    If you are a starter blogger you’ll put a strain on your finances to pay Bill or Rafal Tomal £2500 for a custom design.
    If you are a lawyer and charge £300/hour is going to take you less than 10 hours to pay for a professionally designed website. Once you know how to do the stuff yourself you’ll be able to differentiate a good developer from a bad one.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      That’s a great way to look at it Zimbrul. When I was starting out with blogging, there’s no way I could afford $2,500. But now, that’s a much more reasonable price to pay for an awesome website.

  • DARYL BUTCHER says:

    As far as I can tell, WordPress is brain dead … flat line. None of this should be difficult but there is a culture to make it difficult. It is easier for me to just “do it myself” than it is to start with WordPress. The loop of interacting with a “developer” is simply unacceptable. It would take forever and cost waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much.

  • Mike says:

    I’m a wordpress developer and I use Headway or Catalyst for 100% of my designs. Mostly headway unless someone hands me a .psd file and wants me to turn it into a website, Catalyst is more flexible for that. All of my sites are custom. I charge $500 for a basic site and $2500 if we’re adding e-commerce. I base my prices on an hourly rate. I also provide free website maintenance from 1 month to 1 year, depending on the project. I optimize the sites for search engines and a lot of times even write the copy. I put together a blog article on “What Does Web Design Cost” that you can take a look at here: http://www.genesis-unlimited.com/what-does-web-design-cost/

    I agree that some web designers charge too much, whether it’s wordpress, joomla or completely custom. My clients think I’m fair and I stay busy as a freelance designer, but I deliver a good product in a timely fashion. Most of my clients could care less if it’s on wordpress, but some like the fact that they can easily update and change content whenever they want.

    Great post! I love your stuff! Thanks!

    -Mike

  • Jason C says:

    There’s an important distinguishment to be made here between a “designer” and “developer” that isn’t made. A designer designs the look, the flow of information, sometimes they do copywriting, some SEO, site configuration, client education, brings the client’s vision to life etc. They might do some light coding work, but nothing too serious.

    The developer, which can also be a designer, codes and troubleshoots special custom functions and needs of a particular site. At least that’s the way I see it.

    In an ideal small design firm, you’d have a developer and a designer.

    So much of what goes on in small time web development is a constant stream of client communication and education about the website’s overall vision, not the finer details about coding issues. Those communication skills and consultations are worth money.

    Many websites don’t need a “developer”, they just need a designer. There is so much that can be done “out-of-the-box” with WP that custom development isn’t always needed.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Jason,

      I definitely agree that there is a difference between developer and designer and the definition you gave for each. The reason I brought this topic up is because there are several great theme frameworks out there that provide a solid foundation for a designer to build upon.

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

  • Tung Tran says:

    Sorry for being divagate but I really like this new theme of AOB… You’re awesome Eric :)
    As a new blogger I can afford much but can you please tell me the cost of a unique and premium theme like this? (I know you made this theme)
    If this is considered private, can u shoot me an email ? :D
    Your design is AWESOME!

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Hey Tung,

      I’m glad you like the theme. My skill set tends to be more on the coding and problem solving side. Design takes me quite a while! So your compliment means a lot.

  • Scot says:

    One thing I think should be remembered with creating a website for hire is the designer’s/developer’s time beyond the design/coding itself. I haven’t seen many developers simply charge to create a site and then just hand off a disk. The value added by dealing with the “turn it on” issues for the client would definitely be worth paying something for if something unexpected were to keep their site from working (server settings, etc.). For example, making a 911 cal itself isn’t all that expensive, but paying for a center to be available at any moment/any time, with the expertise to handle any/all types of emergencies is. Mr. Erickson’s price most likely comes with guarantees that any problem will be handled until completion (or at least the assumption that his experience would mean there would not be any problems in the first place). I often hear things like “my cousin just bought a template” or “my friend had his nephew bang something out.” I then (politely), tell them then that’s always an option they should also consider. But, in almost all cases, they then inevitably admit they don’t know enough about computers to upload “stuff,” or had already tried that and ran into problems they couldn’t solve. So the prices for websites aren’t always for just design or just programming. If a $50 template from a media supplier would have been suitable, the client probably would not have used their time shopping for a developer in the first place.

    • Eric Binnion says:

      Great insight. Thanks for leaving a comment!

    • Agree with Erick. Great insight.

      And this kind of ability level owned by site owner looking for a developer also a big factor to judge whether a most WordPress developers charge too much or not. Because they will have different level of pleasant.

      I myself is tend to be a developer, even I am far away compared to any expert, I just able to do what I need to do, and learn something when want to do it but I can’t do it now.

      Just an additional information about my experience using this site Erick, when I hit the reply button, the site need to reload to bring me to this form, this is kind of ‘unusual’ for a WordPress based site. And most user will hate it I think. May be the comment reply javascript is present or do you accidentally disable it.

      Nice provocative post tough :D

      • Eric Binnion says:

        Hey Tiyo,

        Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I agree with you that the user experience could be improved integrating ajax functionality into comments. We will consider this in the future.

  • That is a loaded question and the variables are beyond the pale. Does developer really mean graphic designer who is using WordPress to get web clients? Is the developer working part time after finishing hours at their regular job meaning they are pretty much never available for customer service? Does the developer have the experience not only in design or development but the huge list of items that clients expect assistance with including rss, social media, monetization, etc.

