What is WordPress? WordPress is an open source website developing tool written in PHP code which uses a MySQL database to function. Make sense?
Of course it doesn't, unless you're a web developer. WordPress has evolved from its origins as a blogging tool to be one of, if not the, leading website content management system (or CMS) in existence.
But what does all that really mean? Lets start with 'open source'.
The term "Open Source" refers to something that can be modified and shared because its design is publicly accessible.
Open Source software is software whose source code is available for modification or enhancement by anyone. In other words, the software can be customised by a programmer to improve or add functionality.
WordPress and other content management systems provided as Open Source are free for anyone to use. Yes, thats right. Free.
Before you get all excited and wonder why you aren't making your own website for free, there is a great deal to know to get the job done properly, and to keep the result safe and secure from malicious hacking. You CAN make your own WP website for free, but it will probably look like it and it will most likely be set up incorrectly and insecurely, and not properly optimised for search engines. You will have had to spend a lot of time reading tutorials and forums, asking for help (not for free if you've had to ask a professional), and probably tearing your hair out. Even if you are happy with the result, will it do its job, or just sit there with no visitors? If you have a business, why would you spend many hours achieving something which won't be done well, when you could pay a professional and get results?
The philosophy behind the Open Source software movement is that software is not like a tangible product. Once software is created, it can be copied multiple times with little cost. Let’s compare this with a manufactured product. Each product manufactured has different parts and each part has a cost. The manufacturing cost of these parts is calculated by the factory to decide a reasonable profit margin for the product. The cost of creating software and making copies of it is not the same.
Some licensed software (non Open Source) has a cost and costs more money with each update. Many believe that with each copy sold, the profit margin of the software becomes more unfair.
To understand more about open source software, check out GNU’s Philosophy. http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html
The main profitable part of any Open Source software is through providing products or services based on its use.
Developers and programmers around the globe have created successful businesses around WordPress by creating commercial plugins, commercial themes, and even offering WordPress hosting.
Web designers everywhere create websites for their clients using WordPress (and other Open Source CMS's) and create or purchase themes and plugins so that the new website functions in the specific way the client requires. You are paying for their knowledge and expertise. It is up to the client to assess whether the person doing the job is indeed qualified to do the job properly and as in any other industry there are good web developers and bad ones.
If we compare a website with a car, WordPress is the engine and the Theme is the car itself. We don't see the engine when we look at the car, unless we lift the bonnet (or look at the code). The Theme provides the look and style of your website and WordPress provides the power to drive it. We create pages for the website using the WordPress engine, but the Theme displays those pages for everyone to see.
There are millions of free themes available on the internet for WordPress (and Joomla, Magenta, Drupal etc) but it is not wise to use them for a number of reasons. Firstly, if you know nothing about code, you won't know whether the theme has been coded well. Poorly coded theme's may contribute to a low search engine ranking. Secondly, it will not be supported by the person who coded the theme and subsequent WordPress updates may cause the theme to display incorrectly or to break altogether.
It is always wiser to purchase a theme, but even a purchased theme may not be ideal. Some of them are so bloated with features that they cause your website to be sluggish.
Just as there are good mechanics and bad mechanics, there are also good web designers and bad web designers. The horror stories of expensive websites which don't work properly are everywhere to be heard and the reasons for this are not always the website developers fault. There is no doubt however, that sometimes it is. Inexperience or lack of communication can be a big contributing factor.
That being said, it is still a better option to employ a professional than to try and build your own website, or even worse use one of the free web builders who make money from your website without you even knowing.
The cost to have a WordPress website developed will vary considerably depending on what functions you require, what your market is and a host of other reasons.
Talk to several web developers and go with the one who is most helpful with advice.