Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Beautiful, Functional Solution for Designers
Marketed as a simple web hosting solution for designers and creative agencies, Flywheel has been in the managed WordPress hosting game since 2012.
At first glance, it’s hard not to be impressed – Flywheel’s website is slick and easy to use and the rows of happy employee photos on the “About” page invite your trust. But can Flywheel live up to the marketing spin?
We get asked all the time for web hosting recommendations and do our best to point members in the right direction, but who you go with ultimately comes down to your site’s needs – and also how much you’re willing to spend.
To help make the decision a bit easier, we’ve put some of the biggest WordPress managed hosts to the test, with a focus on customer experience. There are already plenty of reviews out there that look at speed and stability, but the ease of use and support capabilities of a company are just as – if not more – important because you’ll run into trouble sooner or later and a great host will always go above and beyond to help you out when disaster hits.
Check out the other posts in this managed WordPress hosting reviews series:
- WP Engine Managed Hosting Review: Feature-Packed and Hard to Fault
- SiteGround Managed Hosting Review: Excellent Support, Not Really for WordPress
- Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Beautiful, Functional Solution for Designers
Flywheel has made a splash in the WordPress hosting World with its stylish and easy to use hosting service. The company was built with designers in mind and judging by the homepage and related content, the main focus is scalability.
Flywheel started in 2012 with a simple mission – to improve the lives of the millions of web designers & developers worldwide that build sites on the WordPress platform.
The company has a beautiful website, a seemingly simple dashboard and, according to their website, it seems to be well-liked by the WordPress community.
Let’s see how it holds up in this year’s hosting review series.
Out of the whole bunch of hosts I’ve been looking at, I had the best first impression of Flywheel. Many of the other hosts’ sites look like they were made by someone like me. Now, I’m not horrible at design, but the fact is I’m a coder at heart. I can put together something okay, but it will be obvious that it isn’t the work of a professional designer.
Flywheel’s site looks the part and for me, this is an important factor. The company has taken the time and money to make something beautiful as well as functional. While this alone isn’t a good enough reason to choose Flywheel as a host, but it’s a good start because first impressions count.
I appreciate that the host gets down to the issue of pricing quickly (just scroll to the middle of the homepage for the pricing table). Pricing is the first thing I usually look at when deciding between packages across different companies.
I must admit, my appreciation for the company dwindled slightly when I tried to figure out what hardware I would get with a plan. I looked on the website, I tried searching Google and even entered things like “CPU” and “memory” into the site’s own FAQ search but to no avail.
To be honest, all I really care about is: will my sites run all the time, even when there is a traffic surge? That being said, a company that’s not open about hardware is open to suspicion at the very least. Support ticket it is then!
While putting together my ticket, my thought was it if the support team pointed me to the technology stack I would throw a tantrum because it has nothing to do with my question. I was concerned they might try to avoid the real answer. Scroll to the “Support” section in this review to read about what happened.
Plans and Pricing
Flywheel offers five plans in addition to a custom option, ranging from the low $15 – $75 range to the higher end of $100 – $250 a month.
All-in-all, I think Flywheel has reasonable, competitive pricing. The Tiny account with its 5000 monthly visit limit, isn’t sufficient for The New York Times Blogs, but is an ideal option for hosting a low-traffic personal site.
I usually don’t like added fees for things like CDN and SSL support, in the case of Flywheel, but for the host’s first two tiers it makes sense. I assume that most people who need the $15 account won’t really require SSL or a CDN, which helps keep the price of the lowest tier so low.
I think the $75 Professional account just might be the best deal on the market. The same level of service would cost over $100 a month at WP Engine – that’s a difference of $300 over a year, which is significant.
I’d love to see some powerhouse plans here which go over the 600,000 visitor limit but you’ll have to settle for the custom option if you have bigger requirements.
The sign-up process kicks off with a random guy watching and judging your every move! Check him out:
He looks impressed with my work so all’s well! In all seriousness, though, really? I know it’s important to show how clients are happy with the company, but is it really necessary on the sign-up page?
I also had a little chuckle about the terms of service text. It’s simply “Agree to our terms of service.” No question mark, no “I” at the beginning – Flywheel essentially orders you to bend to their will.
Aside from the initial comic relief, the sign-up and payment process was hands down the best I’ve seen, not just in the group of managed hosting companies that I’m reviewing for this series, but it came close to the best I’ve experienced ever.
Here’s how it works: You create a new site first and then pay for it or add it to your existing bulk account. Since I was setting up my first site I had to set up my payment details and confirm everything. It was as straightforward as it gets within a beautiful interface. Well done, Flywheel!
