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StudioPress Sites Review: Everything You Need to Know

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Setting up a new WordPress website from scratch can be a daunting task — and one that not everyone has the time or the patience to work out for themselves. Enter StudioPress Sites — an all-new service from (you guessed it) StudioPress — which is essentially a website hosting service aimed at making it easier to create and manage your own WordPress-powered website. Apart from a domain name, everything you need to build a WordPress website comes included: WordPress is preinstalled and automatically hosted on fully managed lightning-fast WordPress-optimized servers; they’ll take care of backups, site security and software updates; and provide you with support whenever you need it. You’ll also get easy access to a selection of high-quality WordPress themes and plugins as part of your plan. Let’s take a detailed look at exactly what StudioPress Sites offers, how it works, and what you can — and can’t — do with it, and whether or not it’s a service worth investing in.

What Exactly Is StudioPress Sites?

The StudioPress team describe their new service as ‘WordPress made easy’, and aim to take the hassle out of starting and managing a WordPress website without sacrificing any of the power or flexibility self-hosted WordPress website owners enjoy. The service is aimed at bloggers, podcasters, service providers and affiliate marketers, but anyone selling physical products, digital downloads, and membership programs is also welcome. In short, StudioPress Sites takes care of installing and managing WordPress, and hosting your website, and provides you with a selection of high-quality WordPress themes and third-party plugins, all for one recurring fee. All you have to do is register a suitable domain name for your website.

Who Is StudioPress Sites For?

If you don’t have the time or inclination to research all the ins-and-outs of WordPress web hosting, install WordPress and find the best themes and plugins for yourself, then StudioPress Sites could be exactly what you’re after. By taking care of the essentials and presenting you with a selection of carefully curated themes and plugins, as well as simplifying many of the steps involved in launching and managing a WordPress website, StudioPress Sites aims to remove the barriers that prevent many would-be WordPress users from creating a professional website that reflects their ambitions. Alternatively, if you already have a WordPress website you’ve been struggling to keep safe and secure, running smoothly, loading quickly, and up to date, then moving to StudioPress Sites could help you spend more time focusing on your business, rather than managing your website. Let’s explore what StudioPress Sites has to offer, and whether it’s succeeded in simplifying WordPress without limiting things too much.

Quick Website Setup

One of the key selling points of StudioPress Sites is the ease with which anyone can quickly launch a new WordPress website — all through a single service provider and account. Once you’ve signed up and chosen your pricing plan (more on those later), all you’ll need to do is enter your domain name (which you should have already registered elsewhere), give your site a name, and choose a username for your account.

Site Migration

If you’re starting a new WordPress website, then the initial setup process is now almost complete. On the other hand, if you have an existing WordPress site and would like to migrate the content to your new site, you’ll have to take care of it yourself or pay to use the recommended third-party migration service offered by Fantasktic. If you do choose to use Fantasktic, as a StudioPress Sites customer you’ll get a discount on their migration service. Unlike some other all-in-one WordPress website hosting services, such as Envato Hosted, site migration isn’t offered by StudioPress Sites.

Domain Configuration

When working through the setup process, it may seem as though it’s complete at this point. However, you must now configure your domain name to point to the StudioPress Sites hosting service. Although there are detailed instruction on how to do this, it would be nice if it were made clear this is an essential task that needs to be completed. Once you’ve configured your domain through your domain registrar, you may have to wait up to 72 hours for the changes to take effect and your domain name to point to your new StudioPress Sites website. However, while setting up a site for this review, it only took about 15 minutes for the domain name server (DNS) to propagate and the new URL to go live.

Accessing Your New WordPress Website

Once your domain name is pointing to the StudioPress Sites hosting, you’ll be able to view your new website and log into the WordPress admin area. To be able to log in, you’ll need to generate a new password by completing the lost password form. Those new to WordPress may find this confusing, as it’s not clear that this is a required step in gaining access to your site. However, once you’ve received the password reset email, you can quickly generate your new credentials and log into your WordPress dashboard. In just a few steps, and for just a few minutes of your time, you’ll have launched a new WordPress website. Now, all that’s left to do is to choose a theme and activate any necessary plugins. After that, you can get to work on customizing your site and creating content.

