Ucraft Review 2018: Fun to Use, but Disappointing Once You Go Deeper
If you’ve been struggling to choose a web builder out of dozens available on the Internet, worry not - you’re not alone. The web builder industry seems to have attracted many opportunity-seeking serial online entrepreneurs who aim mostly at short-term profit, not long-term growth.
After hearing endless stories from unsatisfied customers (for example, the Sitebuilder membership billing scandal), one can’t be judged for feeling like all DIY web builders are scams.
However, that’s not true. There are web builders available who genuinely seek to help the tech-unsavvy get a decent looking, functional site going for them, and Ucraft seems to be one of the good guys.
For me, a dead giveaway is always the UX (User Experience) of the site. See, low-level internet scammers almost never really invest into the UX too much - they’ll build sites that are comparable to what’s already out there on the market, but they’ll never strain themselves by trying to introduce something new, something subtly hidden in the details - beyond all the sales-y fuss - only for the user to discover. And that’s exactly what tells me that Ucraft is different: scam sites feel dead, abandoned, unfinished; Ucraft feels alive.
From the very first moment you’re in, Ucraft feels super interested in guiding you through the entire process of building a killer website, instead of just dropping you off inside of the editor and letting you figure it out for yourself. No, Ucraft is all about simplicity and User Experience. The site is divided into only three sections - Pricing, Blog and Templates - each of them serving a completely obvious, necessary purpose. The Pricing tab will let you know about the different subscription models, the Blog will give you the resources on marketing and setting up your website and the Templates tab is the first step to creating your website.
There are only two payment options, too - it feels like everything on this site was designed to let you forget about the technical details, and just let you deep dive into the building process.
What about the actual building then, you ask? Well, after using it for some time now, I have to say - it’s nearly perfect. It does everything you’d expect it to, it has a couple of new features (which we’ll talk about in more detail later on) and it works like a charm. So, yes, it’s definitely that good.
Ucraft is one of the new kids on the block, and it really does feel like they’ve been working hard on figuring out which features to add and which to leave out. It literally feels like they’ve read every single customer report on the Internet, and tried to make the perfect web builder.
Did they succeed? I’m not sure yet. While the site makes a very pleasant first impression, it’s main task isn’t to be fun to use, it’s to help business owners and professionals get stuff done, and I’m not yet convinced that it can do that, compared to the more established players in the game like Bookmark.
You see, after having reviewed tens of these web builders, I’ve found that offering a lot of tutorial videos or having the most amazing User Experience on the planet isn’t the most important thing when building websites. All of them are pretty straightforward to use, so the video tutorials become redundant and, sometimes, annoying after a while and you can get used even to sites with poor user experience over time, if you’re satisfied with the service overall.
What does matter then? Below are a few criteria that I found are absolutely crucial for any good web builder to have:
- Good all-around functionality. If I’m looking for a DIY web builder, I’m not likely to be a very tech-savvy person, or an online entrepreneur. I’m most likely a person who’s relatively new to the whole digital marketing world and is just looking to try a thing or two out. That being said, I’m not yet sure what it is exactly I am going to do with my site - perhaps I’ll run a small e-commerce operation, or add a blog, or showcase my portfolio. I want my imagination to be the only thing limiting me online, and there’s no bigger turnoff than running into a functional brick wall when building a site. Like, building the entire thing only to learn that the blog interface is so crappy you’d be better off writing stuff on Notepad.
- Good billing practices/customer support. There are a couple of reasons why customer support is a huge factor when choosing a DIY web builder. The first reason that if you’re using a lightweight DIY builder in the first place, you’re likely to be a bit unconfident in your ability to solve technical problems, and thus prompt, high-quality customer support can make or break your entire operation. The second reason is that, as we mentioned before, DIY web builders are notorious for scam-like schemes, when ‘customer support’ agents would refuse to cancel subscriptions and ‘forget’ to refund money (reportedly the case with Sitebuilder.)
