In the middle of 2017, Bluehost introduced changes to the interface of its webhosting backend. The entire look and feel was revamped, and several functions were moved around, in an attempt to make it more accessible. Here are some of my first impressions.
Call From a Customer Rep
When I signed up for a test account, a got a call from a Bluehost representative a few days later asking me if I needed any help in signing into my site. This was a thoughtful gesture, and I can see that it would be especially if someone doesn't have experience with this kind of thing. I told the rep that mine is a test account for review purposes, but I appreciated the initiative.
cPanel is Still Accessible
The first thing that always worries me when an interface changes is whether or not I can easily retain the same workflow structure that I was used to before. Without that, the first instinct is to always review the new interface poorly. Luckily, Bluehost still offers the entire cPanel experience without compromising on the advanced features that some of us are used to. The only difference is that it's not immediately obvious when you log in. The first screen you get, has a side panel down the left with "Advanced" at the bottom:
Clicking this, will take you to the newer cPanel interface that's been around for a while. You can see below, that searching for something like "PHP" will bring up all the PHP related cPanel items you normally expect:
So we retain all the power and functionality of the cPanel experience. The only thing to remember is that it's now in the "advanced" section. Neat!
When I used to use Bluehost years ago, they didn't make it easy for me to have SSH access on my shared hosting account. I needed to contact a customer representative by sending them an e-mail and enabling it. My new host SiteGround allows SSH access right off the bat for the same package, without any strings attached. So when I got a look at the new Bluehost interface, I wanted to see whether or not SSH was still difficult.
The good news is that it's not. When I visited cPanel and typed in "SSH" to get the options, I was asked to create a new key/pair immediately without any problems:
I did a bit of digging around, and Bluehost says that they might still need verification for some accounts in order to obtain SSH access. I didn't require any such verification. Whether that was because of my particular package, or for some other reason, I have no idea. It's definitely an improvement over the last time! And it appears that even when verification is necessary, the process is automated and you don't need to e-mail someone to request SSH access. So that's great.
Managing and Logging into Sites is Now the Focus
The biggest change with the interface, is how Bluehost now places all its emphasis on site management and logging in. My default site was created with WordPress as the backend. When you log into the administration panel, the "My Sites" tab will give you a list of all the sites you have with your current hosting account. And from here, you can immediately click a button to log into the default WordPress installation:
Clicking "Manage Site" will take you to a dashboard where you can see a snapshot of your site, the number of plugins and themes, and even take you to a marketplace where you can browse a number of themes. Going through them, I didn't find any free themes though. Of course, you can also just log into WordPress and search the directory from within the site itself for a huge number of free themes if you want!
Free SSL Certificate
I really liked the free SSL certificate that was provided under the "Security" tab of the "Manage Sites" link.
With SSL becoming essential for sites, it's great to have a free and "one click" installation of a security certificate for those of us who are intimidated by the hassle of obtaining one.
In short, this new Bluehost interface has a lot of good things going for it. It appears to retain the functionality and power of cPanel, and also gives a great entry point for logging in and managing your site. And following up with customers via a phone call to ask them if they have any problems logging in, is a great step as well.