The WordPress Web Hosting page has been updated (and not without its own drama). I’ve used all of the hosts on there, so I figured I would weigh in with my experience.
I want to note up front that I also do WordPress hosting, specifically for small businesses and larger orgs, and also some that would be categorized as “bloggers”, but they get a lot of traffic. I feel that the hosting page is for folks first coming to WordPress, or website hosting in general. If you want to talk about hosting for performance and building up traffic, get in touch. ^_^
First I will make my recommendation, and then I will describe each service.
For the best value, ease of use and access, go with DreamHost (but with caveats). If you build sites (front- or back-end) for other people and aren’t very interested in the hosting part, Flywheel is pretty good. Bluehost and SiteGround are meh, and you pay for what you get, which is not very much.
Bluehost – Nothing stands out as particularly bad about this service, but the dashboard isn’t neither pleasant nor straightforward for a lot of the features you need to use when administering your site.
DreamHost – I’ve had a lot of issues with DreamHost over the years, but in the decade since I had stopped using them, they put a lot of effort in two areas that I work: cloud computing and WordPress hosting. Their dedicated WordPress hosting is a solid web stack, and if you need to host a site that will ramp up traffic quickly (such as a small business about to launch, or a community project), I recommend that. However, if you are just starting, and will be blogging or not updating your site often, I would opt for their shared hosting instead. They even have a one-click installer that makes it pretty easy to up and running in no time.
Flywheel – Flywheel has perhaps the prettiest dashboard of any hosts, but then they go after designers and front-end developers. I considered Flywheel for some of my managed sites, but their traffic calculations didn’t work for me (see my note below). However, for staging a site and working with others, they have some interesting tools, including a neat login/site alias alternative to standard SFTP. One hopes they don’t need to use SFTP, of course.
SiteGround – Very similar to Bluehost, except even uglier on the backend. It is just CPanel that look so awful, and despite this being my career choice, I’ve surprisingly had little need to use CPanel. But that means I know how limiting it is, and SiteGround’s services are very limiting. I was unable to fully vet their service because I got caught in customer support limbo, but that is a very important part of your hosting company. They consistently get good ratings from hosting directories, but my experience was pretty awful.
What to look for in a web hosting service?
Some WordPress hosting plans are hyper-focused on WordPress, and others are treat it as just another PHP app. And nearly all hosting companies will try to up/cross-sell you on their other services, such as domain registration and email hosting. Here are my opinionated thoughts regarding the details of your hosting plan.
Be wary of domain registration! Some places register domains in a particular way that makes it difficult to resolve an issue if one arises (such as the gawd-awful scenario that someone tries to social engineer one away from ya). This is compounded by the fact that most hosting companies will imply that they need to host your DNS records in order to host your website. I’ve never known a host that needed to host your DNS in order to host your site. Instead, pick a domain registrar with clear guidelines and a decent reputation. I recommend Gandi.
Most web hosting companies are not going to do email well. Why? Because email hosting is a full-time job, and requires a lot of methods and technologies that websites do not. But when a person is starting out, they don’t want to go to another company for email, so it is a natural fit for upsells or inclusion in a base service. You will be sad if you use the email from your web host. For people email (meaning you personally correspond with other humans) I recommend FastMail if you want your own domain, or ProtonMail if you want to be all secure and private. Statistically, you are probably using Gmail, and they have a paid tier for custom domains.
Security certificates are hot! You should have one as soon as possible, and your web host should provide an easy, clear way to set that up. Some certificates are paid, while others are provided for free by Let’s Encrypt. DreamHost does this, with the click of a checkbox! That is a big deal, and I am irritated that many hosts not only charge a fee per site, but also make it monthly. We should all endeavor to make web traffic secure, so either avoid hosts that charge monthly fees, or write to them about Let’s Encrypt.
Web hosting should be fun!
I know there is a lot of stuff to consider when hosting your WordPress site. I didn’t even get into caching and CDNs, or accessibility and responsive design. And each of the caveats I did bring up have many books written on each topic. But keep in mind that starting a blog or small site should be fun, and most hosts won’t get in the way of that. But if you have questions or doubts, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can’t make it a bit easier to get through. ^_^