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Weebly review | TechRadar

Founded in 2007, Weebly is now one of the leading website builders with a mammoth 40 million customers worldwide.

The service offers an array of site-building features. Responsive templates, drag-and-drop editing, photo galleries and slideshows, integrated site search, custom HTML, CSS and JavaScript for smarter customizations, and the list goes on.

Many of these functions have more depth than you might expect. The blogging platform goes beyond the basics by allowing you to schedule future content and manage comments. The App Centre has more than 200 widgets for enhancing and integrating your site with other services, and the integrated web store enables selling any combination of physical products, digital downloads and services.

The service has plenty of supporting features, too, covering marketing, SEO, social media and more. There are even custom iOS and Android apps to enable building, editing and managing sites from your mobile device.

The Weebly range starts with a simple free plan. This has the usual restrictions of a free website builder – space is limited to 500MB, your site will have ads, and it’ll be limited to a subdomain (mysite.weebly.com) – but that might be enough for a simple personal site.

The £5 ($6.25) a month Starter plan drops the ads, gives you unlimited storage, throws in a free domain and a $100 (£80) Google Ads credit, and includes advanced stats on your visitors. There’s also support for a web store with up to 10 products, although Weebly adds a 3% transaction fee (on top of any other payment provider fees) and customers must check out on Weebly.com.

The £8 ($10) a month Pro plan extends the service with password protection, video backgrounds, and support for playing HD audio and video. The web store gets support for up to 25 products, although checkout is still on Weebly.com. Our favorite feature is the ability to sign up to 100 members to your site, and give them access to premium content. But what could be more important is that the Pro plan includes phone support.

Weebly’s £17 ($21.25) a month Business plan allows creating sites with unlimited members and web store products. The store gains a lot of high-end features – digital product support, shipping and tax calculators, coupons, product reviews, inventory management – and there’s no longer any transaction fee.

The top-of-the-range Performance plan weighs in at £26 ($32.50) a month and adds support for real-time shipping rates, abandoned cart emails, gift cards, and covers you for up to five email campaigns a month with up to 500 contacts per email.

Weebly’s free plan gives you unlimited time to understand the basics of the editor and see what the service can do. If you sign up for a commercial plan, Weebly gives you a generous 30-day money-back guarantee with no special catches or conditions. If you’re unhappy, you can ask for a refund within the first 30 days, no questions asked.

Getting started

Signing up for Weebly is easy – just provide your name, email address and password – and the company doesn’t hassle you with welcome emails or confirmation links, or direct you to an account area. Instead it immediately kicks off the site creation process by asking you more about your requirements.

This starts by choosing a template. You initially get a choice of more than 50 from a range of categories – Business, Portfolio, Personal, Event, Blog, Other – and plenty more are just a click away.

Clicking a template thumbnail displays a working preview of that site, making it easy to see if it’s right for you. If you’re happy, click Start Editing to select it; if you’re not, closing the preview window takes you back to the list of sites, and you can try something else.

The editor starts by asking you to choose your website domain. You’re able to register something new, use a domain you own already (transfer it to Weebly or just point it to your web space) or use a Weebly subdomain (MyProject.weebly.com). Not ready to decide yet? Then you can close the window and make your choice later.

Weebly editor

Editor

Weebly’s interface is a little cluttered, but its basic operation is very similar to other builders. A left-hand sidebar contains assorted objects and items you can drag-and-drop onto your pages. A top-level menu gives access to other website management features (Build, Pages, Theme, Store, Apps, Settings). Your site is displayed in the body of the page, and you’re able to click on images, text and anything else to edit them or change their properties.

The editor doesn’t give you full control of where you place most components on a page. You can’t simply drag-and-drop an image to a defined pixel position on your page, for instance – by default it will align to the left, right or center of your image container. This keeps life simple, but might be limiting for some people.

