So now that I’m no longer a complete amateur when it comes to technology and the internet, I figured it was time I built a website. I don’t know what I need a website for at the moment, but you never know – I might decide to have my own law firm one day. Hopefully I’ll be successful enough by then to pay professionals to get the job done.
So apparently (don’t laugh – I didn’t know this), there are tons of free website builders out there. My niece thought I was hilarious when I told her this – she says you can find anything on the internet for free, if you really want to. I figured there are probably others like me out there, maybe not as inexperienced with the internet as I am but for sure a lot have zero experience or knowledge when it comes to designing and building a website. So I decided to compare the different site builders out there and write a review – as an inexperienced “newbie”.
In the beginning, the idea of building a website looked extremely daunting. The law firm I work for have a two-man IT team. One of them told me that “it’s simple, you need a domain, a place to host the website, a designer and programmers to actually turn the design into a site. Then you need people to check that everything works in all browsers and platforms and make sure to keep track of the hosting fees, domain expiry date…”. Honestly, I lost him at “it’s simple”.
I’m guessing a ton of people like me out there are the reason why there are so many website builders that let you build a website without worrying about all that. Getting a domain, hosting your site, designing it and building it are done from one place! I’ve tried about 8 so far, I’ll probably try more since I’m officially addicted so stay tuned and if you have a site builder you think I should review let me know!
This was the first one that I tried and I was psyched that I had a working website after only a couple of hours! The entire service can be divided into two main locations – you’ve got the actual site builder, or user interface, and the dashboard.
The site builder works easily enough – you choose the design you want from a list of very pretty templates, drag items to wherever you want on your site (texts, images…etc.) and move things around to your liking. The design can be edited a bit but it’s a little hard to do or understand and you’re pretty much stuck with the templates. You can change your template at any time but you can’t really make the website your own. I’m guessing you’ll eventually find another website out there with the same exact design.
The dashboard was very annoying for me. It was hard to understand how to find all the premium options they offer and it’s stuffed with links and icons – it’s a mess! Creating pages and changing their order on the website though is very easy to do.
Overall I would give this site builder a 7 out of ten. The end result does look like a pro made your website, even if it isn’t really custom-made and unique. The only thing that kind of got on my nerves here (otherwise it would have gotten an 8) was that I kept having to go back and forth from the dashboard to the site builder.
More information on Webs can be found here: http://www.webs.com/
Ok this wasn’t originally second on my list but their website is designed so nicely that I just had to see what I could do with their service.
This website works with templates too but I have to say – their templates are beautiful! Really professionally designed! I almost wouldn’t care that the same design has probably been used by hundreds, if not thousands just like me.
The interface was very easy to use – it’s called “Drag & Drop” which means exactly what you think it means – you drag items to wherever you want them and…drop.
I was impressed with the fact that they have image effects and the fact that it’s all in one interface. Even if you want to create new pages or change their order, you don’t have to leave the builder – a small window opens inside the builder and voila!
Though you choose a template, you can still edit the way your site looks so that in the end, if you have the patience to work on it, you can have something unique.
The only thing that bugged me, and it’s not a minor thing, was that when you drag items one next to the other, you have to manually resize each item to fit into the columns whereas in other website builders this happened automatically.
Even though the end result can be an amazingly beautiful website, I still give this site builder a 7 out of ten because it takes a lot of work to get to that result and the whole idea is minimum effort.
For more info on Moonfruit, visit their website: http://www.moonfruit.com/
A friend told me to try this one and it took about two seconds to figure out why.
Since the process is a little different from the others I tried (choose a template, edit website), I’ll explain how it works here:
First you fill in this form with your website’s details so if you want a website for your business, say a law firm, you give the law firm’s name, upload the logo, tagline if you have one, business field (e.g. law), photos…etc.