Quick sidenote: At the initial sign-up stage the host promises:
You’re 60 seconds away from spinning up fly WordPress sites. This was actually true even though I was yet to fill out my payment details!
Ease of Use
To me, ease of use is hugely important. I don’t spend too much time on my host’s dashboard but when I do I want to get things done quickly. The time and effort put into these areas of a hosting company seems to be indicative of its general disposition toward clients.In addition, if you manage sites for a bunch of clients you will be using the dashboard a whole lot more than I do.
In addition, if you manage sites for a bunch of clients you will be using the dashboard a whole lot more than I do.
The dashboard follows in the vein of everything we’ve seen so far in this series. Aside from being jaw-droppingly beautiful – which, really, is a minor consideration – it is highly functional and information rich, which is darn important.
Right away you can see a bunch of useful features, which we’ll cover in more detail soon. Collaborators (I’ve invited my awesome dog to help with the site!), built-in password protection, stats, and backups – all at your fingertips.
So far, Flywheel is delivering on its promise; the backend and the website seem to be aimed towards designers. It all looks beautiful and works well!
Creating New Installs
Creating a new WordPress installation takes another 60 seconds, just like I mentioned earlier. You can either fill out the form as before or clone any existing site with the push of a button.
That’s basically it. If you need to pay for the new site because you’ve run out of sites Flywheel will prompt you to do so, otherwise the site will be created immediately.
Beneath the pretty exterior are some powerful features. I’ve already talked about some of the more obvious ones, but let’s take a look at a more extensive list:
- Free migrations
- Create and restore backups
- Add collaborators
- Cache flushing
- Add password protection
- Enable WP_DEBUG from the dashboard
- Enable/disable the cache
- Site cloning
- Demo sites
- Export and view logs
All options are presented beautifully but there are some omissions, which would be nice to see. First of all, SSH access is just not possible. The official party line is
Due to the managed security and performance that Flywheel provides, which is true of course, but not the whole story.
While deploying via Git is available, you’ll need a DeployHQ account and who wants to have more complications in their life? You can, of course, set these things up yourself if you have SSH access, but no joy there either since SSH isn’t available. A smallish inconvenience, but I have to say that WP Engine offers far superior feature support here.
Another small issue is SSL. You can install SSL certificates on Flywheel websites but you can’t purchase them. A minor matter, but again WP Engine has it covered.
Overall, the feature set is great. While I did find some issues to pick at it’s all very pleasant and geared toward developers and designers who build sites for clients.
Flywheel doesn’t have 24/7 chat support, which bummed me out a but. I live in GMT+1, which means I don’t have a huge window of opportunity to talk to them. It did give me a chance to test their email support, which turned out to be great. My question was answered within 24 hours in detail in a very courteous manner. Good job!
While the host doesn’t have live chat all day, it does have round-the-clock sales and emergency support. It also has a status page where any system-wide issues are reported.
In the end, my support experience with Flywheel wasn’t exceptional like it was with Siteground, for example, but it wasn’t bad either. I would love to see 24/7 live chat, but this isn’t something I would hold against Flywheel enough to take my business elsewhere.
As with all the reviews in this series, I didn’t conduct comprehensive speed tests. Despite what some many say, any test you run is highly subjective. Your site may be on a faulty box, perhaps the only fault out of hundreds, your local connection may be unstable, the software you use to run tests might have had a rough day, who knows.
I installed three websites:
- Vanilla Twenty Fifteen theme filled with demo content – 1.49Mb, 53 requests
- WooCommerce shop running on Twenty Fifteen, Shop Page – 0.479Mb, 55 requests
- Out of the box Avada installation using the Cafe demo – 24.3Mb, 134 requests
When uncached, the vanilla Twenty Fifteen site loaded in about 2.4 seconds, the WooCommerce shop loaded in around 2 seconds, and the Avada demo loaded in 8.4 seconds.
When cached, vanilla Twenty Fifteen loaded in around 1.31 seconds, the WooCommerce shop took about 1.2 seconds, and the Avada Cafe demo clocked in at 3 seconds.
Again, these are casual tests and may not reflect your experience with Flywheel, keep in mind that website speed has so many factors it is difficult to accurately gauge it on a company-wide level.
Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our Flywheel review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let Flywheel in on the fact we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.
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- Amazingly beautiful backend (and website), it is a joy to use
- Clean and usable interface
- Developer and designer focused
- Plenty of WordPress-related and advanced features
- No built-in Git deployment
- No 24/7 chat support
- No SSH support