You can get a free WordPress site at WordPress.com, but you won’t be able to add custom plugins or themes. Fortunately, some lesser-known hosts will let you host free WordPress sites that you can also customize with any plugins and themes you like.
One such host is FreeHostia.com.
Disclaimer: I have no business connection to FreeHostia. These links don’t generate any affiliate earnings.
- How To Install WordPress Plugin
- How to Install WordPress Theme
Should You Try a Free WordPress Site at FreeHostia?
Although “free” always sounds great, this offering from FreeHostia is best suited to a WordPress site that:
- Will be (or start out) small, with low traffic and small filesizes. The free plan has various size restrictions. (See the FreeHostia.com “Chocolate” plan for details).
- Requires custom plugins and/or themes.
- You don’t mind maintaining with manual upgrades. Sites always need upgrading, no matter what software you use. But WordPress.com will do upgrades automatically, which is a major reason to use it instead.
If your WordPress site won’t need customization, I’d suggest a free WordPress.com site instead. WordPress.com sites have many great features. The major downside is that they only support a few plugins and themes, so if you don’t need these extra features, consider WordPress.com.
But if you do want extra plugins and themes, keep reading. A FreeHostia site is particularly suited for a development site, where you can test all the exciting and potentially site-breaking plugins you would never try on your real sites.
Can You Move Your WordPress Site to Another Host Later?
Yes, if your site grows and you want to move to another host, you can always export it later. You can export the entire WordPress site as an XML file.
Set Up Your FreeHostia Site
Follow these instructions to set up a free site on FreeHostia. Be sure to note the Pre-installed Script list, and select WordPress.
The Catch: You’ll Install Plugins Manually
By now, you’re probably thinking, “A free WordPress site where I can add plugins? What’s the catch?”
Here’s the catch. On the free plan, you need to install plugins manually.
The usual “automatic” method doesn’t work. When you go to Plugins -> Add New and prepare to dive into the Gargantuan Ball Crawl of WordPress Plugin Goodness, you’re greeted with:
An unexpected error has occurred. Something may be wrong with WordPress.org or this server’s configuration.
Since the whole point of using a free site on FreeHostia is to be able to add our custom plugins, this is frustrating.
Alas, this is a “feature” of the free plan. The free plan does not allow outgoing connections, so your site can’t talk to wordpress.org.
However, you can still add the plugin manually. Download the .zip file from the plugin page on wordpress.org. Then upload it to your WordPress site using the Upload link at the top right of the “Install Plugins” page.
If you upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll be able to install plugins normally again.
Install New Themes Manually Too
You’ll also get a similar error using the “Install Themes” page. If you try to search for themes, you’ll get that same unexpected error.
As with plugins, you can download the theme manually. Upload it using the Upload link near the top of the page.
Customize Your Free WordPress Site!
Now that you can add plugins and themes, go crazy! Sure, in general, you should choose plugins wisely, and if you plan to use this site for real traffic, that advice still applies. One single plugin can bring down your whole site.
But a free FreeHostia site offers the perfect opportunity to play with plugins. WordPress offers thousands of interesting plugins, and it’s a shame that most of the time, we can’t just snap them onto our live sites without real risk. With a free development site like this, you can finally go wild, and keep adding all those sparkly plugins until the site explodes. When it does, just delete the whole site, reinstall WordPress, and start over. Fun times.
Some WordPress Plugins to Try on Your Free Site
- You can configure BuddyPress as your own personal Facebookish social network. BuddyPress is excellent, but it will definitely take over your site, so it’s a prime candidate for testing on a development site first.
- You can configure bbPress to run forums right from within WordPress.
- For even more fun, you can make a WordPress network of sites.