Last updated on October 13th, 2022 at 12:41 pm
Without a doubt, WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) for building websites. Still, if you’re struggling to decide between using WordPress or a website builder like Wix or Weebly, then you’re probably reluctant to go all-in and buy WordPress hosting.
That’s especially the case if you’re only just getting started with your blog or business website, or you’re on a really tight budget (or both!) Let’s face it, you don’t want to risk spending money on something only to find it’s not for you.
Website builders are great for small websites, but WordPress is still the most flexible option (and the one I wholeheartedly recommend). Unfortunately, unlike website builders, self-hosted WordPress doesn’t have a free plan (although the platform itself is free to use) as you need to have a hosting plan.
The good news is that there are ways that you can take WordPress for a test run completely free of charge. Keep reading to find out more.
4 Ways to Try WordPress for Free (I Recommend Options 1 or 2!)
All four of these methods allow you to try out WordPress for free, but only the first two options allow you to try all of WordPress’s features out without any initial outlay at all.
Use Flywheel’s 14-Day Free Trial
It’s rare to find a WordPress hosting provider that offers a free trial period – but Flywheel, one of the most powerful WordPress hosts, offers a 14-day fully-functional trial (with a couple of limitations.)
I tested the trial out myself and found it super-easy to set up. You don’t have to add any payment details (though you’ll be asked for them – more on that in a minute), and you just need to add a phone number to verify yourself with Flywheel.
Start a Free Trial With Flywheel in Just a Few Clicks
You can easily try WordPress for free with Flywheel – though watch out for Flywheel’s trick of trying to get you to sign up for a plan straight away! Follow these steps to get your demo site with Flywheel without entering any payment details.
1. Visit the Flywheel website. You’ll need to select a plan to get to the signup page, but don’t worry about which plan you pick – we’re going to bypass the payment details page in the next step!
2. Fill out the sign-up form, or use Google’s SSO option (I recommend this one as it’s quicker!)
3. At this point, Flywheel gets sneaky and tries to get you to enter your payment details and start a subscription! Click on the Flywheel logo in the top left of the screen to avoid the checkout process.
4. This will take you to the account dashboard. If you scroll down the page, you’ll eventually find a yellow button that you can use to create a site. (Side note: I wonder if Flywheel’s tech team is color-blind because the text below the button says ‘Click on the big green button’… It’s yellow, honest!)
5. On the next screen, you can finally start to create a 100% free, fully-functional WordPress website. Make sure you click on the “Create a Demo Site” button to proceed, not the “Create a Plan” button.
6. You’ll need to verify your account using your mobile/cell phone number before you can proceed to the actual site creation. It only takes a couple of minutes as it’s an automated system that sends a text message to your phone. You can then enter the details to create your free WordPress demo website, including your site name, WP-Admin username, and WP-Admin password.
- It might take a few minutes for Flywheel to create your free website on its servers. Go and make yourself a cup of coffee, come back, and you’re ready to start experimenting with WordPress free of charge!
Limitations With the Flywheel Free Trial
While the Flywheel free trial is a great way to build a WordPress website for free, it does have some (pretty significant) limitations that you should be aware of.
- The website you build won’t be available to be indexed by Google – it’s only a temporary website for you to use to find your way around WordPress and learn how to use it.
- You only have 14 days to play around with WordPress. That’s great if you’re able to dedicate a lot of time over those 14 days, but less useful if you want to get to know WordPress for a side hustle while working full time.
- While Flywheel makes it easy to get your website live if you choose to subscribe to one of its hosting plans, it’s not exactly a budget-friendly hosting provider. You’re looking at plans starting at $13-$15 per month (depending on whether you pay monthly or annually). With budget hosts like Hostinger and Bluehost, you can get hosting for as little as $2 a month!
- If you choose to go with another hosting provider, it can be complicated to transfer the website you’ve created with Flywheel over to your new hosting provider.
Set Up On Your Local Computer
Until relatively recently, setting up a WordPress installation on your own computer could be a complicated process that required some fairly advanced technical skills (like knowing how to install and set up things like Apache web server, PHP, and MySQL on your computer). In the past few years, however, two of the biggest names in WordPress hosting, Kinsta and Flywheel, have launched free software specifically designed for installing WordPress on your local computer.
Now, it’s easy for anyone to try WordPress for free by setting it up on your local computer using either DevKinsta or LocalWP.
DevKinsta was the first local WordPress testing software that I used, and it’s a great way to explore WordPress, for as long as you like, 100% free of any cost. You’ll need to create a Kinsta account, but that’s free, and DevKinsta is available on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu. Visit kinsta.com/devkinsta and click the Download button to get started.
Installation is easy, but as part of the installation process, DevKinsta will need to install a secondary piece of software, Docker, in order to function. This means that the installation process will take longer and you’ll need at least 5GB of available disc space. You need at least 4GB of RAM, too.
Once DevKinsta is installed, it will launch Docker to create the virtual environment it needs to create your test WordPress website. Creating a site is a simple matter of clicking a couple of buttons and entering your site name, username, and password. Your WordPress site will be ready to use in just a few minutes.