We’ve seen other services with more natural and straightforward interfaces. For example, click Add > Gallery in Wix and you’ll see graphical previews of different gallery styles, helping you immediately understand what you’re going to get. Drag-and-drop one onto the page and it appears with sample images. Clicking the gallery displays various editing buttons, many with tooltips – right-clicking gives you a useful context-sensitive menu, and there’s support for many of the keyboard shortcuts you know already (Ctrl+Z to undo, Ctrl+C to copy, Ctrl+V to paste, and so on).

Try this in Weebly, and there are no gallery previews – you can only drag-and-drop the control onto the page. That gets you a plain box with an ‘Upload images’ caption, but no sample images to show you what it might look like. There’s no right-click menu to give you advanced options, and keyboard shortcuts are minimal, so you can’t select a control and press Del to delete, or Ctrl+C to copy it.

Even worse, there’s no general support for Undo at all. Accidentally deleted a component? Tough luck – you’ll have to manually restore it and any custom settings you might have made.

These aren’t fatal errors, and they don’t necessarily mean Weebly is difficult to use. The editor may not have the visual appeal of some other builders, but you’ll still figure out how to use it within a few minutes. It just feels a little more awkward in places, as you’re forced to work through Weebly’s interface to carry out most actions, rather than being able to use some of the shortcuts you might expect.

There are some exceptions, most notably in the way you change and manage pages. You’re not required to work through a page manager to switch from your website home page to the Blog, for instance – just left-click the Blog link in your website menu, and you’re taken to that page directly. It’s a far more natural approach than most other services.

Weebly does have a separate page manager, but that’s also well designed. It displays your pages in a sidebar, so your current page always remains accessible and in full view. You can add new pages and drag-and-drop others to rearrange them, and the menu bar is updated right away – easy.

There’s another small plus in the editor’s ability to rearrange its interface when space is limited. If you reduce the width of your browser window, for instance, it allows your website page to float over most of the left-hand sidebar, keeping more of it in view. Hover your mouse over the toolbar and it pushes into view, ensuring all the controls are still accessible when you need them.

Weebly media

Media

Weebly’s native editor tools support a decent range of media types, including images, HD videos in all the main formats (for the commercial plans), MP3 audio, and documents (PDF, DOC, DOCX) via a Scribd-based viewer. You can also use custom HTML code to embed content from YouTube, Vimeo and many other sites.

The process of adding images isn’t nearly as polished as you get with Wix. There’s no instant thumbnail previews, no direct support for accessing social media images (although you can use direct URLs). But there’s a very welcome plus in the Search feature, which finds many more free images than most services.

Weebly also has a few image editing tools: cropping, brightness, saturation and contrast tweaks, radial and linear focus options, a text caption system, and 30+ Instagram-style filters.  Other builders sometimes offer more, but there’s enough here to cover the basics.

The App Centre gives you more media options. Weebly’s standard audio player only handles a single MP3 file, for instance, but there are apps that can handle playlists, support streaming from other sites, or even stream digital content from your own store. It’s good to have these available, but they’re not always a viable solution. Many have restrictions unless you pay for a commercial visit (limits on file numbers and size, player branding from the developer).

This isn’t a bad feature set, but we’ve seen better elsewhere. Wix Music adds native support for FLAC and M4A, and the Social Player directly integrates YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Dailymotion content. Wix generally supports much larger file sizes, too. For example, Weebly limits HD videos to 1GB, while Wix allows up to 15GB.

Weebly is also a little lacking in media management. The Wix ‘My Uploads’ feature allows uploading and storing images, videos, fonts, documents or single audio tracks, ideal for content you’d like to reuse on several pages or sites. Weebly has no direct equivalent, so for the most part you’re left to manage files locally and upload them each time.

There’s plenty of room for improvement, then, but overall Weebly does a capable job of handling media files. Many users won’t be affected by its issues, and if you make heavy use of features like Weebly’s free image search, you may prefer it to other builders.

Blogging

Weebly’s blogging component didn’t immediately impress us. It’s plain-looking, and doesn’t come with any post templates, so you have to manually drag-and-drop titles, text blocks, images and so on, to suit your needs.

