Automattic have recently launched a new website building service with prices starting at $4,900. They started this service launch during October last year and were in quest of opinions from the website development industry inviting customers to collaborate with their creative team to get their website done with them.
Automattic has not published the pricing structure for all the features included in their basic $4900 website package. Based on their promotions seen so far, the websites look similar to what their existing theme has to offer and not extensively customized beyond that. It looks more like a website setup service and does not clearly promise any kind of custom development.
Moreover, they haven’t revealed the prices of a complete customized website solution yet. “It’s unclear if anyone wants this yet, so for this experiment don’t have that yet,” Mullenweg said. “If it works then definitely, we will try to open it up.”
There are mixed initial reactions from the WordPress developer community as some of them find it a good competition and others alleging it as a threat to WordPress consultants and small agencies, because a product from WordPress.com carries the full weight of the official WordPress brand.
Website Consultant Emily Pepperman from Pro Web Concepts, Inc. believes, people will STILL do business with whom they feel comfortable working with, who they know, like and trust. Even though this might add to the competition and change the WordPress independent developer community as a whole. If a developer is still strong with their customer service and offerings it should not affect their business drastically. WordPress though might be shooting themselves in the foot by going this route since many of the improvements and technology advancements are contributed to the open source by the community of developers that depend on the client work for their livelihoods.
Automattic have kept the enterprise space with its WordPress.com VIP service all this while so having them stepping into small website development market came as a big surprise to many. It’s an interesting move despite seeing “demand for WordPress in the enterprise market like never before,” according to Nick Gernert, head of VIP.
“I understand what WordPress is trying to accomplish in providing cost-effective site solutions for the masses. Essentially the Amazon of web building. There will certainly be a percentage of people who will fit the template and mold they are offering. With that said, I do not fear that this will cut into the larger market share of web work produced by professional web agencies and digital marketing firms, alike. Clients who choose to go with an established custom website designer and development agency are looking to work with a team they can trust based on the many years of experience and successful site builds. More importantly, these clients also enjoy the ongoing support and collective expertise and consult their agency provides. I suspect we will see a larger amount of cookie-cutter looking sites in the future – which will only help bring more value to the custom website design agency and developer. I’m also curious to watch and understand how they handle the ongoing support every website owner will need – as typically there are many questions and needs that arise during the build and most certainly after the build. Again, this only strengthens the offerings of a trusted web developer and agency that is not trying to serve millions of clients at one time.” Tom from Bergey Creative Group said. “Building the website is only one small piece of the puzzle – ongoing support is the most critical piece to help every client and business grow. This is where an expert website design agency will be the clear choice because they get to know the client’s business intimately and they genuinely care about their client’s success for many reasons… and one of those reasons being – their client’s success is a direct reflection on the work they have done for them. Will the new WordPress build team truly care as much, as they move onto the next template client? I guarantee they will not.”
Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said on Twitter “The product is targeted at people who have a difficult time getting started with WordPress. I would be extremely surprised if this impacts anyone’s consulting business, if you do have a current or potential client leave for it please let me know — it should be all new-to-WP users who wouldn’t have been successful getting started,” Mullenweg said. He also confirmed that the new service was set up for “referring business out” and referenced a previous experiment in 2018 where WordPress.com partnered with Upwork to refer clients for custom development.
Responding to WordPress professionals, he further says… “100% certain this will drive more up-market consulting in the future” to consultants who handle larger projects and potentially bring more business to plugin and theme developers.” he said.
When asked how agencies can apply to be put into the pipeline for referrals from WordPress.com’s new service, Mullenweg indicated that the product is still in the experimental stage.
So, folks, let’s keep the fingers crossed and an eye at what WordPress.com is trying to achieve out of this offering in the long run. Interesting to see how much of the explanations that Mullenweg has to broadcast on this.