Using a fresh WordPress install to test and deploy major changes is an excellent idea. The problem is it takes a bit of technical competence (and time) to create one locally or in the cloud. If you’re short on one or both of these resources, you could do with a tool like InstaWP.
InstaWP is a tool that lets you up a fresh WordPress install in seconds. Just click a button, and you have a disposable WordPress site ready for testing plugins, versions, and general development work. You even get pre-set templates and configurations to save you time – plus a lot more.
Everyone can use InstaWP to quickly spin up new WordPress instances, from casual site owners and freelancers to agencies and enterprises. And having the option to share installs means you can provide a reusable tech stack for others to begin their WordPress projects.
In this hands-on InstaWP review, I’ll reveal more about this tool and show you how you can use it to enhance your WordPress workflows.
InstaWP is flexible in that it lets you start a site however you desire. It could be a blank WordPress install, or you can build your own templates to automatically configure settings or pre-install certain elements.
Think of InstaWP installs as staging WordPress sites, where you can test new plugins or play around with different settings before implementing them on a live website.
Other use cases of WordPress installs include:
- Build client websites. You can use the installation to create a client’s site and access it from anywhere. InstaWP even lets you share live links for clients to review.
- Allow prospects to test your plugin or theme. If you sell your own theme or plugin, you can pre-install it to let potential customers test it in a sandbox environment easily.
- Offer white-label testing. If you’re a WordPress developer or agency, you can use your own custom domain to offer branded testing.
Hands-On With InstaWP
Okay, now for the fun part. Let’s see how you can use InstaWP to create sandbox websites.
First, I’ll create a blank WordPress install to show you the basics. Then, I’ll cover a few of the advanced features of InstaWP, like building configurations or templates. Buckle up!
Creating a New WordPress Site
First, sign up for a free account at InstaWP’s website. Once done, click the New Site or Add New buttons in the Sites tab to create a fresh WordPress install. From the popup that appears, you can choose the configurations for your site, including the site name, PHP version, WordPress version, and default configuration.
The other option is to build a site using a template—I’ll touch upon this later in the article.
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And that’s all you need to do to create a working WordPress install.
You can log in by clicking the Magic Login button or using the credentials emailed to you.
The new install functions like any other self-hosted WordPress site inside the WordPress admin. You can add users, install plugins, etc.
Creating Presets (Configurations and Templates)
When creating sites, you can set up presets inside InstaWP to save your time. These presets include:
This option allows you to create a preset for technical stuff like WordPress configuration, PHP version, WordPress version, and more. You can also pre-install specific themes or plugins.
Go to the Configuration tab in the InstaWP dashboard and choose one of the settings to create a new configuration.
There are four options for settings: General, PHP, WordPress, and Faker. I chose WordPress as it’s the most flexible and allows you to add plugins and themes to pre-installs.
There’s no limit to the number of configurations you can create—and each configuration shows up in the sidebar of InstaWP. From there, you can select any configuration when you build a new WordPress site:
Use this to save an existing WordPress site as a template. You can then create new sites with the template and their configurations will be similar to the original website.
To make a template, launch the drop-down for the site you want to use as a template and click the Save as Template option.
You can choose to create Private or Shared templates. The default option lets you configure the following:
- Template name and description. This is to ensure you remember the install.
- Instant Template. This is for the end user—it automatically creates a site without requiring manual action based on the template.
- Enable sharing. Enabling this option will let other people create a WordPress site by clicking a link. This should come in handy if you develop plugins or themes for a living; you could allow potential customers to test sites before purchasing.
I went with a shared template, which brought up a few additional options. For instance, I got the option to require people to enter their email, allowing me to use test sites as a list building tool. I could customize the email that goes out and add my own branding.
All templates show up in the Templates tab. You can then choose from them when creating a new site.
Accessing and Managing Sites Using Tools
InstaWP offers a variety of tools for managing your sandbox site, which you can access through the Sites tab. These include:
- Code Editor. This offers an in-browser code editor where you can edit the WordPress core, themes, and plugins. This lets you make quick edits without having to use FTP, although that option is also available.
- Open Database. Open the site’s database in Adminer to get a comprehensive view of the root files.
Site Migration. Clicking the drop-down offers options like migration. You can migrate to live hosting using the integrated Migrate Guru integration.
- Site Reservation. This lets you create a permanent install which stays active until you manually delete it. It ensures the site won’t automatically expire.
- Site export and domain mapping. You can export the site as a zip file to use for local development (in LocalWP). Moreover, you can white-label this sandbox site by mapping a custom domain that reflects your company name.
InstaWP offers a few handy integrations for other tools. These include:
- Mailchimp integration. You can draft emails to send to your clients directly inside Mailchimp.
- Chrome integration. InstaWP’s Chrome extension can help you fast-test new themes or plugins. Add a Launch button to WordPress.org plugin pages or themes—a single click will create a new site that pre-installs that extension.
InstaWP has both free and paid plans.
The free plan offers the following:
- Create up to 5 active sites
- Restore up to 3 sites per month
- Develop one pre-set template
- Keep sites for two days (after which they expire)
- Get 500 MB of storage for your account
The paid plans start from $9 per month and give you the following:
- A higher site creation limit
- Longer expiration times
- Option to reserve sites (this makes them permanent)
- Custom domain names
- Site cloning
- FTP and SSH access
- More disk storage in MB
- Access by teams
You can view the pricing plans here. Note that InstaWP gives 20% off on annual plans.
In general, the free plan should be sufficient for most users. You can use InstaWP to test some things before implementing them on your WordPress site.
However, those offering site creation services would be better off on one of the premium plans. Let potential clients test your plugin or theme to instill confidence in your development.
Overall, I think InstaWP is a great tool for creating disposable WordPress sites.
With the tool plugin doing the heavy lifting, you can focus on testing themes and plugins to ensure you’re installing only the best.
If you’re building client sites, then you can also use InstaWP for your workflow:
- Use templates and configurations to save time when doing multiple projects
- Access the database or edit code in your browser to save time
- White-label the domain to provide a branded experience to your clients
- Migrate to live hosting or pull down the site to LocalWP if required
InstaWP was built for teams that want to ship better products, faster. It even has features like shareable links, where you add the link on a landing page and people click it to create their site. So while it isn’t the first tool to offer one-click WordPress installs, it does offer a lot more than comparable offerings, especially in the way of templates, tools, and configurations.
So whether you’re a WordPress developer, designer, agency, or enterprise, you can use InstaWP to speed up your workflow and let clients experience your offerings to make them confident about purchasing.