Once your site is ready, click on the purple WP Admin button in the top right of the DevKinsta screen, and you’ll be taken to your WordPress admin dashboard, where you can start exploring all the WordPress features, adding your theme, installing plugins, and so on. There’s no time limit to worry about either.
Naturally, Kinsta wants you to use its hosting when you’re ready to publish your website on the internet, so while it makes it simple to push your website to Kinsta, it’s a little more complicated to get your website live with other hosting providers. I recommend using the free All-in-One WP Migration plugin to export your website from DevKinsta and then import it to your new site when you have WordPress hosting set up.
Created by the team behind Flywheel and WPEngine, LocalWP enables you to create a WordPress website on your own computer, in pretty much the same way as you can with DevKinsta. However, LocalWP has one big advantage over DevKinsta – there’s no additional software required (so it’s quicker to install and you can get started faster.)
LocalWP is available for Windows, Mac, and Debian-Based Linux. Because it doesn’t require any additional software to run, the minimum requirements in disc space are smaller – the help docs indicate you’ll need a minimum of 1.5GB of disk space, significantly less than DevKinsta’s requirements!
Installing LocalWP is simple – visit the localwp.com website and click the ‘Create a Free Account’ button or the ‘Download for Free’ link. If you use the download link, you’ll still need to create a free account once LocalWP is installed. Installation only takes a couple of minutes, and you’ll be able to start creating your test website immediately.
You can choose between a standard environment for your WordPress installation or use the custom installation option to choose a different PHP version. The standard environment (or Preferred, as LocalWP calls it) uses PHP 7.4.1, but you might want to consider using a more recent PHP version as some plugins and themes recommend PHP 8.0.
Choose your site name, username, and password in the next step, click Continue, and you’ll be taken to the dashboard for your test site. Here, you can click on the WP Admin button to launch the WordPress admin dashboard and get to work adding your theme and plugins, and start exploring WordPress further.
Like DevKinsta, LocalWP promotes its own hosting if you want to make your website live on the internet. However, there are two hosting options: Flywheel and WPEngine, which give you a little more flexibility. Neither of these options is really budget-friendly, however.
As with DevKinsta, I recommend installing the All-in-One WP Migration plugin to transfer your website to your new hosting provider once you’re ready to launch your website to the world.
Pros and Cons of Trying WordPress on Your Computer
There are a lot of good reasons to try WordPress for free using a local installation on your computer. There are zero costs involved, you can try WordPress for as long as you like, and you don’t have to worry about making any mistakes. You can do pretty much everything with your test website that you can with a live WordPress website, except, of course, get visitors to your site!
The downside is that because your website is located on your computer, you can’t share it with other people to get feedback. You’re also tied to using one computer – so if you install it on a desktop computer, you can’t work on your website on the move.
Despite the limitations of this method of trying WordPress, I still think it’s a great opportunity for you to try the full features of WordPress without having to spend anything at all. It’s better than Flywheel’s free trial simply because you get longer to try it out.
Get a Free Plan on WordPress.com
Signing up with WordPress.com and choosing the free plan is an option for trying out WordPress, but I really don’t recommend it. The free plan with WordPress.com is very limited and there are some significant differences between self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com. They might have the same name, but WordPress.com just doesn’t have the same features that self-hosted WordPress has.
How WordPress.com and Self-Hosted WordPress Are Different (and Why it Matters!)
It’s easy to get confused between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress. If you didn’t know the difference, you might think that “WordPress is WordPress” – and the company behind WordPress.com would probably like you to think that (as it’s more lucrative for it to get you to sign up for a plan, not realizing the limits.)
There are several ways that WordPress.com is different from self-hosted WordPress:
- WordPress.com is more like a website builder, where the hosting is built in. This might sound like a good thing, but it means you have a lot less control and you can’t easily move your website to a new host if you need faster servers, for example.
- Unless you’re on the highest-priced plan with WordPress.com, you can’t install plugins or use custom themes.
- The number of themes available to you with WordPress.com is more limited – on the free plan you only have access to less than 170 themes, compared to the thousands available with self-hosted WordPress.
- Pricing for WordPress.com is relatively high compared to budget hosting providers. Although there are some low-cost plans on WordPress.com, to get anything remotely comparable to self-hosted WordPress, you need to subscribe to the Business plan.
- If you want to sell products using WordPress.com, you need to be on the (expensive) eCommerce plan, which is almost double the cost of eCommerce WordPress hosting from a specialist host like Nexcess.
Web Hosting With A Refund Period (Requires Initial Purchase)
I’m including this as an option even though you will have to make an initial purchase, simply because you can get a full refund from most hosting providers within a certain period of time (usually 30 days, but some hosts, like InMotion Hosting, have longer money-back guarantee periods.)
By signing up with a hosting provider, you can easily make your website live while you’re learning WordPress, get feedback from other people, or even collaborate with other people on building your first WordPress website.
Web hosting isn’t as expensive as you might think, either. You can find out more about the costs involved with hosting a WordPress website in my in-depth guide, but here’s a quick overview.
- Shared Hosting. You can get hosting plans with budget shared hosting providers for as little as $1.99/month. You will need to subscribe to a long-term plan to get the best deals, but if you cancel within the money-back guarantee period, you get a full refund.
