In September 2018, SiteGround released a new WordPress Starter plugin that acts as a custom on-boarding process for new customers. It’s goal is to help those who are new to WordPress get their site up and running faster, and with less confusion.
Many of us in the WordPress community are fully aware of the challenge that WordPress’ learning curve presents to newbies. SiteGround is trying to eliminate much of the confusion surrounding setting up a new WordPress site.
Just a month ago, SiteGround released an automated migration tool for WordPress users… although it is receiving mixed reviews. Several people (including myself) have reported that it’s not working as intended.
As someone who regularly recommends SiteGround (read our SiteGround review) as a reliable WordPress host for smaller sites, these tools are of particular interest to me.
So let’s take a look at SiteGround’s new WordPress on-boarding setup wizard and try to determine if it’s worthwhile, or just something you’re going to skip over every time.
See the SiteGround WordPress Starter Plugin in Action
Before You Start
It’s worth noting that the SiteGround Starter plugin’s on-boarding process begins the first time you login to your WordPress site. And you can skip the entire process by clicking the “EXIT” link at the bottom.
Professional WordPress developers and experienced WordPress users can just go about their business the way they always have.
🎨 Step 1: Choose a Theme
The first step of the on-boarding process is choosing a WordPress theme.
- SiteGround has partnered with OceanWP to design a handful of themes for different industries, all reliant on the free version of the Elementor page builder
- The themes are grouped by category (business, travel, ecommerce, blog, etc.), and you can also search by keyword
- Each theme comes pre-populated with demo content
- All themes require the Elementor page builder in order to use the demo content. The free version of Elementor is installed by default, unless you opt out.
🔌 Step 2: Add Functionality (Plugins) to your Site
Next, you’ll be asked if you want to add additional functionality to your WordPress site. This is a curated list of plugins from SiteGround, including:
- WPForms, for contact forms
- Jetpack, for a bunch of additional features
- WooCommerce, if you plan to sell products
- The Events Calendar, if you want to host or promote events
- FooGallery, an image gallery plugin
- WP Google Maps, for adding interactive maps to your site
It’s worth noting that these plugins are completely free, but they all have premium versions that provide additional features. Upgrade & upsell notices will be present within the WordPress admin area, and many users will require these upgrades to achieve the functionality they want for their site.
📈 Step 3: Marketing & Analytics
The third step includes more plugins, this time all focused on marketing, SEO & analytics. You can optionally install the following plugins:
- MonsterInsights, for Google Analytics reporting
- Yoast SEO, for improved site SEO
- OptinMonster, to grow your email subscriber list
It’s worth noting that 3 of the 9 plugins that SiteGround recommends are owned by Awesome Motive, a company founded by Syed Balkhi, a well-known name in the WordPress community (also the owner of WPBeginner.com).
This is both a testament to the excellent work his team has done building quality plugins, but also a little concerning from a monopolization standpoint.
Installation in Progress
After making your marketing & analytics selections, SiteGround will finish setting up your WordPress site. And that’s it. Your theme, along with demo content, and all the plugins you selected will be installed and you’ll be logged into your site, ready to create content.
⚙ Custom WordPress Dashboard
The WordPress Dashboard is the first screen you see upon logging into your site. While it contains some useful information, many site owners have complained that it doesn’t contain the most useful information for managing their site.
SiteGround has decided to replace the default Dashboard with it’s own version, which it says will help you more quickly navigate to the things you need most.
And I agree. This is one area that does provide a useful improvement to the default WordPress setup.
It’s unclear whether you can easily bring back the default Dashboard.
LEARN MORE: SiteGround WordPress Starter plugin announcement
🤔 My Thoughts
Honestly, this is not a big deal. It’s really just a plugin installer with 10 recommended plugins (if you count Elementor).
The curated list of themes is fine, but nothing special. There are plenty of awesome themes not included in their list, and I suspect people will want to search other places to find the theme they ultimately end up with.
I’ve heard more people complain about demo content than get excited about it, so I honestly see this as a downside. New users often ask about importing demo content, but as soon as they do, it becomes more of a nightmare to figure out how & where to edit it.
And then I login to help a client with their site, and they have all this demo content that they never deleted, half the time still being indexed by search engines 🤦♂️.
Plugins Still Need Set Up
I’m not sure how I feel about SiteGround choosing which plugins are best for events, marketing, SEO, analytics, etc. Their decision to do so actually prompted me to write a separate article about hosting companies acquiring products/services (coming soon), and subsequently recommending them to their customers.
Aside from that, these plugins still require an enormous amount of set up. Several of them require you to create an additional account at another website, copy some authentication tokens or tracking scripts, enable or disable a bunch of options… the list goes on and on.
Most of the clients I’ve worked with would finish this “startup” process, and still have no idea what to do next. How do I add events to my events calendar? What do I do with this SEO plugin? How do I connect OptinMonster to an email service provider, and which provider (of the 312719 of them) do I choose?
On-boarding is Hard
WordPress on-boarding is hard. I admire SiteGround for giving it a try, but there’s a reason why there are still so many questions from new WordPress users about how & where to start. No one has come up with a viable solution to the on-boarding and set up process.
The reason, I would argue, is because there isn’t one.
Every site has different needs. And because of the open-source nature of WordPress, along with it’s popularity, there are too many options to simply install a theme and 8 plugins, and be on your way.
For what it’s worth, GoDaddy’s WordPress on-boarding is considerably better. They ask you for business information, your address and social media accounts. Then they use that information to populate a sidebar & contact page. GoDaddy also installs the WP101 plugin, which provides video tutorials on the most commonly used WordPress features. It’s far from perfect, but provides a lot more for the WordPress beginner.
While I applaud SiteGround for their efforts in trying to remove confusion for new WordPress site owners, I think we still have a long way to go in finding a quality WordPress set up wizard.
Have you tried the new SiteGround Starter plugin? What are your thoughts? Feel free to share thoughts on WordPress on-boarding in general.