Start working, though, and you’ll find there’s plenty you can do. Posts can include images, galleries, slideshows, maps, videos, documents, maybe custom embed codes for other content. And you can customize the sidebar with boxes for blog categories, archives, blog author or feed links (RSS feeds are generated automatically).

Posts can be published immediately or scheduled for later. There are optional ‘Share on Twitter’ and ‘Share on Facebook’ buttons, and per-post comment settings enable turning comments on or off (or have them require your approval).

A separate group of Comments settings help control how the system works. You’re able to use the built-in comment system, Disqus or Facebook. Optional CAPTCHA and moderation systems try to control spam. You can be notified of new comments via email, and comments may be automatically closed after 30, 60 or 90 days (you can also close them whenever you like, or not at all).

Other services may give you more immediate control over the look and feel of your blog, or provide templates to speed up posting. But Weebly’s blog has more than enough power for most casual users, and once you understand the basics it should serve you very well.

Weebly e commerce

E-commerce

Weebly’s editor isn’t as straightforward, polished or visual as the best of the competition, and this is especially true for its web stores. While other builders might at least give you some initial previews of store styles and themes, Weebly throws you straight into its store manager, which could seem intimidating to the first-time user.

Presentation aside, the store has plenty of features. You can sell physical products, digital downloads or services. You’re able to set up current and sale prices, assign a weight, mark something as tax-exempt, or define your own extremely configurable product options (you can set up dropdown lists, give multiple choices, allow color choices or text input).

There are plenty of more advanced options, depending on the Weebly plan you’ve chosen. Coupons, gift cards, user reviews, abandoned cart recovery, inventory management, even badges to mark when a product is on sale, stock is running short or you’ve sold out entirely.

Conveniently, Weebly doesn’t force you to upgrade before you can even see how a feature works. The free plan doesn’t allow you to use coupons until you’ve upgraded, for instance, but you can still enable them and set them up. That’s good news, as it means you’re able to fully understand all the options you’ll have before you part with any cash.

There are occasional limits – like no support for product videos, it’s strictly images only – but Weebly also has its compensations. For example, an Import option enables importing product catalogues from CSV, Etsy, Shopify and Square, a big time-saver if you’ve already had another store elsewhere.

An adequate set of payment processors include Stripe and Square, both of which have a Weebly transaction fee of 3% unless you upgrade to the Business plan or higher. The higher Weebly plans add support for PayPal Express Checkout, which also has no additional transaction fee.

Weebly support

Support

Clicking Help in the Weebly editor opens the company support site in a new browser tab. That’s not always as effective as other services – Wix displays a pop-up window over the current page, maybe allowing you to view the source of your problems while you browse – but it does at least give you a full screen for reading.

The web knowledgebase covers the basics only. Searching for the keyword ‘video’ gave us only three articles, for instance, on uploading videos, embedding videos from other sites or using video backgrounds. Those are probably the key topics, and the articles point you in the right direction, but they’re not going to help you with anything advanced.

There are other options, at least in theory: a forum, live chat, a support ticket system and – if you’re using the Pro account or higher – you can call the support team for help, seven days a week (Monday to Friday from 6am to 6pm Pacific Time, and Saturday/Sunday from 8am to 5pm Pacific Time).

We’ve seen a lot of complaints about Weebly’s support, though, and our own experience was unimpressive. We chose the live chat option, but it redirected to a regular support ticket. We asked our very basic product question anyway, but 48 hours went by with no response.

There’s no way to tell how common this might be, and if you’re planning a small or personal site, it might not matter much anyway. But if you need a business or e-commerce site, we’d recommend you test Weebly’s support for yourself before you buy.

Final verdict

Weebly’s editor doesn’t offer as many visual previews as the best website builders, and it really needs a general undo function. But the stylish templates get your site off to a good start, there are plenty of features to help take the project further, and overall this service needs to be on your shortlist.


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