StudioPress Sites Control Panel

Before we get to the theme and plugin options, as well as the other features of StudioPress Sites, now is a good time to explore the main differences between a regular WordPress installation and the one you get access to with this service. As well as having the Genesis Framework and sample Genesis child theme already active, your new WordPress website dashboard will also have a StudioPress area. Through the StudioPress Site Tools section of the control panel, you can view your disk quota usage, and you can also take theme and plugin snapshots that serve as reference points of the current state of your site, with the ability to store up to ten snapshots at a time. We’ll cover the main components of the StudioPress Sites service next, however the other sections of the StudioPress control panel inside your WordPress dashboard include:

  • Themes — choose the StudioPress theme you’d like to use.
  • Plugins – activate any of the partner plugins.
  • Content Optimizer — enable this in-house tool.

StudioPress Sites uses server-side caching to help your website load faster. A button to clear your website’s cache is displayed on the WordPress admin toolbar. If you make any changes to your WordPress website, the Clear Cache button will empty the cached version, ensuring your visitors can see your updated site.

StudioPress Sites WordPress Theme Options

If you choose StudioPress Sites, you’ll also be choosing the Genesis Framework from the StudioPress team, and you’ll also get 20 mobile-responsive StudioPress WordPress themes to choose from as part of your package. As Genesis is a tried-and-tested theme framework that’s reportedly used on more than 500,000 WordPress websites, and StudioPress have produced some of the best WordPress themes available today, you won’t have to worry about the performance, mobile friendliness, search engine optimization, or security of your website’s foundation and design. WordPress, Genesis, and the StudioPress themes all work very well together, and, if you choose StudioPress Sites, you certainly won’t be making any compromises when it comes to the design of your website. In fact, the StudioPress Sites servers are described as being optimized for the Genesis Framework to ensure your website loads as quickly as possible — something we’ll be putting to the test later on in this StudioPress Sites review. You’re free to use any WordPress theme of your choice, including premium options from elsewhere or themes you’ve designed yourself. However, as your subscription fees include access to 20 StudioPress themes, this service is best suited to those who want to use one of these themes.

StudioPress Sites Theme Selection

Here are some personal highlights from the selection of 20 WordPress themes available to StudioPress Sites users: The latest list of themes StudioPress Sites users get access to can be found on the plans page. Just as if you were using these themes on a regular self-hosted WordPress website, you’ll be able to modify their appearance by editing their underlying CSS. Personalization work can be carried out through the WordPress Customizer or by using the included Design Palette Pro and Beaver Builder Lite partner plugins. If you need a more bespoke look for your website, you’re free to create your own custom Genesis child theme or upload a theme from another source.

WordPress Plugin Selection

StudioPress Sites has teamed up with the vendors of some of the most popular WordPress plugins. These plugins can be activated in just a few clicks from the Partner Plugins page inside your WordPress dashboard. The idea here is that instead of researching which plugins to use on your site, you can follow the advice of StudioPress Sites and enable one of the partner plugins. Some of the features and functionalities you can add to your website with these plugins include:

  • Sell physical products online with WooCommerce.
  • Sell digital products with Easy Digital Downloads.
  • Create online forms with WPForms Lite and Ninja Forms.
  • Manage your own affiliate program with AffiliateWP.
  • Create a membership site with Restrict Content Pro.
  • Customize your website with Beaver Builder Lite and Design Palette Pro.
  • Plus more to come.

Most of these partner plugins are available on the freemium pricing model. This enables you to use the core functionality for free, with the option of paying extra to unlock additional features. However, some, such as OptinMonster, aren’t functional at all unless you purchase the relevant license. Payments for unlocking the premium plugins and features are made directly to the plugin vendors (via a StudioPress Sites affiliate link), and are separate from your StudioPress Sites payments. As well as using the partner plugins, you can also upload your own plugins or install them directly from the WordPress Plugin Directory via the plugin area of your site’s dashboard. It’s worth noting that StudioPress Sites discourages the use of some plugins on your WordPress website because of potential performance issues, and, if any problems do occur, you may be asked to remove the offending plugin. This mainly applies to security, sitemap, redirection and related posts plugins. To find out if a specific plugin is discouraged, contact the support team.

Content Optimizer Tool

Another feature you’ll get access to as part of StudioPress Sites is the Content Optimizer tool. This tool can analyze your content to help you optimize it for search engines. After entering a keyword for an article, the tool will let you know how optimized that article is. This functionality will be familiar to anyone who has used the popular Yoast SEO plugin. In fact, you can install the free Yoast SEO plugin yourself and set that as the default content optimization tool for your website instead. You can also find out how well your overall website is optimized for a particular keyword, and find links to advice on how to improve its rating. Another feature of the Content Optimizer is its ability to help you find other websites in your niche or industry, and then provide basic advice on how you could potentially obtain a link from those sites to yours (by commenting and offering a guest post) to help your content rank more prominently in search engines.

