With thousands of WordPress themes available for $100 or less—and sometimes for free—it should be easy to find the perfect one for your website.
You may like one theme's menu layout but despise the color. Or maybe the headline font is perfect, but the header doesn't leave enough room for your logo.
Soon, you're back scrolling through themes again. All this time searching you could be using to do your actual job, and it's pushing out the launch of your site. I hear this story from people all the time, and they usually finish it by asking—should I hire an expert?
WordPress Design and Development Companies
Of the world's top 10 million websites, 31 percent use WordPress. That's a lot of websites and a lot of work. It's why plenty of web designers and developers now specialize in WordPress.
What Does A WordPress Design and Development Company Do?
You can find a company (or freelancer) to build as much or as little of your WordPress site as you want. You can hire a single developer to give your preferred theme the one tweak that'll make it perfect, or step away from the process and hire a company with designers, developers, and coders who'll build you a customized WordPress site. Typically, the only part of a website these companies don't work on is the content that goes on the pages—although they can help you find a writer who will.
How Do I Find a WordPress Design and Development Company?
First, let's talk about how not to find one. Don't assume that your developer buddy can build a good WordPress site. They might be able to—but it's really a separate skill, like asking an electrician to install your toilet. They might do fine, or they might make a mess that you'll have to hire a professional to clean up. Avoid the general job/task boards like Fiverr and Upwork for the same reason. Instead, use a site that's more specific. WordPress Jobs and Codeable.io are both for WordPress jobs only.
How Much Do They Charge?
My company recently conducted a survey of WordPress Design and Development firms in five different countries. Turns out you can hire a professional web developer at pretty much any budget. In the US, the majority of firms report that their average project costs $5,000 or less—with plenty coming in at less than $2,500.
In terms of hourly rates, most firms charge between $75 and $150 per hour—but you really can find a range to fit your needs, with some charging less than $25/hour.
Benefits of Hiring a WordPress Design and Development Company
Based on our survey, most WordPress projects cost at least $2,500. What are you paying for?
Assuming you don't know how to code, you'll have to base your WordPress site on an existing or paid theme. The people who build these themes want them to appeal to a broad audience—that's how they make money, when people buy their themes—so the themes are intentionally somewhat generic. If you have a very specific vision of how you want your site to look, or if unique branding is key to your business model, you'll have a hard time getting that with a theme that anyone can buy.
Also, once your site is launched, you don't have total control over how it looks. Theme creators update their products frequently to stay current with WordPress standards and design trends. They may decide to change that headline style you like so much. Unless you know how to code, you are at the mercy of their decisions.
A Dedicated Resource
You choose a theme, build your site, start building your brand. Everything's going great. Then, one morning, just before a new business pitch, you get an email from a friend: “Hey, I think something's wrong with your site.” You bring up the site on the 33rd tab you've opened that day, and all the images on the homepage are broken. Who do you call?
Busy homeowners know that it's wise to cultivate a relationship with a handyman who can help out when the roof leaks or a window breaks. Better for them to handle it than to fall behind at work or cancel a vacation. Busy website owners know that downtime costs them too. When a WordPress developer builds your site, you should not only have fewer problems, but you'll have a resource to turn to when problems come up.
There's nothing wrong with using your existing skills to build a WordPress website. Any computer-literate person could do it. But you're not going to build lots of websites for practice, then turn your attention to your own. Your expertise will extend only to the tasks needed to complete your own site.
A WordPress developer has built many different sites, for many different situations. They can advise you on things like structuring your site for the maximum SEO value and building your site to anticipate further growth. They'll know how to make your site as fast as it can be and how to make it look good with mobile devices as well as HD monitors. They understand the unique needs of a site that sells products, compared to a site that generates leads, compared to a site that does neither.
In short, they know the answers to a lot of questions you might not even think to ask. To return to our house analogy, you could probably sketch out a perfectly acceptable exterior home design. But would you know where all the wiring should go? Whether the soil requires extra structural support?
Drawbacks of Hiring a WordPress Design and Development Firm
I've been pretty convincing so far, haven't I? I work with dozens of WordPress design and dev firms, so I'd love for you to hire one—but I also know that it's not right for every situation.
The expertise of a WordPress design and development company does not come cheap, nor should it. A website is the front door of a business—in some cases, the website is the business. There is tremendous value in having a website that looks better, loads faster, and breaks less often than the websites of your competitors.
But, if you're just starting out, it may not make sense to invest in building the best possible site now. You may want to prove out your business concept first, then make that investment. Bootstrapping a company does not allow for massive upfront costs, so you may want to just pick a decent theme and get going.
Many of the benefits of hiring a WordPress development and design company will not happen if you hire the wrong one. Much like the general contractor on your house, you'll have only a vague idea of what the firm is doing and no particularly effective way of assuring that they are doing quality work.
That's why going off of referrals or vetted job boards is so important. Legitimate WordPress devs and designers can point to an existing body of attractive, functioning web sites and testimonials from satisfied clients.
When you choose a theme, you aren't as tied to the company who developed it as you are if you choose custom development. There are plenty of crummy themes out there, but it's also very, very easy to switch themes if you don't put much custom work into them.
Some Homework Before You Decide
Now you know the pros and the cons of design agencies vs. themes, it's time to talk about you.
What's Your Comfort Level Doing Site Maintenance?
If you choose a WordPress theme, you'll need to do at least some minor back-end maintenance tasks having to do with WordPress plugins, customization menus, and site structure. Few WordPress themes are entirely “plug and play.” If you're dead-set on using WordPress but aren't code-savvy at all, you should consider getting help.
What Are Your Personal Strengths and Weaknesses?
WordPress design and development companies can provide many different capabilities. If you have a strong design sense, you may want to find a firm that excels in coding custom CSS that can deliver on your vision. If design concepts like color selection and typography are unfamiliar to you, but you can code, you may want to find a firm that specializes in design and usability. If the preceding sentences make no sense to you, you probably should look for a full-service firm—or, if your budget won't allow that, pick a theme from a company you trust.
The Bottom Line
The higher your budget and the more aggressive your goals for your website, the more a design/development company starts to make sense. If you only have $500 to spend on your website, a theme is definitely the way to go—anyone you hire is just going to pick one for you anyway.
And if your website, at least in the short-term, is just a place to send people who ask about you, rather than to generate leads or revenue, a theme ought to be sufficient. Technology moves so fast, you don't want to build a site now for traffic that's years and years away. The WordPress design and development industry isn't going anywhere. We'll be here for you when you're ready.