Then you click to continue to the next level where their site builder actually creates 6 different websites, specifically designed to match the information you provided AND incorporating your logo and the photos you uploaded. Here’s the thing – there are no templates! It builds the websites using artificial intelligence technology, from what the company says, and creates and designs your website in real time so you get a unique, non-template based site. I chose the one that looked nicest in my opinion and was shocked when I saw the entire thing – it was filled with content and photos and looked like a real law firm’s website. The website was completely full and ready to publish with no work at all on my end, although I did change the texts they provided (even though they were relevant to the business field, I changed them to something more “me”).
When I began editing the website, I was pleasantly surprised. It was like they created it with one idea in mind – anyone can do this. Seriously, if you ever used an iPhone you’ll know how to use this interface in seconds. To be honest, even without iPhone experience I would think a five year old would even get the gist of it. Everything, and I do mean everything, is in the interface – no separate windows or popups – it’s completely drag & drop and (I learned this just recently) WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)! I could also edit the entire design, from the way the background looks as an entire piece or as three separate parts (header, body, footer) or even as separate layers, to the way the menu is designed. The content was easy to edit and work with and pictures had very impressive effects – fading, black and white…etc.
Also, what really surprised me was how well the pictures I originally uploaded in the form blended in the design. The top banner was a mesh of three different pictures fading into one another together with the logo and the tagline and it looked like a designer edited it – it worked.
I also checked their claim that they create matching Facebook and mobile sites for you. The mobile site looked like a mobile version of the website I created and every change I made to the website was automatically updated to the mobile version. I didn’t check the Facebook issue since I don’t have a fan page yet but my niece said that it’s very easy to do – just take the URL and embed it into your fan page.
The only thing that was missing in my option is the plethora of items I saw other site builders had which is the reason I’m not giving it a 10. Sorry Drag&Drop Sites but you get a 9 out of ten.
Drag&Drop Sites offers a free 14 day trial before having to upgrade. You also don’t have to sign up and give your email to try out the site builder itself, only if you want to save the website you created. More information can be found here: http://dragndropsites.co.uk/homepage
Oh just another issue, Drag&Drop Sites seems to be powered by a company called EXAI Ltd. From the looks of it, they’re the artificial intelligence guys. You can find more information about them here: http://www.exai.com.
Like Moonfruit, this website impressed me with its design and overall fun feeling that seemed to ooze out of it. Like a lot of others, you choose a template, BUT that doesn’t limit you!
You can do anything, and I do mean literally anything to your website. Move things around, edit them, add animation effects (which are very impressive) and create a website that is absolutely beautiful! The only thing I couldn’t control completely was the background design which could only be changed as one piece, but this was the case everywhere else (except for Drag&Drop Sites) so it’s probably not a big deal.
Overall this is an amazing site builder, but it’s not for people without any experience whatsoever, plus its hours of work if you really want something unique. Mostly you need to have designing skills to get a good looking website or you can just stick to the template but then “unique” flies out the window. The whole experience thing plays an important part in this review since I’m looking at these as an inexperienced person with no time to waste. Because of that, I’d give it an 8 out of ten but if you do have designing skills and you have the time to play around with a website consider Wix a 10!
Wix offers a free package with their brand at the bottom of your website and a subdomain. If you want your own domain, additional features or to remove their name from your site, you have to upgrade. You can see more information here: http://www.wix.com/
This was a really cool site builder and I didn’t have to waste a lot of time editing and building to get a good looking site. The items there, though not as plentiful as Wix, were no more than I needed and the builder itself was pretty user friendly.
Overall the site builder worked nicely and was easy to understand. There’s something about the interface that bugged me though, I can’t really put my finger on it. All in all it’s a good site builder for people without site building experience who want a fast, simple website. This is a definite 7 out of ten in my opinion.
Weebly offers free services for a limited number of websites (2) after which you have to upgrade. You can see more information here: http://www.weebly.com/
I tried a lot of others but I didn’t really want to mention them since their scores, in my opinion, were really low and I don’t want to bash anyone. I would like to hear about any more site building technologies though, if anyone has any suggestions.
PS - writing reviews is nice, I'll think I'll do a couple of more so if anyone has suggestions - send them over!