Summary: hosting WordPress on Openshift can be a great option for folk with a little tech confidence if you are looking for an cheap option but you don’t want to cut corners on site performance.

Choosing wordpress hosting is pretty important: options to consider include customer support from the hosting company, quality of infrastructure, administrative ease of use and pricing. Many people taking on their first site simply don’t want to take on the decision-making required for choosing a host and go with the loudest advertiser without understanding their options.

That’s fair enough. And some loud advertisers aren’t necessarily poor service providers. And most site operators are are best advised to offload choosing hosts to their consulting agency or  developer.

I’m constantly assessing options for wordpress hosting because the industry is fascinating. It looks like big changes are headed our way that could save a lot of money for consumers and make site-providers lives easy. It’s early days. But in the course of my exploration I discovered an option that could be great for small site operators who aren’t scared of learning new things.

Basically, its possible to use openshift to get free hosting for wordpress sites.

This probably isn’t what Openshift is aiming to provide. Site owners with relatively simple sites and low resource needs aren’t in Openshifts target market. But the Openshift’s offerings can be used for this purpose.


Openshift is Red Hat’s offering in the Platform As A Service market. It’s targeted towards business who have the skill at hand to build and deploy applications on Red Hat’s infrastructure and it provides a convenience layer on top of that infrastructure for developers.

One of the cool things about openshift is that they give a small (but very useful) amount of resources for free as an introduction to their services. These resources are not time limited (like amazons free tier which is limited to a year).

The process is simple: select either the free or bronze plan, log in and click on the ‘create an application’ button. Select the wordpress option. The application will be created for you. Credentials for wp-admin and for SSH will be given to you from the panel.

Thats it. You now have a wordpress instance running that you have complete control over.

The Difference

At this you have a running wordpress instance with a funny domain name generated by Openshift. Openshift even give you instructions for how to connect your desired domain name to your site. However by now you might have noticed that this kind of hosting of very different from  traditional hosting. You don’t have anything like a cpanel and you might have to think about managing things called “gears” and “cartridges”.  In reality, if all you want is a running wordpress site then you don’t have to worry about this (Unless you want to dive into the deep and complex world of PaaS and Openshift’s version of PaaS).

The Advantage

The first thing that I noticed was the front-end of the site is fast. The frontpage using the 2015 theme reloads in around 2s. The admin takes longer, at about 5s to 7s as measured by chromedev. But my personal perception is that the admin loads rapidly.

Free wordpress hosting on Openshift using the free and bronze tiers could be great for you if you don’t need technical support on the platform, you are confident enough to navigate the (very easy to use) panel and if you want SSH access to the deployment.

Can This Tool Help Me Build My Site Faster?

That’s the question I ask when I look at new tools. And it’s one of the ultimate benchmark tests that I consider when assess any new tool or process.

My core toolset is entirely programmatic. I either build custom themes from scratch, build child themes on top of existing themes, and plug the gap with plugins that I either get from the wordpress repository or build myself.

A handful of tools dominate the market for “visual builders” allowing people who are creating sites to build without having to code. Or at least minimising the amount of code that has to be written.

Over the last few days I’ve taken a look at a few of these tools. I’ve partly been motivated glowing reviews in the community, including from the likes of Chris Lema. Such posts often have a trail of positive comments talking of the wonders of these tools. That’s another motivation.

However my overall impression is that none of these tools offer a clear advantage over either customizing a child theme or coding from scratch. I’m likely to continue climbing the learning curve just in case something clicks. But the claims of added convenience and speed just don’t amount to much.

Here’s a summary of each of the builders that I’ve looked into, and my impressions.

iThemes Builder

iThemes Builder
iThemes Builder

Steep learning curve. Big and complicated. Unconventional coding makes child themes difficult to work with. iThemes provided themes are built very unconventionally and I learnt the hard way that you can’t just child them and expect to be able to use them without having learnt Builder deeply. I wouldn’t recommend picking up iThemes Builder as an experiment for an client project.

Support staff are responsive.

I’m uncertain that I’d ever use this for a real project. I can see that they’ve put a lot of work into it, but currently I can’t see the benefit of using Builder over creating a custom theme.



Also big and complicated with a steep learning curve. Advertises a “drag and drop builder”.  The term “drag and drop” gives an impression of simplicity. However, Ultimatum’s builder requires that you learn a complicated interface and new terminology. All of this has to be learnt before any dragging and dropping is done. An interface for customizing CSS the ultimatum way is too constraining for some simple things (You might have to add your own plugin to inject CSS into the footer). It isn’t helpful that they’ve overloaded the term ‘template’, already used by wordpress.

Subscription gives access to a bunch of plugins that you’d otherwise have to buy separately on codecanyon. I don’t know how they offer support for these.

Documentation is very detailed. However some parts of it are unclear, particularly when it comes to adding custom CSS.

I could end up using Ultimatum for a real project. But I wouldn’t expect to see any advantage in the speed of site creation over building from a child or custom theme.



A much more slick product then the previous ones but not without it’s own frustrations. It’s polish doesn’t prevent you from having to learn it’s nuances and many configurations. You get to the “drag and drop” action faster then you would if using Ultimatum. But it’s still big, complicated and constraining: as far as I can tell, if you are building a layout then you can’t create a custom loop within that layout.  You can add a “code area” with your own php. But thats frustrating, because you can’t code with the convenience of a proper text editor. So testing becomes a pain.

The actual “drag and drop” editing screen is also confusing for while. Power and simplicity do not go hand-in-hand.

An alternative is to drop in a widget area and then find a widget that lets you create a loop. But that’s much more of a pain then just, say, coding your own Page Templates from. Also, using a widget would require that you do custom styling without access to markup (annoying) and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to work with data created with tools like pods. This is entirely unnappealing.

I could possible use Headway for a real project. But I’d have to sink more time into learning it and I still wouldn’t expect to see a speed advantage.

**update: jan 5th 2015 **

Headway can be great for quickly laying out or prototyping sites. The difficulty comes when you need to use custom code. Headways templates allow you to drop in custom php. However, the workflow for this isn’t smooth. So the convenience of fast layout and intuitive layout production is offset significantly by clunky workflow. The headflow developers have clearly done much hard work on this polished product. But it isn’t developer-friendly.


For all of the above tools it could be relatively straightforward to build a simple site. But if you wanted to build a simple site you wouldn’t want to spend money and time on a new tool when you can just use an existing theme and possibly child it. Or code from scratch.

What I’m probably seeing is the emergence of niche: wordpress tools for “developers” who don’t actually do programming.

I don’t mean to sound like  grumpycat. I can see that the developers of these tools have put in a lot of work building their tools, marketing them and providing support. All the vendors have been industry players for at least a year and get a lot of great reviews – reviews that encouraged me to test their wares.  Clearly a lot of people in the industry are getting value from them.

And I’m likely to continue to experiment with these tools. Maybe I’ll have an “aha moment” with one of them. But for the moment the appeal of each of them is limited.