We’re working with a couple of local museums at the moment on their websites. One is a large, famous museum with a new WordPress website built by a colleague of ours who works in-house at the museum. He built the site and migrated all the content from the old website to the new one. The new website is completely functional and is regularly updated.
The other museum is a small museum. They’ve been around longer and they are important in their niche, but they have more limited resources than the large museum. They had a WordPress website built for them, possibly by a volunteer. Their new website has empty pages and nobody on the museum staff knows how to update it.
There is a sense in which the smaller museum had a WordPress website built. We often see sites like this, in fact. There is a WordPress installation, a theme has been chosen, and some elements of the site are complete. This is not a functional website.
If you have done this yourself or someone did this for free, that’s fine. You have a starting point. If you paid for something like this, then whatever you paid is too much.
WordPress websites are different from traditional websites because they store design and content separately. This is very good in some ways. You can change the design without losing your content (or having to migrate it) and you can update your content without messing up your design. But that means that the design — the theme — can exist separately from the content. What we see in the screenshot at the top of this page is a theme, not a website.
WordPress themes can be downloaded for free. One comes with your WordPress install. You can buy premium themes — quite good ones — for $50.00 and up. A custom theme will cost more… but it’s still not a website.
A WordPress website contains content. It has a home page that tells visitors what you have to offer and how they can get it, and which communicates that information to the search engines, too. It has elements in the sidebar (if it has a sidebar or more than one) that work toward the goals of your company. It has a navigation menu that takes visitors to pages that are useful for them, and it provides a clear path to conversion for prospective clients or customers. It integrates social media, contact forms, and other elements that will make it do the job you want your website to do.
Installing a theme is not the same as building a website. Installing a theme and putting placeholder text into the boxes of the theme is also not the same as building a website.
If you are thinking about having a WordPress website built for you, make sure you’re going to end up with a website, not just with a WordPress install and a theme.