Weebly Review 2018: Cute, Fun, but a Bit Too Simplistic
In 2018, it’s hard to imagine a business that wouldn’t benefit from a proper representation online. However, not all of us have the means or the willingness to risk spending thousands of dollars on designers, developers and copywriters without any guarantees that the effort is going to pay off.
Hence the rising popularity of DIY lightweight website builders, such as Weebly. For a few dozen bucks a month, services like Weebly will provide you all the tools to build a professionally-looking, functional business/personal website while taking care of the hosting and other technical behind-the-scenes stuff.
With Weebly, you can easily get away without having to get near the site’s code. Pretty much every element you could imagine you can simply add through one of the most convenient drag-and-drop interfaces in the market, and whatever you don’t find - chances are the features you’re looking for are waiting for you in Weebly’s app market.
So, while coding is definitely not necessary to utilize most of Weebly’s potential, you may have to get your hands a bit dirty or hire someone else to do it if you’ll want to make some very specific alterations that are outside of the web editor’s interface (for example, changing the menu bar’s color). In that case, Weebly will gladly take you to the code editor where you’ll able to access and edit every aspect of your newly built website.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Weebly vs Wordpress. What’s the difference?
Before going into a more detail comparison between Weebly and other lightweight drag-and-drop web builders, we’d like to quickly cover a few essential differences between all of these lightweight builders and more robust ones, such as Wordpress.
Long story short, while web builders like Bookmark and Weebly are still playing the same sport as Wordpress, they’re in two very different leagues.
Wordpress is a big, functional platform, able to run the biggest operations on the Internet (did you know that New Yorker and TechCrunch are built and maintained on Wordpress?) The platform will give you endless possibilities to scale your projects, expand your online businesses and run the most complex operations, from online gaming sites to huge e-commerce machines.
The tradeoff is that Wordpress takes time to learn. While most first-time users get their head around the platform’s base functionality quite soon, there is a lot of weird technical stuff that can get you stuck for hours, looking for a solution. I remember when I was just starting with Wordpress, I was looking to make a small change to the theme’s sidebar. I checked everything, except the one place where I expected the sidebar options to be the least. After a couple of hours, I finally learned that’s where the solution was hiding all along.
That being said, intuitiveness isn’t Wordpress’s strong suit.
So, what role do lightweight website builders like Weebly play in the Internet’s grand food chain? Basically what they allow you to do is to build a website of decent appearance (but with limited capabilities) with minimum effort and level of knowledge required. Even a complete first-timer can have a professionally looking Weebly website built in under 1 hour.
These sites will be almost impossible to scale - due to insufficient complex themes, overly simplistic back-end interface, poor payment security and a number of other factors - but they’re a great option for someone who’s unconfident in his/her digital skills and wants to simply test the water.
What kinds of websites can you build with Weebly?
There is two simple rules of thumb for lightweight drag-and-drop web builders like Weebly:
- The less you know about web building, the more value you’ll get. Sites like Wix, Weebly and Bookmark are heavily oriented at people who’re willing to give up functionality, security and other web building aspects for ease of use and intuitiveness.
- The smaller the project you’re looking to build, the happier you’ll be with Weebly. Due to several factors we’ll be covering in this review, Weebly has a very hard time catering to your growing business.
And so, the majority of Weebly’s army of websites are:
- Niche/boutique online stores
- Small business representations
- Personal ‘business cards’
- Landing pages
You can see a few examples of sites built on Weebly here: https://www.weebly.com/inspiration/11-awesome-weebly-sitesTry Weebly for Free
Quick Weebly Review - Pros and Cons
- One of the best drag-and-drop interfaces out there
- All features are intuitive and easy to use
- Pricing is more than fair
- Easily modifiable themes
- Access to CSS code
- Allows exporting sites
- Very few themes, offering limiting design options
- Lightweight app market - few options
- No design AI
- Some features are too stripped down
Is Weebly easy to use?
