Web design has evolved drastically.
No longer is it necessary to know programming languages like HTML and CSS to build a beautiful, functional website. Custom coding is no longer required.
Now, it’s never been easier for small businesses to get their business online. Often without the help of a web designer at all.
An entire industry has been built around this market. Companies like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress have created their own CMS platforms. CMS stands for Content Management System, which is essentially an application that allows you to create and modify digital content using a simple interface.
In other words, build an awesome website all on your own, easily.
And I’m going to tell you why Weebly is the best online web design platform in the world.
(Not into reading? I hear ya. Here’s my full video review of Weebly for your viewing pleasure:)
I’ve broken down my Weebly review into these headings and subheadings. Feel free to jump down as you wish.
- User Experience
- Customer Support
The features of your chosen web design platform are your “bread and butter”, and the first thing you should look closely at. While most of the online CMS platforms share many of the same features, they are often implemented quite differently. Here’s how Weebly does it.
Domains and hosting
A major deterrence for many to get involved in web design is all of the “techy” stuff that scares people away. You know, domains, hosting, DNS settings, IP addresses, yada yada…
With Weebly, all of that is handled for you. Simply put your idea for your domain name into their search function, pick one of the domains still available, and pay.
Pick the length of the domain registration term, make payment via credit card, and boom. You’re good to go. Hosting is included with every domain purchase, and automatically setup, so the only thing you have to do is build the site itself.
Check out Weebly 4’s official launch video, and see for yourself how selling products online has now become the main focus of the platform.
A major reason Weebly sharpened their focus on ecommerce is due to the increased competition from other platforms, such as Shopify.
While Shopify is largely considered the leader in online store design, it does tend to be a bit more advanced at times. Weebly is still the king at making web design dead simple. And that remains true with their new ecommerce offerings.
Adding products, information, photos, and even making custom SEO changes is all a breeze.
And things that you would expect to be complicated, like tax calculation and shipping, are just as easy to customize.
I could easily see businesses selling 100’s of products with Weebly-built websites. In the past version of Weebly, you’d probably only be able to offer a few dozen before things got a little too messy.
Again, the focus here is on the little guys. This is a big reason why Weebly excels over its competitors in so many ways. They’re not interested in the big fish. There are still an insane amount of businesses who are not online, and that’s who they’re catering to.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
One of the most common questions I get asked about Weebly is regarding SEO. “Yah, but is it good for SEO?” is usually how it goes.
SEO has changed a lot over the years, and continues to evolve. Long gone are the days of the “wild west” filled with keyword stuffing and directory linking.
Google has changed its search engine algorithm to focus more on the user experience. It basically comes down to 2 things:
- Design a beautiful, functional website that meets the needs of your visitors.
- Get high authority back links to your website.
So yes, Weebly will more than adequately meet your website’s SEO needs. In fact, all SEO settings are easy to find and adjust. In addition to the main website meta tags and descriptions seen above, you can access each individual page’s SEO settings like so:
What once took hours of custom coding, now takes just a few clicks.
This is where things get a little dicey.
A blog should be an integral part of your online marketing strategy. It’s a great way to provide thought leadership and gain quality links back to your website, thus boosting your SEO rankings. Not to mention make some extra cash on the side.
Weebly’s blog features, while mostly great, leave a little to be desired.
The core features are there. It’s super easy to create and publish new blog posts. Adding content like text, images, and buttons is as simple as clicking and dragging. It’s the same flow you use to build the rest of your website.
You can also schedule your blog posts, add comments and categories, as well as adjust SEO settings.
The main limitations of Weebly’s blog features comes down to navigation.
With platforms like WordPress, you have full control. You can decide exactly how your content is organized and arranged.
With Weebly, it’s much more linear. You have one dedicated page for your blog, and each post is organized into categories. Those categories can be found in the sidebar on the right.
You also won’t be able to add additional plugins to customize the functionality.
For example, for some reason Weebly still only gives you the ability to share your posts on Facebook or Twitter. If you want to share it elsewhere, you will need to manually copy the link and paste it on your social network of choice.
Overall, adding a blog to your Weebly site is still a great way for new bloggers to get their feet wet and gain some experience. And the SEO benefits are still there.
A somewhat recent addition to Weebly is Apps, and it is most welcome indeed.
Weebly Apps are little widgets and integrations that add awesome additional features to your website. These features range from small ones like tabs, pricing tables, and polls to bigger options like coupon boxes, email collection popups, and live chat.
These apps are designed to help you boost traffic, increase sales, and create better marketing strategies. Many of them are free, but others you need to pay for either as a one-time fee or as an ongoing subscription.
As you can see, there’s a lot to choose from.Try Weebly for free
The ultra-simple user experience is where Weebly blows its competitors out of the water.
Building your website with Weebly consists of dragging and dropping various elements into a live preview of your website. Every single change you make will automatically display exactly how a visitor to your website would see it.