    I’ve been in the web development business for almost 18 years and I’ve seen the value associated with what we do plummet with the glut of incompetents offering their skills. I recently had a short conversation with a graphic designer who was competing for business in a local chamber of commerce. She did not know one bit of html yet was promoting herself as a web developer (if you are assuring clients you can build their site then you might as well admit that developer is what you are promoting yourself as).

    It can be frustrating to have almost 2 decades of experience not just with web development and design but with the Internet practices that will lead to a successful site. In my case I work with a lot of food blogs; one of my biggest challenges is the SUCCESSFUL transfer of sites from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress blog. It can be done in many ways; most I see are wrong (Blogger pages end in .html – creating a situation where a client’s site does the same over at WordPress is simply wrong!).

    Still, I am competing for work with those folks. Graphic designers who don’t understand code, part timer’s who are happy to make $20 hour; people greedy for a buck who have no business offering services…and the list goes on. I run a full time web development business and my prices are going to reflect that but clients can also rest assured that I actually know what I’m doing, that I can get it done in a timely manner (experience actually does count) and that I will available after the fact for support should the need arise. When I get asked why my fee is so high, I’ve started asking them how much they pay their plumber and if they think having their business web presence be successful is as important as being able to flush the toilet. Putting it into perspective seems to help!

    • David Tromholt says:

      Well I thought $200 was a good deal when I took upon my first web design task. That was until I realized that sometimes designing a website is about 10% design, 90% communication. What should have taken a few hours, ended up taking 3 days.

      At least if developer/designer & customer are not on the same page, meaning misunderstandings, back and fourth mails that lead to nothing.. well then you are in for a rude awakening. Your average $ / hour can quickly go from well above average to below minimum wage (if you agreed on a fixed price in the beginning).

      Granted that both the designer & customer are on the same page from the beginning and everything goes smooth, then being a web designer is amazing, so don’t get me wrong!

      My point is, I understand why some charge $1000+ for a website, even with just 3-5 pages, because if I’ve learned anything in this business, positive feedback is extremely important, and if you are to spend hours upon hours, going out of your way with extra work in order to satisfy a difficult / confused client, it’s nice to know that once you are done, at least you got paid pretty well.

      I’ve earned $300 for 1 hours work, and I’ve earned $100 for 20 hours work, in the same week, the difference wasn’t the scale of the job, but one case of great mutual understanding and one case of the opposite.

      Anyways, just my 2 cents, I love this blog design, nice job Eric!

  • Robert says:

    I don’t offer Word Press to my clients. I find it just slows websites down, and has that “wordpress” look. I’m a html, css, javascript/jquery/php master and I can usually get what all my clients want without using word press. I find it much more simpler to be able to hand them a zip and easily have their site up just by dragging the folder into their ftp server. Usually when they want something changed it’s very quick and simple, and takes me literally a single minute, so I don’t charge for tiny little updates. A small price to pay not to fight with word press for the exact design I want. Though my clients also aren’t running blogs (mostly restauraunt sites), so it’s easier to get away with.

    • Robert says:

      Part II of my post. I never actually answered the poll question. I do think Word Press developers overcharge. I was in college with a group of classmates who did not know how to, from scratch, design a website with HTML and CSS. They immediately turned to Word Press templates.

      The only comparison I can think of is, in my opinion–hard-coding a website is to photoshop as using Word Press is to using some terrible included software with your digital camera to create a cheesy picture album with borders. You don’t need Word Press to use jQuery plugins for slideshows and what not. There was a time when it was only used for what it should be used for, blogging.

  • Siegfried says:

    Well, from my experience wordpress developers for hire are either very good and very expensive or not so expensive and not so good ;) creating wordpress themes requires some skills so it is worth hiring someone who actually will deliver ;)
    best regards

  • Jamie McHale says:

    I guess the market sets the rates for developers. If WordPress developers can add value to a business, then they should be able to charge for that value.

    It’s not just the coding, it’s the advice they give too.

    A good developer will follow coding standards and WordPress best practice, they will match the development features to business objectives, and they will communicate clearly with the client so they understand the process and the deliverables.

  • Hey, Eric Binnion
    I think your price is to0 much.

  • so says:

    So, the developers should OVERDELIVER for a premium price.

    In short, developers should do MORE work than what you pay them for – even if what you pay is premium.

    Give us one reason why developers should ‘overdeliver’ compared to what you pay them for.

    Do you overpay when buying your bread, car, plane tickets ?

  • Janet Hebert says:

    WordPress is fantastic

    Thanks for this post Eric

    MERRY XMAS :)

  • mike says:

    ok. you seem honest. so my honest response to your article above, now called a “blog” i believe,
    is this : i have in mind a few business ideas. i may be wrong but i believe every business needs to advertise. as far as i know, the internet is the least costly way to advertise to a mass of people.
    i am of the impression that once my website is set up, i will need to keep it updated, current, and content fresh. even if i could afford to pay $ 1500.00 or more for a decent website developer website, i would continue to need to update the content, continue to need to pay the developer or another for the content updates be they text or images. that for me is the problem.
    so my solution is to spend the money / time learning how to build my own website and learning
    how update my own content, thus bypassing the need for a web developer / web manager.
    yes of course, if either of the business ideas i have in mind become successful, using a web developer might be a necessity. And one other consideration for me is that without learning the ins and outs of web development, i have no way of understanding the language of web development, thus wasting my time and the developers time, thus not being able to tell if the service i am paying for is doing a good job and charging me honestly .
    i’ll sign up for your content and hope that you tell me things that i can use .
    thank you
    sincerely
    mike