- It must be up-to-date. In the online world, there are no norms, traditions or laws or physics that put certain restrictions on what we could create - just new trends that take over whatever we could call ‘status quo’ for a couple of moments. Remember how mainstream Myspace was, or how everyone was doing their own Harlem Shake videos? Not many people do. Same goes for website design; web pages look completely different from what they did a decade ago - not that there’s something terribly wrong with how they looked in 2007, it’s just that those type of designs aren’t popular anymore, which means they’re not cool, which means if you’re at least half-serious about your website, you won’t use them.
- The perfect combination of control and ease-of-use. Given that you’re looking for a lightweight DIY web builder, it’s safe to say you’re willing to give up some of the control over the website’s technicalities in favor of additional simplicity and ease-of-use. However, I can say from experience that you shouldn’t jump straight into the first web builder that seems most user friendly. See, after a short while, once you get used to the builder, you start noticing its user-friendliness less and less, and the things that seemed helpful the first time you came around now do nothing more but annoy you and stop your progress. Ease-of-use is crucial, but it’s not the only factor that matters.
So, how does Ucraft compare to other web builders in these aspects? Read on and find out.Try Ucraft for Free
Quick Ucraft Review - Pros and Cons
- Super beginner-friendly with all the tutorials and step-by-step guides
- New and up-to-date
- Excellent customer support, live chat available
- Poor blogging interface
- No app market
Is Ucraft easy to use?
Ease-of-use is definitely the biggest Ucraft’s selling point. Every single detail on their website was made to look and feel incredible. The result? Once you try Ucraft, you won’t want to stop simply playing around with its functions.
The Setup ***** (5/5)
One of the best things about DIY web builders is usually their plug-and-play nature. Most of them will allow you to log in with your Facebook or Google+ account, select a theme and start playing around with the elements.
Ucraft is no exception. Here, you don’t have to create a separate account with a dedicated password and a recovery question (answer of which you’ll have to write down in your notes.)
Once you’re in, you’re offered to watch the tutorial video on the basics of how the service works. Not that you need it, though - even the tech-unsavvy will feel comfortable with Ucraft after 30 minutes.
How did Ucraft achieve this level of simplicity? They removed everything else that might distract the user from what he/she came here to do - build and launch a website. That’s why on Ucraft, you won’t see exhausting setup processes - simply log in, pick a theme, choose a domain for your website, and start building. It’s that easy.
The themes are also conveniently categorized, so you should be up and running within minutes. (Note: if you’re looking for dedicated e-commerce themes, there aren’t any. Ucraft is using a Shopify module as an e-commerce addon that you can install, so we assume every theme is compatible with e-commerce. More on this in the e-commerce review section.)
Ucraft is also super reserved with their upgrading options - many other sites will straight up shout about their premium plans in your face, while Ucraft quietly gives you a 14-days full-access trial and only mentions the premium plans in the “Pricing” tab. Not sure if the site will stay this thoughtful for long, but it’s refreshing not to be pitched with premium plans every step you take.
The Editor ***** (4/5)Ucraft doesn’t have any sort of Artificial Intelligence design builder - unlike industry leaders Wix and Bookmark - so we’re going to dive straight into editor review.
Ucraft’s editor is definitely one of the best in the market. It looks good, it works even better, and, most importantly, you actually enjoy getting stuff done with it. Since the drag-and-drop editors are an essential piece of software to DIY web builders, the five-out-of-five for the editor goes a long way to make the final score look good.
There are a couple of reasons why the Ucraft editor is as good as it is.
The first reason is that they, along with Bookmark, have abandoned the ‘full creative freedom’ approach, and have focused on improving what users actually want - an editor that gives you freedom to do whatever you want, but at the same time makes the website look good.
How does it work? Traditionally, many web builders would allow you to simply drag-and-drop any element wherever you’d want it on the site. Want to have 30 overlapping logos that form a smiley face on your homepage? Be my guest.