These are sites the Content Optimizer tool found related to the keyword ‘WordPress’.

There’s also another tool that will help you see who’s mentioning your target keyword on social media. You could then join these discussions to increase your visibility and connect with your target audience. It’s all pretty basic stuff, but new website owners are going to quickly encounter terms such as SEO, content marketing and link building, so it’s good to see them being addressed by StudioPress Sites, even if it is at a surface level. The Content Optimizer can help users get started with this important aspect of running a website before they move on to more sophisticated tools and approaches.

Managed WordPress Website Hosting Features

As part of the StudioPress Sites service, your WordPress website will not only be hosted for you, but also managed — meaning your site will be hosted on a server that’s optimized for WordPress websites. Unlike choosing a generic web hosting service, your site should load faster and perform better. During the testing we carried out for this StudioPress Sites review, an average loading time of 323 milliseconds and 100% uptime over a period of seven days was recorded by Pingdom. This is pretty impressive stuff. Especially bearing in mind there is a lot more you can do to increase the speed of a WordPress website and improve those loading times.

Software Updates

As well as fast loading times, you won’t have to worry about keeping the WordPress software and your theme up to date, and because running outdated versions of WordPress and its themes is a common way for site security to be compromised, having someone taking care of this can go a long way towards keeping your site secure. Plugin updates are expected to be covered by the StudioPress Sites service in the future, but, for now, you’ll be responsible for keeping your extensions up to date. If you’d rather handle software updates yourself, you’re free to opt out of this aspect of the managed website hosting service.

Site Security and Backups

Other features of the StudioPress Sites hosting provisions include continuous scanning and monitoring for malware, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection. If your site is hacked, the case is referred to StudioPress Sites security partner Sucuri, who can carry out site scanning to check for infected or exploited files. If anything is detected, it will be cleaned up and removed on your behalf. For extra peace of mind, your site is fully backed up on a daily basis. If you need to roll back your website to a previous version, simply contact the StudioPress Sites support team and they’ll restore the backup files.

WordPress Website Support

Should you run into any problems with your website, you can contact the StudioPress Sites support team, although the only support channel is via email, with tickets opened through the StudioPress Sites dashboard. Support covers any issues you may have with StudioPress themes, including the underlying Genesis Framework, as well as any plugins created by StudioPress. During testing, the support team responded to open tickets within the stated times. The team can also provide advice and information on getting the most from WordPress and third-party tools. However, while they’ll point you in the right direction, they won’t do the actual work for you. You can view exactly what is and isn’t covered on the StudioPress Sites support page. As well as opening a regular support ticket, you can submit an emergency message if your site is down. This is a nice feature and should offer some reassurance to those with important websites.

Other StudioPress Sites Managed Hosting Details

As well as the attention-grabbing features, such as automated backups, software updates, and improved site security, there are some other details to consider when choosing a host for your WordPress website. These include the server configuration, how and if you can access your server space and website database, and other information. So, to help you decide whether StudioPress Sites is suitable for your website, here are some more details of what’s included and what you get access to:

  • Websites hosted on servers located on the East Coast, US. Possibly more locations being added in the future.
  • Server side caching technology in place.
  • Servers running PHP 7.0.13.
  • NGINX servers.
  • HTTP/2.0 in use.
  • Free SSL certificate via Let’s Encrypt, as well as support for using your preferred provider.
  • FTP access to the StudioPress Sites server.
  • Access to the WordPress database via phpMyAdmin.
  • Staging sites coming soon.

StudioPress Sites doesn’t provide email services. However, by using an email service provider such as G Suite or Office 365, or your domain name registrar’s email service, you can receive emails at an address associated with your website’s domain name. We’ll look at StudioPress Sites’ pricing plans soon. However, even if you choose the entry-level plan and your website experiences a surge in visitors and bandwidth consumption, you won’t be charged for any overages. If your website starts regularly consuming a high amount of server resource, you can expect to be prompted to upgrade your plan.

The StudioPress Sites Dashboard

As well as your WordPress website dashboard, you also have access to your StudioPress Sites dashboard. From here, you can manage your StudioPress Sites account, view your sites, access the support and documentation content, and open support tickets.