If you’re opting for a lightweight web builder such as Weebly, you’re probably consciously giving up some control for convenience and ease-of-use. So, how well does Weebly do in this most crucial of aspects?
The Setup ***** (5/5)
Just like Bookmark, Weebly greets their customers as if they’re seasoned regulars on the site. Got a Google+ or Facebook account? Just plug that in and use Weebly without having to enter your name, shipping details and think of 3 security questions answers to which you’ll most likely forget by the time you’ll need a password reset.
Right away, you get a feeling that Weebly will be there for you through every step of the process. As you login, the site gives you a choice:
The actual question and the choices are different from what we’ve seen on Bookmark, but the general idea is the same: Weebly won’t hesitate to ask the important questions right off the bat. It respects your time, and it’s here to help you build the website you need with as little time and energy wasted as possible.
Note that there’s no Artificial Intelligence option on Weebly. Competitors - including Bookmark and Wix - have sophisticated AI systems that will literally create a website for you based on your niche, type of website you’re looking for, content from the closest competitors and your social media accounts. Weebly doesn’t have that.
Instead, it will take you straight to the back-end store management where you can add products, shipping options and other e-commerce info (if you select the “Yes, I want to sell online” option) or straight to the editor if you click “No”.
So, from the ease-of-use standpoint, Weebly’s setup gets a 5/5, simply because it’s almost non-existent. Login with one of your social media accounts, pick a theme and start editing the website - you’ll be able to take care of the domain and subscription plans later.
The Editor ***** (4.5/5)
If you’ve ever used a drag-and-drop editor of any sorts (Canvas, Bookmark), then you know that the way these editors feel can make all the difference for the user.
Thus, let’s talk about how Weebly’s web editor feels.
And it feels good, really. It feels like it’s been tested over and over again for years, and that you’re using a refined, mature product on its way to perfection. Weebly’s drag-and-drop feature really is the Porsche of web editors.
In fact, there are two aspects in which Weebly’s editor is different from most other website builders.
The first aspect is the reversed process of element selection. For example, with more traditional sites like Wix, you’d go through the menu, find the category of elements you want, then select the exact element design you want, and only then drag-and-drop it onto the website. With Weebly, you have to do it from the other end - first you add the element to the site, and only then choose the element’s design.
I, personally, didn’t like this. I found that seeing the element designs right away helped me make a choice much quicker, simply because I could instantly imagine how the element would look on the site.
Just like many things on Weebly, the element design options are lacking. Many elements don’t have styling options at all, whereas Bookmark has premade options for all of their elements.
The second aspect how Weebly’s editor is different from the competition is the way elements are added. With most other editors, elements are added exactly where you drop them. This way, you can make the most ridiculous (or, the most astonishing) designs possible.
Weebly’s editor, however, has an invisible ‘grid’ system that allocates a certain amount of space for each element. Which means that you can’t just add an element on top of everything else - whenever you drop of an element, all other elements around it will adjust, making everything in the design perfectly in-line.
Now a few creative souls will be frustrated by this, but for the majority of us, I think, Weebly hit the spot. For someone who’s not a designer or a web professional, it might be very hard to come up with website layouts, and Weebly’s automatic element adjustment takes the dilemma of proper element placement off our shoulders.
The conclusion is that Weebly’s web editor is extremely well suited for their target audience - inexperienced web builders who don’t have a lot of time. The only point for which we had to take half a point away from Weebly is the reversed element design selection - for us, it just felt like we were adding elements with our eyes closed when we weren’t given the specific designs before actually having to add the elements to the site.
1. Weebly App Market Review (4.5/5)
The standard selection of Weebly’s elements will prove to be more than enough to build a proper website for the majority of users. Maps, contact forms, product snippets, video plugins - all of those and more are a part of Weebly’s core functionality.
However, should you need a very specific extension to Weebly’s standard capabilities, chances are you’ll find it in the Weebly’s app market.
Weebly’s app market is different from that of Wix, which is neither good or bad - it’s just... different.