- Managed Hosting. If you opt for a managed WordPress hosting plan, you’ll likely pay a little more, but you have the advantage of web hosting that’s optimized for WordPress, automatic backups, and automatic updates. These hosts often have better support, too, so you can get help easily if you get stuck.
- Cloud Hosting. Typically more expensive (but more reliable), cloud hosting is growing in popularity. You don’t need a cloud hosting plan when you’re just getting started, but if you want to avoid the hassle of migrating to a new host later and you have the budget for it, cloud hosting is the way to go. It offers better performance and reliability and is easily scaled as your website grows.
Top Web Hosting Recommendations
Hostinger is the cheapest web hosting provider around – but it doesn't compromise on performance. It's a reliable web host that caters best to individuals, bloggers, and small businesses. I recommend its WordPress hosting plans as they're great value for money.
Bluehost is one of the few web hosting providers that WordPress specifically recommends. It's not as cheap as Hostinger, but it still offers great value for money. Watch out for the pre-selected add-ons at checkout, though, as these can add to your costs significantly!
InMotion Hosting is a reliable hosting provider with a lot to offer. Its security suite ensures your website is safe from hackers and malware, and its WordPress plans include the BoldGrid page builder. It also offers high-power cloud and VPS hosting services.
Nexcess, part of the Liquid Web family, offers fully managed WordPress hosting that's fast and reliable. It's built on a powerful network of servers, includes a built-in CDN for fast page-loading speeds around the world, and its caching and image compression tools are excellent. Even on its basic plan the bandwidth of 2TB is very generous - plus Nexcess offers unique incentives for switching to one of its plans.
Flywheel specializes in managed WordPress hosting, and while its costs are higher than shared hosting providers, it offers superior performance. Flywheel runs on Google Cloud Platform, with servers all around the world delivering great page loading speeds. You can also try it free for 14 days.
Kinsta is powered by Google Cloud Platform, so it's fast – really fast! It's also expensive compared to shared hosting and some other cloud hosting providers. If you can afford it, though, it's definitely a great option. It also offers DevKinsta, a free download that allows you to build your WordPress website on your local computer and only deploy it when you're 100% happy.
Cloudways takes the complexity out of VPS and cloud hosting solutions, offering fully managed hosting built on platforms by DigitalOcean, Vultr, Google Cloud, and AWS. You can tailor your hosting to meet you needs – and the pay-as-you-go plans mean that you never pay for more resources than you use. Free SSL, free Cloudflare integration, and free migration from your current host are all included.
Should You Try WordPress Before You Buy Hosting?
It’s not essential to try WordPress before you buy hosting, but there are several advantages to doing so. Firstly, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes that would affect your website if it was live. Secondly, you can take your time learning how to get the most out of WordPress without spending any money. This is especially advantageous if you’re launching a new business or side-hustle and you don’t have the budget to spend on hosting yet.
The best way to learn how to use WordPress is to use it yourself, so I recommend installing WordPress on your local computer and spending time getting to know all the features and functions. You can try out different themes, plugins, layouts, and more so that when you finally launch your website, you’ve already ironed out any potential problems and your website is optimized to give your target audience a great browsing experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
HOW MANY HOURS DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD A WORDPRESS WEBSITE?
That really depends on how familiar you are with WordPress. As you get to know it more, it will take less and less time. It also depends on how much content you need to publish on your website before it’s ready to launch.
As a rough estimate, for a basic website with a homepage, about page, contact page, and a couple of blog posts, you could easily have your website built in a few hours.
CAN I USE MY OWN DOMAIN NAME WITH WORDPRESS?
Yes, of course. In fact, you need a domain name if you want people to be able to access your website online. You don’t need a domain name if you’re trying WordPress out on your local computer, however.
Some hosts will offer a free domain name when you sign up for a hosting plan, while others charge extra. If your host doesn’t provide a free domain name, I recommend purchasing your domain name from a third-party domain name registrar, like Namecheap or GoDaddy. These sites have frequent offers, allowing you to get a domain name much cheaper than if you buy from your hosting provider.
HOW MUCH DOES A WORDPRESS SITE COST?
That really depends on the type of hosting you buy, whether you want to use premium (paid) themes and plugins, and whether you pay extra for things like backups. You can find out more about how much a WordPress website costs in my comprehensive guide.
HOW CAN I PRACTICE WORDPRESS WITHOUT BUYING A DOMAIN?
The best way to practice WordPress without buying a domain is to install WordPress on your local computer, using either DevKinsta or LocalWP. They are both free to download and use, and there are no time limits.
HOW CAN I BUILD A WORDPRESS SITE WITHOUT GOING LIVE?
There are a couple of options for building a WordPress website without going live. One option is to install WordPress on your local computer and then use a plugin like All-in-One WP Migration to copy your website to your live URL.
The second option is to create a staging site with your web hosting provider. Not all hosts offer staging sites, but this is essentially a subdomain where you can work on your WordPress site without it being indexed by Google. The advantage of using a staging site is that you can share the URL with others to get feedback or collaborate with other people on the site design and content.