WordPress Website Site Migration

As mentioned, if you already have a WordPress website you’d like to move to StudioPress Sites, then you can either migrate the existing site yourself or take advantage of the discount available to StudioPress customers and use the premium service offered by Fantasktic.

StudioPress Sites Pricing

When it comes to starting your new WordPress website with StudioPress Sites, there are two plans to choose from:

  • Content Plan: from $25 per month.
  • Commerce Plan: from $34 per month.

Both plans include hosting for one site only. The Content plan has been designed for bloggers, podcasters, and marketers, so if you want to grow your personal brand or service-based business, this could be the plan for you. However, if you want to sell physical products and digital downloads from your website, or run a membership program or online course, the Commerce plan is recommended by the StudioPress Sites team. As mentioned, if you start out on the Content plan and your website increases in popularity and user activity, then you may be required to upgrade to the more expensive Commerce plan. Whichever plan you choose, you’ll need to register a domain for your website yourself. Despite their names, in reality, any plugins (apart from the discouraged ones that were mentioned earlier) can be used on either plan. So, in theory, you could create an ecommerce store or membership site on the lower-priced Content plan. However, the extra server resources used by those activities could require you to upgrade to the more capable hardware of the Commerce plan. Both plans are billed either quarterly or annually, with discounted rates for those choosing to pay annually. While there’s no free trial option, there is a 30-day, 100% money-back guarantee in place, allowing you to try StudioPress Sites with no risk.

StudioPress Sites vs Rainmaker

Rainmaker is another service from the team behind StudioPress Sites. We’ve reviewed the Rainmaker platform in detail, but, in short, it’s an all-in-one service that’s powered by WordPress with the aim of helping anyone launch a professional website for their brand or business. Although that sounds pretty similar to StudioPress Sites, there are some big differences. For one, Rainmaker has a custom user interface (UI), while StudioPress Sites keeps the tried and tested WordPress UI intact. Furthermore, while StudioPress Sites lets you use (almost) any theme or plugin, these options are limited to in-house add-ons with Rainmaker. So, when it comes to StudioPress Sites vs Rainmaker, which one is best? The answer to that depends on your needs and budget. While Rainmaker is a closed system that aims to provide you with everything you need to launch a new website, StudioPress Sites is closer to a self-hosted WordPress installation. Therefore, if you’re looking for a bit more freedom over your website, but don’t want to take on all the responsibility of starting and managing your own self-hosted WordPress website, StudioPress Sites is probably a better (and more affordable) match for your needs. On the other hand, if you find the idea of researching and installing plugins and themes daunting, Rainmaker may be the better option.

Other All-In-One WordPress Website Options to Consider

If the idea of researching web hosts, reviewing WordPress themes, and keeping your site safe and secure yourself doesn’t appeal, StudioPress Sites and Rainmaker aren’t the only options available. If the StudioPress themes aren’t to your tastes, then another service to check out is the new Envato Hosted service. For a slightly lower recurring fee, Envato Hosted will also host your website and take care of backups and security for you (full review). With Envato Hosted, you’ll also get to choose from a selection of popular multipurpose WordPress themes sold at ThemeForest, including Avada and Enfold. Furthermore, the Envato Hosted support team will install your choice of theme demo and carry out two hours of customization work as part of the setup process. Many of the Envato Hosted WordPress themes also include premium plugins — which may save you some extra money.

Final Thoughts

The goal of StudioPress Sites is to make it easy for anyone to start a new website and keep it running smoothly. Having tried out the service, we think it’s fair to say it’s succeeded with its objectives. Aside from the easy setup, the main benefit of choosing StudioPress Sites is that you’ll save a lot of time when it comes to launching and managing your new website. By taking care of web hosting and site management, providing you with a small but varied selection of high-quality themes, as well as an assortment of carefully chosen partner plugins, it lets you focus on giving your website the right look and publishing great content instead of researching which additional products to use. At first glance, StudioPress Sites may seem a little more expensive than you’d expect to pay to run a WordPress website. But, if you factor in all the extras such as site management, fast web hosting servers optimized for WordPress, and easy access to the pre-selected themes and partner plugins, StudioPress Sites starts to look like a much better deal. If you’ve been struggling to make a decision as to what web host to use, which theme to choose, and which plugins to install — not to mention how you’re going to keep your website safe and secure — StudioPress Sites can take care of all of that for you and help you launch your website today. Alternatively, if your website’s not performing as well as you’d hoped, upgrading to StudioPress Sites could be a good move.

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