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Why Use Self-Hosted WordPress Instead?

There are several traits my self-hosted WordPress clients all have in common. This is not an accident. Not all organizations that need a website need self-hosted WordPress, and not all of those that need such technology need the kind of WordPress websites I build. Self-hosted means an organization has retained their own web hosting service for the purposing of hosting their own instance of WordPress. In contrast, there are “hosted solutions” such as that found at WordPress.com, which provides both WordPress and the hosting in one place, along with many great, affordable update options.

So what is this “need” anyway? That is the focus of consulting questions asked by people like me of potential clients every day. The answer depends on many factors, and these dependencies are what make each client engagement unique, and in some ways all the same.

Specific Capabilities Are Needed

Cheap hosted solutions often lack the flexibility to build exactly what you need. They restrict what you can do because they have to in order to keep costs down. This is why FlexTech Media competes on value, not on price. If a website cannot satisfy the needs your business planners have identified, it will not satisfy your business plan. Even “free” is too expensive when that happens, but you paid for it anyway in time spent.

Sometimes capabilities need to be phased in, rather than happen all at once. WordPress is familiar to a lot of technology professionals. If anything happens to the current professional midstream, it is not as difficult to find another competent resource who can step in…arguably one of the hardest things for any developer to do in the first place.

Ease-of-Use and Training Resources

Employees new to a Content Management System (CMS) usually need about 6-hours of formal instruction, about 4-hours of tech support in the first 90 days after go live, and about 4-hours or more of cumulative time on a practice clone of the website.

Everyone wants their website to be easier to use than their cell phone. It might sound absurd until you realize that much of what you can do with a phone will be ignored as “too technical” by a majority of phone users, despite the fact that phone users pay 100% of the cost for the device and its related services. If you need to update the content of your website yourself, including performing image processing for web-optimized delivery on desktop and mobile, WordPress is for you. It is one of the friendliest free Content Management Systems around, and I build to make it even easier to use whenever possible so that you are able to take advantage of as much of its feature set as makes sense for you.

The attitude toward learning new things your organization brings to the table will also determine if a new CMS website is appropriate. If your designated content manager has never done anything like this before, they will need formal training. Training is not just about providing live guidance, or having employees review videos and user guides that are specific to your build. It also requires practicing, making mistakes, and recovering from those mistakes. This is why a staging site that is always available is important.

I am a web usability expert. This means I understand the critical elements of user interface design, which in this case is your website’s navigation configuration and other interactive elements. My focus is not on marketing and SEO, it is on making sure your website is as friendly to content managers as possible, while at the same time focusing on such considerations for your site visitors and members. It is a dual consideration which differentiates web design companies from WordPress integration firms like FlexTech Media.

Overall Financial Expectations

Build Costs, training costs, maintenance costs, and licensing fees are factors in your decision to go with self-hosted WordPress or not.

WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS). Only organizations that want to take internal control of their content, or want to at least have that option, should consider a CMS like WordPress. Using WordPress removes the need to know much about HTML (but you must still learn some) in order to keep your website’s content relevant. Employee turnover has less financial impact on training costs with WordPress than having to hire a content manager that also knows a lot about working with HTML.

There are many other CMS options on the market. Some charge a per-seat licensing fee, while others are “Open Source” like WordPress. Here the costs are not for WordPress (which is free), but for professionals like me to create what you need from it.

This leads to the next financial consideration: technologist dependency. It is not unusual for large organizations, like hospitals and equipment manufacturers, to outsource everything about their website, including content management, to a firm paid monthly for the services they provide. These contracts usually run between $1,000.00-$8,000.00/mo. depending. But we are not talking about MRP/ERP systems, or stuff that has to be Sarbanes or HIPPA compliant. Often these firms are taking the heavy lifting for content management (which includes new pages and menu modifications at minimum) off the shoulders of their clients. But sometimes it is simply a case of the organization not understanding what a CMS like WordPress can be made to do for them, and how it can empower them to take control of their content while saving money and reducing technologist dependence.

WordPress is familiar and supported throughout much of the web technology community. Getting a well-documented website  means other WordPress integration experts or marketing people will be able to continue helping you. You are no longer beholden to a single firm that built something so proprietary only they can serve your needs.

The Cost of Ownership

You can expect to pay between $75/mo. and $600.00/mo. for technical maintenance of a self-hosted WordPress website, depending on the build complexity, if you contract for such help. Your WordPress website belongs to you, and you inherit the cost of ownership. This is such a significant issue that my Standard Contract addresses it directly in terms of warranty and future proofing. Any self-hosted website you own will have maintenance costs. It requires consideration from the start about how you are going to keep all its components updated and its security stance relevant to the types of threats public-facing websites experience. Some of my clients have IT people for this, and some do not. The cost for such services varies according to the website’s complexity and the problems encountered during maintenance. 

Licensing fees are also real. Depending on your website’s complexity the cost can range from $150.00/annual to over $900.00/annual.  

Some WordPress firms hate plugins and will do anything to avoid them. But some, like FlexTech Media, test them ruthlessly and rely on them to provide sophisticated functionality supported not only by me, but also by the plugin vendor. I have a relationship with these vendors in that I support their own efforts by beta testing for them or providing structured feedback about bugs while offering test environments for those companies to try things out. That means you have two resources you can turn to if something goes wrong with a component, and I have a very thorough Technical Support approach, inspired by W. Edwards Deming, that most WordPress consultants lack.

Though my build approach reduces the cost and project duration for a website contract, third party components introduce complexity when it comes time to maintain your website. Normally, these components make you reliant on the quality control practices of multiple vendors, whose code you are actually leasing with a license subscription. However, I impose my own set of quality control methods prior to accepting any code into a build, and I am extremely thorough in my testing approaches.