The first thing you notice when you enter the Weebly’s extension store is some good copywriting: three out of four categories of apps are oriented to Spike Sales, Boost Traffic, or Get (your business) Social. In reality, after entering each of these categories, you’ll find that the actual apps are much more modest and oriented at specific, narrow tasks. For example, one app under the Boost Traffic category called Privy will simply allow you to collect email lists. Whether these efforts will result in a boost of traffic still depends entirely on you.
The app market on Weebly isn’t big. There seem to be around 10 apps in each of the four categories, making it less than 50 apps in the entire store. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing - Wix app store, which offers over 250 downloadable extensions to its users, can leave a novice overwhelmed with the sheer amount of selection available, whilst a smaller, well-categorized app store is easier to handle for someone who’s new to all this.
In the end, we still took away half of a point from Weebly’s app market simply because it felt a bit unfinished with only 10 apps in each category. While a large selection can be overwhelming, app stores are all about freedom of choice and numerous modification possibilities, which Weebly simply fails to provide.
2. Weebly E-commerce Review (4/5)
For drag-and-drop web builders, e-commerce is usually the weak spot. Poor backdoor inventory management systems, lack of e-commerce functionality and very few e-commerce design options usually prove that lightweight drag-and-drop website builders are only good for small, boutique online store operations, if at all.
However, Weebly is set to prove them wrong. The very first option you get with Weebly is a choice whether you’ll be building a regular website or an e-commerce store, which already gives you the idea that Weebly takes e-commerce seriously. And if you do pick the latter, you’re instantly taken to the store/inventory management interface, pushing the theme/design question further down the priority list.
What makes Weebly so great at building online stores?
The number one argument is, of course, the functionality. Weebly’s e-commerce management interface gives you some of the more advanced tools that you’d expect to find on more e-commerce oriented Content Management Systems, such as Shopify. These tools include abandoned cart tracking, issuing coupons and gift cards, robust email newsletter automation options, adding custom tax values and shipping options, etc.
While Weebly can’t boast a huge selection of e-commerce themes, the available ones are quite diverse in their layout and design and should be enough for the majority of business owners. Weebly has also made a few e-commerce related web-building articles available for those who’d like a little guidance.
Is Weebly a contender to Shopify or Bookmark? No, it’s still a lightweight web builder that will struggle to scale up once your business starts growing. However, if you’re looking for a compromise between ease-of-use and e-commerce functionality, Weebly is one of the strongest drag-and-drop builders in terms of e-commerce capability.
3. Weebly SEO Review (2/5)
While Weebly does have a few on-site SEO options for you to play with, all evidence indicates that Weebly’s SEO ability is very weak.
In the SEO section, you’ll be able to enter the site description and meta keywords. Oh, you’ll have the opportunity to add 301 redirects, or hide certain pages from the Google index.
And that’s… pretty much it. For anything more than that you’re going to have to tinker the site’s core code, which can be a bit scary for a non-professional.
The conclusion? Don’t put big hopes on your Weebly websites being found on Google. If you’re going to take search engine optimization seriously as a marketing channel, we highly suggest opting for more suitable platforms such as Wordpress.
4. Weebly Blog Review (3/5)
If we had to describe the Weebly’s blog in one word, it would be weird. Because it really is weird.
Imagine this: you’re almost done building the website of your dreams, you’re about to launch it, and just decided to quickly write an introductory post to go along with your launch. You add a blog section, press the “New Post” button, and… You can’t actually write anything.
It took a solid 15 seconds to realize that in the spirit of standardization, you have to drag a text box to where you imagine the blog post should be, and then write the post. As we said, an interesting solution.
Besides that, it’s not clear whether the headings will be assigned with appropriate h tags for SEO purposes - even the title.
Besides the actual editing, there isn’t a convenient way to manage the published blog posts. The only content management tool you get is the ability to save and publish drafts.
So, if you’re confident you’re going to include a blog on your website, we highly recommend not to use Weebly for this.