You can find these options by clicking on “Build”.
And, with Weebly 4, they’ve added even more simplicity and killer features.
One of those features is something called “Sections”. It allows you to easily add new sections to a page in a wide variety of styles. The background options include colors, images, and even video.
And it gets even simpler than that. You can also use predefined templates based on what you want to put in that section. Restaurant menus, “Meet Our Team”, or “Contact Us” are just some of the Section tools at your disposal.
This is no small thing. In previous versions of Weebly, I often needed to delve into the CSS code to make these types of changes.
Now, it’s a matter of making a few clicks.
To organize your navigation menu and add/edit your pages, head over to “Pages”. You can add a variety of different types of pages, change the header style, and modify the SEO settings for each page.
Underneath the next section, “Themes”, you’ll find options for changing your theme, text fonts, colors and more theme-related customization.
The rest of the sections are “Store”, “Apps”, and “Settings”, which we’ve already covered extensively.
All of this is to say (and show) that Weebly’s user experience is absolutely second to none. No other online web design platform can claim to make building websites this easy. And being able to see exactly how your site will look with every change you make is awesome.
In addition to their browser-based platform, Weebly has developed apps for Android and iOS that allow you to edit and keep track of your site on the go.
The process remains the same. Just drag and drop the elements on to your website with your finger.
While I personally don’t use the app very much, it is an important option to give to your users.
In our mobile-first world, many people are choosing to not even buy a proper computer, and are instead using phones and tablets as their work devices.Try Weebly for free
One of the most common gripes about Weebly is their lack of good themes to choose from. I’ve certainly complained about it in the past. Fortunately, Weebly 4 (mostly) addresses this.
First party themes
The Weebly 4 update brought along some much-needed updates to Weebly’s themes. And additional customization features like Sections and video backgrounds really go a long way to making your site unique.
But the variety just still isn’t there.
If you look at the themes above, they may look quite different at first glance. But, in reality, they are all essentially the same theme but with different header images and spacing styles.
Third party themes
Many web developers have stepped in to fill this void. You can purchase third party Weebly themes from these developers, and upload them directly into Weebly.
I’ve written extensively about the different options available:
- Top 4 Places to Find Amazing Weebly Themes
- REVIEW: Baamboo Studio
- REVIEW: Webfire Themes
- REVIEW: Luminous Themes
- 8 Beautiful Websites You Won’t Believe Were Made With Weebly
All of these developers include free updates with their themes. This is important, because Weebly is constantly improving their platform, and the developers need to match their updates in order for their themes to continue to function.
Weebly’s pricing is very competitive. It is currently broken down into 5 different tiers.
You can decide for yourself which plan makes the most sense to you.
If you’re not willing to invest a mere $8/month into your online business, you shouldn’t be starting a business in the first place.
Good customer support can come in a wide variety of methods, especially in this day and age, where companies have a ton of different channels to communicate with their customers.
Most common issues you may encounter can easily be addressed with Weebly’s Help Center.
Weebly has put together a large resource of instructions to help you deal with issues building your website, marketing your products, setting up domains and email, ecommerce options, and much more.
It’s all very straightforward.
If you can’t seem to find the solution to your problem, you can head over to the Weebly Community.
The Community is essentially a forum for Weebly users. You can often find someone else who has experienced the same problem by using the search feature.
If you’re still unable to find a solution, you can post in the forum and ask the Weebly Community for help. The Community also has actual Weebly employees as moderators, and they can often help you out directly.
I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t had good experiences with Weebly in this department.
I’ve tested all of their customer support communication channels: online chat, email, social media, and the old-school phone call.
Online chat was a disaster. I’ve initiated two separate conversations via chat, and both times I never even received a reply. In fact, the chat timed out because it took so long.
Tweets that I send to @weebly tend to take days before I get a reply. And then they usually consist of “go here for X”.
Phone calls were brutal as well, I’ve always been placed on hold for a minimum of 20 mins before I even speak to a human being. And when I finally got someone, he was rude and condescending.
I had the best experience with email, where I typically got a response within a few hours. (which is still below industry standards)
Fortunately, I’ve almost never had to contact Weebly with customer support issues. I was able to deal with them through one of the documentation or self-serve options.
But I felt I needed to test their communication channels to give an accurate review, and they certainly failed on many of them. Something to keep in mind if you’re someone who might need a lot of hand-holding.
Weebly is the best online web design platform on the planet. The simple and feature-rich CMS is unmatched by any of their competitors, and empowers users to build some truly beautiful websites, regardless of their experience with web design.
They also have a great onboarding process, and a wealth of resources to help guide users along the way. Their only true failing is their customer communication. In this day and age, it is simply unacceptable how difficult it is to talk with someone at Weebly.
That said, I highly recommend Weebly to anyone who needs to build a beautiful website affordably.
Need some help with your Weebly website? Give me a shout at [email protected]!Try Weebly for free