However, such web builders, as fun and inspiring as they are to use, have proved to quickly turn tidy, well-designed templates into a big, unrecognizable mess that the user had no other choice but to completely rebuild. And, there’s also the fact that in many cases, users don’t actually know what they want to build and how exactly they want their site to look like, pushing them further into disappointment.
The solution? An editor that has a theme-specific gridlock system - a system that resizes and arranges all elements on the site in a fashion that makes the site look good no matter how you change it. Want to add a picture? The site will automatically resize and rearrange all other elements so that it doesn’t lose its visual appeal.
The second reason why I loved Ucraft’s web editor is because it simply works. You click the preview button, and it instantly loads the preview; you click on an element, and you’re given the options to edit it, just like you’d expect to. Intuitiveness is very important for DIY web builders, and poor functionality can instantly kill the feeling of smooth sailing.
There are, however, a couple of small points where I’d like to criticize Ucraft’s editor a bit. For example, the ‘block’ section (that’s essentially the same as the elements’ section, but only with entire blocks of content) has a super weird filtration system: you can click on two categories at once, selecting the most ridiculous combinations (say, social media icons and gallery), which can make an unsuspecting user completely lost. It took me a good 20 seconds before I realized why I can’t see any results - there probably aren’t many testimonials that are logos at the same time (how would that even look like??)
Then there’s the fact that you can’t quickly access all of the pages on your website: you have to go to Dashboard->Pages to do that. Small stuff, but it adds up.
Overall, it’s definitely a joy to use the Ucraft’s editor. It has a few confusing moments, but most of the times it works like a charm, and is extremely beginner-friendly (it even has a cute to-do list so you don’t forget what’s next!)
1. Ucraft E-commerce Review - 1.5/5
Most DIY web builders are disappointing when it comes to e-commerce functionality, but the team behind Ucraft have found a way to take this feeling to a new, awkward level.
What they did is they basically didn’t do an e-commerce solution at all. They simply partnered up with Shopify, and if you’re a Ucraft user who wants to run a small e-commerce operation, you’ll have to build your online store on Shopify, sync it with Ucraft, just to be able to add products from the Ucraft interface. Wait, what…?
As I mentioned, this is an… awkward solution. It’s not a secret that lightweight web builders are by default struggling to run even small e-commerce operations. They lack the inventory management functionality, their themes are usually designed to accommodate only niche, boutique type of stores, and their payment processing options look cheap and hurt your store’s conversions.
However, what Ucraft basically did is they affiliated with Shopify to offer their e-commerce “extension”. Only that it’s not an extension at all. It’s a tool that lets you “upload” your Shopify page to Ucraft so that you can use Ucraft to add your products. It’s basically a Shopify store that you can access through Ucraft.
Or at least it’s what it says it does - quite frankly, I didn’t even manage to make it work. I didn’t find the Shopify app on my dashboard, nor did I find it among available integrations.
So, yeah, I feel like it would’ve been better to just say ‘okay guys, we don’t have an e-commerce solution, if that’s what you’re after, move on’ instead of giving this weird promise of a Shopify integration (that, on top of everything else, doesn’t even work.)
If you are serious about running e-commerce on a lightweight web builder, we strongly suggest Bookmark, who’re well known for having one of the best online store integrations available today.
2. Ucraft SEO and Marketing Review - 4/5
The only site that really had at least half-decent SEO and marketing support was Sitebuilder. Despite all of its faults, you have to give it to them - their marketing tools were on point.
What can I say about Ucraft’s SEO? Not much. It has a few standard on-site SEO options, but that’s pretty much it. It’ll give you the option to change the meta titles, meta descriptions and alt text for images. It’ll even allow you to de-index certain pages off of search engines. And that’s pretty much all you’d ever expect out of a DIY web builder.
You’ll also get a few SEO options - like setting up tags - in the Blog section.
3. Ucraft Blog Review - 2/5
If you’re looking to build a blog section on your website, Ucraft definitely shouldn’t be your first choice.
The blogging struggle begins with trying to find the blog feature on the site - which isn’t easy to locate at all. In fact, one could say that the blog feature is hidden on purpose. There is no “Blog” feature on the dashboard, so it’s totally not obvious what you need to do.
