Inside Look at GoDaddy’s Onboarding Process for Managed WordPress Hosting

The Tavern was provided access to test GoDaddy’s onboarding process, which is a part of its managed WordPress hosting service. The company has revamped its system since we covered it in 2016. The web host has had time to garner feedback since then and build an easy-to-use, headache-free way to launch WordPress sites.

GoDaddy has been making waves in the WordPress community over the past few years and is quickly becoming one of the most dominant businesses in the ecosystem. Several of the company’s free WordPress themes consistently rank in the theme directory’s popular list. Most of them are child themes of their popular Primer theme, which boasts 40,000+ active installs when not counting child theme installs. The real count should be north of 200,000.

GoDaddy provided access to its Pro 5+ tier, which is its highest level of managed WordPress hosting. They have three lower tiers, each at different price points and with fewer features. Regular pricing for the tiers range between $9.99 and $34.99 per month. All levels include automatic backups, security scans, caching, and a slew of other features that are not always easy to figure out for new users.

Aaron Campbell , GoDaddy’s head of WordPress Ecosystem & Community, said that their hosting service is growing quickly. “We were among the largest WordPress hosts when we launched our Managed WordPress Hosting in 2014,” he said. “Within 2 years our offering became the largest Managed WordPress platform in the world and remains so to this day.”

GoDaddy launched its basic onboarding process later in 2014. They iterated on that version through 2018. “When Gutenberg went into core in WordPress 5.0 we saw an opportunity to redefine the WordPress onboarding and imagine what a ‘Gutenberg native’ experience would look like,” said Campbell. “Meaning, do what Gutenberg uniquely enables us to do over what was possible before–things that couldn’t be done by making existing themes Gutenberg ‘compatible’ we had to build from the ground up.”

Based on my experience with the product, I would have no qualms about recommending it to new or even more experienced users. Even those with no experience running WordPress can create a new site without trouble in far less time than it’d take to go through the normal, more complex process.

How the Onboarding Process Works

One of the hardest things to know prior to signing up for a service and handing over your credit card number is how the service works. For this reason, I snagged a few screenshots and will do a quick walk-through of the process.

Once you are ready to build your new website, the service provides a “Set up” link that sends you to GoDaddy’s onboarding screen. There are three paths to choose from. The first and most prominent is to view the available templates, which is the path that new users would choose. You can also manually set up WordPress or migrate an existing site.

Starting screen for GoDaddy's managed WordPress hosting.

When selecting to view templates, the service presents over 50 options to choose from. The templates are further grouped by category based on the type of site a user might want to create. I chose the “Beckah J.” option because it worked for my idea of creating a life-wellness site.

Each of the templates are created from GoDaddy’s new Go WordPress theme, which is currently available via GitHub and awaiting review for placement in the official WordPress theme directory.

Theme selection for GoDaddy's managed WordPress hosting.

After selecting a template, the process moves to a preview screen, which has buttons to switch between desktop, tablet, and mobile views. From that point, you can choose to use the template or go back and select another.

This was the first point of the process that felt like it needed polishing. The preview frame was too small to get a feel for what the site would look like on desktop or tablet. This is a fixable problem. There’s plenty of screen real estate GoDaddy could use to make the preview nicer.

Theme preview for GoDaddy's managed WordPress hosting.

The next screen allows users to enter information about what type of site they want to run. Depending on which of the following checkboxes are ticked, GoDaddy will set up the site differently.

  • Provide information
  • Write blog posts
  • Display my portfolio
  • Sell physical goods to my customers
  • Sell digital goods to my customers to download
User questions for GoDaddy's managed WordPress hosting.

After completing the final form, GoDaddy begins creating the site. The host sets up the site with one or more of several plugins based on the choices made in the previous form.

The site installation process was slower than I had expected. We live in a fast-paced world where users expect things to happen nearly instantly. I admit I was antsy while waiting for the process to complete, in part because everything else happened so quickly. I wondered if I had time to grab a sandwich. In reality, it was much faster than manually setting up a WordPress install, but the setup did take a few minutes of waiting. My experience may have been an anomaly too. Sometimes these things take time.

