Welcome to the fourth post of Evermore’s series on popular website builders. I’ll be taking you through Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, and WordPress.com. While Evermore sites are powered by WordPress, we know that it’s not for everyone. This series will help you learn which website builder suits your needs today, and what you may want to look into as you grow. We’re getting Weebly today!
Where Weebly Fits in with Other Website Builders
Changing gears from our last post about WordPress.com, Weebly is very much an entry-level website builder. While all the website builders I’ve covered so far have a degree of “drag and drop” method for making a webpage, Weebly leads the pack. Nearly 100% of the actions you’ll take to build a site on Weebly involve dragging a feature onto your page, dropping it where it fits, and filling in your content.
Weebly’s Unique Drag and Drop Builder
I must admit that Weebly stood out compared with the other website builders I’ve tested so far on this journey. Wix, Squarespace, and even WordPress.com function in very similar ways on the back end where you build the site. You select a theme, you fill it with content, and maybe you get to customize some fonts, colors and backgrounds.
Weebly is closest to Squarespace in terms of what you can add to the site and what you can customize (i.e. not much). The similarities pretty much stop there. Weebly is almost entirely a graphical development interface. It’s an interesting experience to work with Weebly because I am so used to working in a website builder that essentially resembles a Microsoft Word document. Wix, Squarespace and WordPress.com all have an open text box on the right and a menu of features and widgets on the left. You enter you content, add images, video, etc as desired and you publish a page. To change the theme, you click into another menu and are sent to a similar editing layout where you change the background colors and/or images.
Weebly essentially puts all the editing in one place.After you select a theme in Weebly you’re set to start editing. One major difference is that when you choose a theme in Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress.com you pretty much just have to fill it in with your content. As I’ve been working on this series, I’ve been sampling “photo gallery” themes across the board to get an apples-to-apples comparison. On the first three, after I select my theme, I start uploading pictures. On Weebly, even after I have selected a gallery theme, I have to drag the “photo gallery” from the menu of buttons and tools onto the page itself. This actually took me a couple tries to get right. Weebly has a box that indicates where to drop the features you want to add, but the features I was dragging and dropping weren’t staying. Eventually I got it to work, and noticed that Weebly makes a few subtle signs to tell you things are in the right place, but I would say it’s far from intuitive.
Once I had the gallery feature in place on my gallery theme, Weebly finally asked me to upload some pictures. This is about as easy as it is anywhere else on the web, and it works as expected. Weebly does make it a bit easier to customize the overall theme (to the extent that you can). For their gallery theme, you can change the background image from their preset to one of your own. You do this from the same page that you drag and drop features. This is handy. You edit your theme and your content on the same page. Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress.com don’t let you do it this way.
This is one cool facet of Weebly because you actually see the website come together as you build it rather than having to push “preview,” or worse, “publish.”
Customization on Weebly
The chaos of what seems like a simple interface comes in, once again, with the options available. Weebly lets you drag in galleries as mentioned as well as images, calendars, maps, forms, social icons and others. Video, audio, and a site search box are available on paid tiers. All this stuff could be put on any page of your site. This seriously undermines the idea of selecting a theme. As I’ve mentioned before, resources like this are only helpful when they are carefully designed so that your visitors actually want to interact with them. But that’s only part of the problem.
When you drag and drop a new feature such as a map or a product you want to sell, Weebly moves you into a field to edit that new feature. It takes you out of the page you’re editing into a popup box to finish the feature before you go back to the page. This seems counter-intuitive to the idea of dragging and dropping features.
Weebly is pretty good at being fool-proof, though. One of the “features” you can drag and drop is custom HTML. This is something none of the others besides WordPress.com are any good at. I can’t think of many good reasons to drop custom HTML into a box on the middle of a pre-laid-out web page, but I gave it the ole college try. I tried putting what I thought should make a calendar widget in the custom HTML box. Apparently I did something wrong because my calendar never showed up, but fortunately, neither did a bunch of raw code. The HTML box is “smart enough” to look at my broken widget and say “nope, not gonna show this to anyone.” Instead, it just disappears from the site preview like it was never there. Which is good! I’m used to living in a world where one omitted “/” turns a decent website into a movie still from The Matrix.
Weebly’s Pricing Packages
Like all of the website builder’s we’ve looked at, Weebly prices in tiers. Weebly’s prices aren’t terribly higher or lower than WordPress.com, Wix, and Squarespace. The biggest difference is what you get for each price tier. WordPress.com, for example, gives you 3GB of storage space on their free tier whereas Weebly only offers 500MB. For reference, any site that is heavy on high quality photos will exceed 500MB quickly. Weebly does grant unlimited storage with their first paid tier ($8/month) but it’s unlikely that any small business is going to use more than the 3GB WordPress.com offers for free. Also of note is that Weebly asks you to be at the $8 dollar tier in order to have a professional, custom domain (i.e. yoursite.com instead of yoursite.weebly.com) whereas WordPress.com only asks you to be at their $2.99 tier for the same benefit. The video, audio and search boxes don’t start until the $12/month tier with Weebly. Video and audio are available on the $8 tier at WordPress.com.
To summarize the pricing differences, it seems that Weebly has built their subscriptions around users who want a few features for free, or many features for a premium. A lot of small businesses and nonprofits fall somewhere in between those extremes and may want a solution that’s priced accordingly.
Key Takeaways about Weebly’s Website Builder
Weebly probably has the lowest barrier to entry of any of the website builders. They are extremely committed to their drag and drop interface which makes it easier for folks who have never interacted with web code to make websites. You can watch your pages come together as you build them without the need to hit the preview button, but as you add features you often get torn away from this page to build that feature. Plugins and options for customization are basically nonexistent apart from the option to add some custom HTML in a box on your pages. The ease with which you can drop the included features might make it a bit too easy to put too much stuff on your site which ruins customer experience. I would recommend Weebly to a business or nonprofit that needs a fairly static, simple website. Weebly is the most limiting of all the website builders so far, but it might be the easiest for someone with little web experience to still have fun with!