PRO TIP: If you can’t be bothered to read 1,000’s of words right now, you can watch the video a few paragraphs below or listen to the podcast episode right here. ????
For those of you who have been following along with me over the past few years, you’ll know that I’ve been singing Weebly’s praises for quite some time.
Weebly empowered me to get my goal of building my own web design business out of my dreams and onto the keyboard. I will always be grateful for that.
But time and unforeseen circumstances can change a lot. Especially in business.
In the blink of an eye, something can go from empowering your business to hindering it.
This is what happened with my relationship with Weebly.
Roughly a year ago, I made the decision to transfer all of my clients’ websites from Weebly to WordPress. And because Weebly’s framework is completely different from WordPress’, this wasn’t a simple matter of exporting and importing.
I had to rebuild every single one of my clients’ websites from scratch.
And it was 100% worth it.
Weebly was on a downward trajectory
There were 3 key areas of concern that indicated to me that Weebly was projecting downwards, rather than up.
1) Designer Platform neglect
One of the things that drew me to Weebly way back in 2013 was the fact that they built a separate version of their platform specifically for web designers.
It allowed me to offer a seamless white label solution to all of my clients. It was super-simple to manage and host all of my web design clients under their platform.
Here’s what the dashboard looked like back in 2013:
Oh, did I say 2013? Sorry, that’s actually what it still looks like today. In 2019.
Calling this thing outdated would be generous. They have literally made no changes or updates to this platform in over 6 years.
Fortunately, Weebly recognized this and had a plan. They were building a new designer platform to replace the old one, with a fancy new name to boot! Weebly Cloud.
I reached out to Weebly to find out more, and they eventually put me in touch with the man who was leading the sales and migration of this new platform.
Please note the timestamps in this email thread…
After already being delayed for a couple of years, they pushed it back yet another year. With zero communication or transparency to their best customers.
This was the moment I knew I needed to start searching for alternatives.
You may have noticed that he mentioned launching “SSL certificates” and the future “App Center”. What did he mean by that?
Well, that leads me to concern #2…
2) Complete lack of updates
What made this Designer Platform neglect particularly hard to bear was that the standard version of Weebly was being updated constantly.
I had to sit back and watch standard Weebly customers get new features like free SSL certificates, apps, integrations and video backgrounds while I was forced to continue using a Model T version of the platform.
When Google announced that they would start prioritizing websites with SSL certificates, and punishing ones that didn’t have one, it took Weebly over 6 months to update the designers platform with the new SSL feature.
6 months is enough time to destroy my website’s Google rankings. And worse, my clients’!
I ended up having to create my own workaround solution to keep this from happening.
Again, not to toot my own horn here, but Weebly’s web designers are their best customers. While the majority of Weebly users only host 1 or 2 websites on the platform, web designers like myself host dozens.
The way Weebly acted showed that they either didn’t recognize this, or didn’t care.
3) Extremely poor customer support
Weebly’s complete lack of perspective and organization was never more evident to me than when I had to contact them multiple times to let them know that I owed them money.
That’s right. I, the customer, was trying desperately to pay them.
This was yet another issue with the Designer Platform. Their credit card processing terminal wasn’t functioning properly, and my payments were not going through.
And they seemed to be completely unaware of it. They just kept hosting my sites regardless.
Weebly was bought out by a larger company
All of these warning signs added up to one simple fact: This was a company in complete disarray.
And what happens to companies in complete disarray? They get bought by larger companies who have their act together.
Soon after that wonderful email exchange above, Weebly was bought by Square, a giant payment processor owned by Twitter.
It immediately became clear that Square was interested in Weebly for its e-commerce store features, and was looking to compete directly with the market leader, Shopify.
Most of my clients at the time were not e-commerce stores. Which meant that their needs and concerns were going to be taking the backseat to all of those e-commerce stores Weebly hosted.
My web design skills surpassed Weebly’s capabilities
As my web design skills improved over the years, I found myself yearning for more freedom and customization. Weebly felt like it was boxing me in.
I often went to 3rd party sources to find custom Weebly themes, apps and features that Weebly couldn’t be bothered to make themselves.
While this was able to satisfy some of my needs for a time, it became clear that I was ready to take the next step in my web design business journey.
So I started searching for a tool that would take me to this next chapter.
And that’s when I found it.
I discovered Elementor
I had always wanted to get into WordPress website design eventually, but there was always one major issue…
A big reason why I loved Weebly was that it made it super easy for my clients to make changes on their website themselves. It was one of the primary selling points of my web design services.
And my clients loved that feature as well. Why pay a web designer $70/hour to make minor text or image edits when you can do it yourself in just a few minutes?
And up until then, I had found nothing else similar to Weebly. Even with the multiple CMS plugins available to WordPress at the time, they were all still too complicated.
But then I found this promising new WordPress plugin that was quickly gaining traction in the web design industry, Elementor.
Elementor offered a free version of their plugin, so I downloaded it and started experimenting.
I immediately fell in love with it. I bought their Pro version the same day.
It was go time. Here’s what I did next:
- I searched for a reputable and reliable WordPress host to lease a dedicated server from, and found BigScoots, who I’m still with to this day.
- I then realized that I knew absolutely nothing about server management, and hired a System Administrator on an hourly basis from UpWork.
- I contacted every one of my customers individually and informed them of the situation. Once I clearly explained the additional benefits they’d be receiving, they were onboard. I didn’t lose a single client.
- I then began the long and arduous process of transferring and rebuilding all of my clients’ websites from Weebly to WordPress. I outsourced some of this work to a friend to help lighten the workload.
- After confirming all of the websites were transferred successfully, I shut down my Weebly Designer Platform account.
I never looked back.
How do I feel about Weebly these days?
Well, it’s complicated…
Weebly will always have a special place in my heart. Their awesome web design tool helped me take my web design business from diapers, to crawling, to walking…
But when I learned to run, I ended up running to WordPress and Elementor.
The slow degradation of our relationship with the complete neglect of their best customers is hard to ignore.
I still use the standard version of Weebly on a handful of projects that I manage for some friends of mine, and their core Weebly experience continues to be great.
I haven’t had a chance to try out their “new” version of the Designer Platform, Weebly Cloud. And honestly, I don’t have any desire to. I’ve moved on.
So, if I have to sum all of this up into one simple take, this would be it:
- If you are looking to build 1 or 2 websites for your personal or small business use, and you have limited web design skills, Weebly is still a great choice for you.
- BUT, if you’re starting a web design business and are trying to decide what web design tool to use, I do NOT recommend Weebly. Their history of managing relationships with their web designers is brutal.
This experience also reminded me of the importance of diversifying your business.
Never put yourself in a position where you can be held hostage by the tools and resources that are supposed to be serving you. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
Had I done that, my business would still be stuck in a terrible situation, and my clients would have paid the price.
Remember, there is always an alternative. But it’s up to you to put in the work to find it.