Site setup process for GoDaddy's managed WordPress hosting.

A Website Ready to Go

Out of the box, my newly-created site had five custom pages ready based on my choices during the onboarding process.

  • Blog
  • Get in Touch
  • Home
  • My Account
  • My Cart

It was nice to see WooCommerce ready and a contact form set up with my email (handled by the CoBlocks plugin). I would rather have seen contact, account, and cart page slugs for their respective pages, but that’s a personal preference.

The site came with seven plugins installed, five of which were activated.

  • Akismet (deactivated)
  • CoBlocks
  • Gravity Forms (deactivated)
  • Sucuri Security
  • WooCommerce
  • WP101 Video Tutorials
  • Yoast SEO

CoBlocks along with theme integration for the block editor is what made the process of working with the website a breeze. GoDaddy acquired the CoBlocks plugin in April. At the time, the plugin had 30,000+ active installs. It has since grown to 80,000+ in the few months since GoDaddy has taken over.

The Onboarding Process Provides a Nice User Experience

I’ve been critical of GoDaddy over the years. I am a customer of one of their other hosting products that launched years ago. That particular site is stuck on PHP 5.6, which has given me the feeling that the company is not focused on its older projects. However, Campbell said they are in the process of moving users on legacy hosting products to a newer platform.

I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the work GoDaddy has been doing within the WordPress community. They’ve more than shown their commitment to the WordPress platform over the past few years.

Despite a couple of minor hiccups, the onboarding process the hosting giant has built is one of the best experiences I have ever had launching a WordPress site. Even as an old pro, I’d consider using it for future projects, particularly when setting up sites for less tech-savvy family and friends.


6 responses to “Inside Look at GoDaddy’s Onboarding Process for Managed WordPress Hosting”

  1. Several of the company’s free WordPress themes consistently rank in the theme directory’s popular list. Most of them are child themes of their popular Primer theme, which boasts 40,000+ active installs when not counting child theme installs.

    Yes, I wonder why. Could it be that they overtake all others with their larger user/customer base and traffic so that when their theme goes live at .org that they get a massive jump of active installs which gets them on the popular list without effort? Once there, they will always be there and solidifies their popular standing as a result. The same goes for any source with a massive traffic load that guarantees popular status at .org. Very unfair advantage for a lot of others who don’t have that level of traffic and userbase.

    That Popular list needs to go.

    • All that, and this is what you got out of it? A complaint about the popular themes list?

      It’s a 100% free theme just like Twenty Nineteen or Twenty Seventeen. Do you also get upset by those since they are included in core? If you fear competition from 100% free themes then you have bigger problems to worry about my friend.

      For all intents and purposes themes as we know them are going away as Gutenberg matures, so your problem will solve itself one way or another.

      As an aside, we should all be excited by things like this that move WordPress forward and challenge the rest of us to do the same. It’s what keeps WordPress growing and customers buying our products and services. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone. Maybe you will build the next great thing–I can’t wait to see it!

  2. So i’ll be completely honest here, I thought when they bought out MediaTemple that they would bring over that quality of hosting … but I have yet to see that at all.

    I’m a full time WordPress plugin developer, and I deal with supporting clients everyday … which includes logging into their sites … and GoDaddy is by far the slowest and worst.

    It does not surprise me when i’m trying to work on a client’s site, and it’s super slow … i make a guess it’s GoDaddy, check ARIN and sure enough … it is, about 95% of the time.

    IMO they are focused on quantity, not quality, and being as though i’ve worked on client sites on pretty much every hosting provider out there, I would not recommend GoDaddy to anybody.

    Yeah their on-boarding process may be nice and easy, but the quality is sub-par.

  3. As someone who has spent the last 4 years supporting premium WP themes, in so so many cases when there is a weird, unexplainable (at first) issue, the number of times I investigated an issue only to find it’s hosted on GoDaddy has been incredible.

    Now admittedly when prompted to contact the host, GoDaddy were usually able to do some magic to get things working as they should, but still that kind of consistent interaction with a host where almost all experiences have been less than favourable, I just can’t see myself ever recommending them personally.


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