After my first “So you want a website” post, one of my faithful readers, David Kendall Grant mentioned that Weebly is an awesome, free, and very flexible website creation option.
I recall hearing about them in the past, but thought nothing about it, so I thought I would give it a try.
First, a basic setup is free. Like WordPress or Blogger, you can easily get a site up that is <your cool name>.weebly.com. I started setting up a website. It is pretty easy, and they have a huge variety of templates that you can use. You are sure to find something you like.
The creation of the site is done by dragging and dropping features. Pretty intuitive, and almost fun. You can create text/articles, picture galleries, insert advertisements, and have interactive items like Forums pretty easily. Really slick.
I didn’t see any way to really modify the template. For example, many of the templates have photos in the header area. No amount of hunting by me found a way to change those images. In a way this makes sense, that the templates have some rigor to them.
How can they do this and make money if they give you a pretty solid experience for free?
Well, say you want to have your own domain name (<your cool site>.com instead of <your cool site>weebly.com), they will register and set it up for you for a fee. A pretty pricey option at ~ $40 a year. (For comparison, WordPress.com will do this for $18 per year, and if you host your own, it will be about $12 a year). So that is some revenue.
There are also upgrades, two tiers of that you can graduate to. The starter tier ($3.29 a month) adds some support options, and the ability to remove the Weebly branding from the footers. The next tier is “Pro” that gives you a lot more flexibility, and adds things like site search, slideshows, Video and Audio players (boo, I hate web audio), and the ability to have other collaborators on your site.
I played with it for a couple of hours. I felt frustrated by the rigidity of the formats and the templates. Of course I am the “free” user, and I am thus limited to what they give away.
I am not sure I would want to play with it enough to go pro.
I did see that you have the option of downloading your entire website. I didn’t play with that to see if it is in a format that can be moved to blogger or wordpress.
I am also not their target demographic. I am much more likely to roll up my sleeves and dive in to tweak the stylesheets, or the templates of my own site. But for the creative, but not very technical user, I am sure that Weebly provides a great entry point.
I am not giving up on the experience, but I think the next step will be to cough up some green and get access to the premium features.
One thing that is a turn off is the constant “hints” to get my own domain, and to upgrade. Heck, yesterday I got three different emails to find out why I didn’t finish my site, or buy a domain.
I understand that as the free user, I am not really a customer, and they are incentivized to coerce me to pay more, but the hard sell is not very effective for me. As I said, I am not their target demographic.