The Real Cost of Cloud-Based Web Platforms

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A common question that we get asked is this:

Why should our company pay thousands of dollars for a WordPress website when we can get a site from a cloud-based web platform (CBWP) for less than $50 per month?

The question is valid, and reasonable business owners should carefully measure the value propositions of seemingly similar services with such wide differences in price. Wix’s Business VIP plan costs just $600 per year for all the fixins while The Creative Offices frequently bills more than that just for WordPress maintenance.

The greatest value propositions for CBWPs are — you guessed it — price in dollars, and ease-of-use.

If you’re a business owner that is poor in dollars but rich in time, then a CBWP is for you. For a small monthly fee, you can log in and build your own website. CBWPs are often so easy to use that they require almost no technical know-how, and provide beautiful templates to help you get started.

Well, gee whiz, Jonathan, you just made a sale… for the other guy.

That may be the case, but I prefer to be honest in my assessments, and there are definite advantages to CBWP.

But that’s not the whole story.

Time is Money: Total Cost of Ownership

Designing a site is more than swapping some photos and changing some language. It requires time to craft correct messages and select appropriate images. It requires time to construct a design consistent with your brand. If you’re concerned with search engine ranking, it requires time to identify proper keywords and to generate the content needed to achieve and maintain your position on Google.

The average small business owner earns just under $60,000 per year, and works an average of 50 hours per week. That’s $24/hour.

As a professional designer, I know that even a simple project can consume lots of time — even with years of experience.

Writing just five pages of copy can consume between five and 50 hours of time, depending on the topic, how much research is required, complexity of the material, and etc. Laying out a design can take equally as long, especially if the content is really complicated. Then add in photography selection, time to create infographics, integrations with mailing systems, setup of analytics, optimizing for performance, and the list goes on.

If everything goes smoothly and quickly, you might be talking about 20 hours in total ($480 at $24/hour). If things go somewhat less than smoothly, it can jump up to over 100 hours ($2400). That’s assuming you work as quickly as I do — which I doubt — and that you’re building a small site.

Then add in time for writing one blog post every week, and now you’re adding 4-20 hours per month. Over the course of a year, that time will cost you an additional $1152 to $5760. (And we haven’t even started optimizing content for search engines).

And those are just hard dollars. Now factor in the cost of what you didn’t do while building the website, and the opportunity cost of what what you might have earned while working on your business. The numbers quickly balloon.

Cloud-Based Web Platforms Lock You In

After you’ve spent your $600 on a cloud-based web platform, and after you invested at least $1600 in time (perhaps as high as $8160 for the year), you would think your website would be yours. Think again.

Part of the reason CBWP’s are so affordable is because they intend to make their money in the long term. Your content may be yours, but the site itself — because it uses their platform — belongs to them. And if you decide that you’re unhappy with their service and want to try something else, you will have to rebuild everything from scratch. For a small site, that inconvenience may be minor (ten hours or so to change over), but for a large site, the inconvenience may be severe enough to make changing more trouble than it’s worth.

The beauty of WordPress is that your investment is yours. WordPress websites can easily be packaged up into nice neat zip files, and delivered to a new host, or a new design agency. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s painless. That’s not just empowering for you as a business owner; it’s essential for you to have full access to and control over your own assets.


Cloud-based web platforms have their uses. If you’re starting up and have no money to spend, and have lots of time in your calendar, they’re a great resource. But be careful not to equate price with cost. There’s always a cost. And I personally believe that CBWP’s should do a better job of communicating them.

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The Creative Offices is a graphic design and website design company.
We believe professional design makes sales, marketing, and operations easier and more fun. This affects attitudes that in turn affect results.

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