In order to start a blog, you have to create a new page, and select the option named “Articles”. Note how it doesn’t say it’s a blog section - which is a far more understandable term - no, it says “Articles”.
Once you’re in, there’s no proper CMS (Content Management System) like you’d find on Sitebuilder. No, there’s just an option to add new articles (blog posts), and nothing else. It feels cheap, unfinished, and, potentially, very, very inconvenient to use.
What about the actual blog editor? Is it any good, at least?
While Ucraft’s solution seems like a standard text editor, it really isn’t that pleasant to use compared to what the competition is offering. Ucraft’s editor opens up in a minimized window, giving you the feeling that you’re writing a three-sentence email, rather than a serious article. It doesn’t have the option to add videos, or GIFs. To put it mildly, it sucks.
If you’re going to take blogging seriously, don’t use Ucraft. Just don’t.
4. Ucraft Hosting and Exporting Options Review - 3/5
Normally, when creating websites, you’d write an .html file, then hire a hosting service where you’d upload that .html file so that the rest of the World Wide Web could see it under the domain of your choice.
However, in the spirit of simplicity, the DIY web builders like Ucraft have taken care of all that - you simply build the website, and they’ll provide you the hosting.
And so, Ucraft’s hosting is completely free, despite whether you use their free plan or have a paid premium membership. As long as you pay your bills, you won’t have to worry about getting a host for your website separately.
However, if you want to export your website to a different platform, you won’t be able to do so - that’s the tradeoff of using an all-inclusive service like Ucraft. Say, your business grows and you’re no longer satisfied with your website - you’re going to have to completely rebuild the site from scratch on a different platform.
5. Ucraft Customer Support Review - 4/5
As we’ve talked about before, proper customer support is extremely important for DIY web builders. What if you get stuck, and it takes them two days to answer? That’s not acceptable for many business owners.
From the looks of it, Ucraft has a decent customer support system. They have the live chat option (the assistant actually answered within 20 seconds), and they have a well-categorized, dedicated blog-like resources section where you can easily find the solutions to specific problems. It’s much easier to use than many of ‘encyclopedia’ style resource pages.
Here, you’ll easily find what you looking for - the entire library is very well structured, and just gives you the feeling that whatever problem you might have, it’s already solved in there, in human language.
All of the articles also have visual screenshots to support them and explain the solutions even better. Bravo, Ucraft!
The only thing why we’ve taken away a point in the customer support section is because they don’t have a customer support phone number. While it’s common for DIY web builders to do that, we just don’t think it’s an option for a serious business not to provide over-the-phone support in 2018.
Ucraft Pricing Review
Not many lightweight web builders try something different with their pricing strategies, but Ucraft did. And I kind of like it.
See, while a great majority of web builders are playing the pricing psychology/marketing games with their users by giving them 4-5 different plans to choose from, Ucraft simply give you to choices - either you use the service for free, or you pay for the upgraded version. If you pay for the entire year, we’ll give you a discount. And that’s it.
Ucraft asks for a modest $8 monthly fee for their premium plan, or you can buy lifetime access for $149. The Shopify support will cost an additional $29/month, which is ridiculous.
Ucraft Review: Verdict
Ucraft is still a very young company, and they’ve tried hard to make the best web builder they could. And they got pretty far.
I liked using their editor, and the setup process was silky smooth. However, there were a few major disappointments that made Ucraft seem like an unfinished product in my eyes.
Namely, I didn’t like the cheap solution of the Shopify integration (they don’t have their own e-commerce support, so they offer you to build an online store on Shopify and then integrate it with Ucraft) and the poor blogging management/interface.
Despite all of the things that are currently missing, the Ucraft team shows great potential, so if you’re planning to run your business online for more than a year - and your business plan does not include blogging or selling online - we would recommend Ucraft as a good investment. In a couple of years, when and if they’ve fixed the current weak spots, Ucraft has a very good chance of becoming a serious contender to Bookmark.