5. Weebly Themes Review (3/5)
Usually, there isn’t that much to say about the themes, except their quantity and the diversity of their designs. With Weebly, however, we’d like to add an additional point.
See, Wix, for example, doesn’t give the option to change the theme once you’ve started working with one. That is, if you want to change the theme of your website, you’re going to rebuild the whole thing from ground up.
Weebly does give the option to change the theme, but the way it works… raises doubts. See, with some transitions Weebly will accurately transfer the content where it belongs in the new theme (it will adjust the picture size, take the copy from the current theme and put it where appropriate in the new theme, etc.), but there are times when the transitions come out really, really weird.
Like, the only thing that would change is the font. Or some sections of the site would change their style and layout, while others wouldn’t.
Therefore, we respect Weebly for at least trying to implement this feature, but would like to advise fellow web builders to be careful when changing themes. If something goes irreversibly wrong, you’re going to have to rebuilt the entire site.
6. Weebly Exporting and Hosting Review (4/5)
Weebly gives its users the option to export your website to a different host, which isn’t that common among web builders. However, if you’re going to want to make any changes to the website, you’re going to have to edit the code directly, as the website is designed to work primarily with Weebly’s web building interface.
Nevertheless, it’s still a huge argument for using Weebly as an online platform for your business. Think about it - what if your business grows to the point where you’ll start needing more out of your website? Or if Weebly suddenly decide to go bankrupt? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup plan for your business efforts online?
The ability to export websites is both a strategic choice and a precautionary one. And, given the platform is one of the best lightweight drag-and-drop e-commerce tools out there, it makes even more sense to choose Weebly for your online store.
7. Weebly Mobile Viewer Review (2/5)
The industry’s standards dictate that all websites must be mobile friendly, and Weebly is no exception. All of their themes well-adaptive and - in most of the cases - look great on mobile devices, which you can make sure of yourself by clicking the mobile icon on top of the page.
Why the low score then?
Because Wix have taken mobile design with these lightweight drag-and-drop builders to the next level. They’ve actually created a mobile design editor, which allows users to modify their mobile pages completely independently from the desktop versions.
This feature is literally irreplaceable in so many situations. Say, an email contact form is a complete must for your desktop version of the site, but looks dull on the mobile version. With Wix, you have the option to remove said contact form from the mobile version, while keeping the desktop site unchanged.
Weebly simply doesn’t have that. Its mobile feature is a mere preview tool that gives you an idea of how your site would look on a smartphone, but it gives zero editing ability. Which would’ve been fine a few years ago, before Wix raised the bar.
Weebly Pricing Review
Have you ever had a friend who’d be so persistent on inviting you somewhere that you’d be left with no other choice but to say yes in the end? Well, that’s pretty much the case with Weebly’s constant offers to upgrade to one of their premium plans.
And these offers are literally everywhere. More than half of e-commerce store options will ask you to upgrade. So will the header of every page while you’re editing your website. So will the footer.
However, despite these offers being a bit annoying, it’s really a logical choice. Some of the essential Weebly’s e-commerce features are only available after upgrading, and then there’s the fact that free websites will have to deal with Weebly ads on top and bottom of each page.
Weebly’s premium plans start at around $8 and go all the way up to ±$36 per month.
Weebly Review: Verdict
In pretty much all aspects, Weebly is simply a slightly worse version of Wix. With a few spectacular failures (the blog editing, for example) and a couple of interesting functional alterations (the reverse sequence of choosing an element’s design), Weebly is basically the same ol’ Bookmark, with less choice and reduced functionality.
However, there is one particular area where Weebly triumphs, and that is e-commerce - believe it or not, it’s actually good. It offers many practical options that are usually found only on dedicated online store builders like Shopify and a few dozen of themes to accommodate them. It was a smart decision from Weebly’s founders to focus on the area where other lightweight web builders struggle most.
So, would we recommend Weebly? If you plan to run an e-commerce business, then Weebly should be your number one choice. Otherwise, you’ll probably be better off with Wix or Bookmark.