By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
SiteGround has recently announced the addition of the free version of the Weebly Website Builder to its lineup. This is ideal for webmasters that are more comfortable with a simple drag and drop interface, rather than the more complex WordPress, Joomla, or other Content Management System.
While website builders do not offer the same flexibility as a Content Management System, they do have their place and are something worth considering.
Weebly website Builder Features
Weebly is an incredibly feature rich website builder. It currently powers over 30 million websites and allows you to build your website with elements such as Text, photos, maps and videos using a simple drag and drop builder. While the scope of this article precludes an in-depth look at Weebly, we will quickly summarize all the different features that it offers:
1. Responsive Mobile Ready Themes
All Weebly themes will adapt to the device it is used on, so whether you are on a phone, tablet or desktop, your readers will be able to view your website with ease. You can see an example of this with their “Slick” theme below:
2. E-commerce Store
Weebly has some features that make it an excellent option for e-commerce websites:
- Shopping Cart and Checkout
- Mobile Store and Checkout
- Filtered Product Search
- Digital Goods and Physical Products
- Search Engine Optimized
- Flexible Shipping Options
- Tax Control
- Inventory Management
- Android and iPhone Apps
You can see a glimpse of the store functionality with the screenshot of a product page being edited below:
The only thing we would point out is that Weebly will charge 3 percent on top of your usual payment processing fee unless you opt for their Business Plan.
Weebly has a large assortment of templates ready for you to choose from. Not only that but when you can choose from a variety of preset layouts to ensure that your website is fully customizable for your needs. The image below shows a small selection of the templates available:
With the drag and drop interface, you can build content quickly and easily. You have full control over the layout, including category, tag, and sidebar customization, with the ability to fine tune navigation and other interactive elements you would normally find on a blog.
You can integrate Disqus or Facebook comment systems, and have advanced scheduling capabilities. Also, Weebly has all the SEO features you would expect, allowing you to fine tune your URLs, Title Tags, and meta description.
5. Mobile Apps
Weebly’s mobile apps let you build and manage your website on any device. Made for iPhone and iPad or Android today you can now create content and build your website on the go.
You can quickly add slideshows, galleries as well as carry out basic editing from within the Weebly interface. Furthermore, Weebly has an extensive photo library, with a selection of free and premium images available to assist making your website visually stunning. You can see the different types of layout available for displaying pictures in the screenshot below:
You can easily embed videos from YouTube and other popular video-sharing websites. Also, you can upload video files directly to Weebly, although we do not know how well this works with a SiteGround hosted version. Indeed, we would advise using the third party video sharing websites in any event.
You can fully customize forms by dragging and dropping new fields, customize questions and response types, as well as fully controlling the settings for each field. Also, Weebly’s intuitive interface allows you to gather easily and review all information obtained.
9. Website Statistics
Weebly has a simple interface that tracks all the usual metrics about visitors to your website. The statistics are collected in real-time so you can keep a close watch on your traffic. Also, for more robust website tracking, you can fully implement Google Analytics.
SiteGround vs. Weebly.com
While there is a slight price disparity between SiteGround hosted version of Weebly, and the Weebly hosted version (a dollar cheaper on the starter plan, and no hosting fees), there are good reasons why you will want to choose SiteGround.
We created a very simple website using the Slick theme on both SiteGround’s GoGeek Plan (Amsterdam Data Center), and at Weebly directly. We used the free basic plan, and here are the results:
As you can see, the SiteGround hosted version was significantly faster on the “free” plan. However, those with keen eyes will have noticed a disparity between the page size, and in the number of server requests. We can assure you that both websites were identical in configuration, but the default footer (which cannot be changed on the free plan) was considerably different. And that brings me to the next point.
We configured the server with PHP 7 and Opcode Cache; something not available directly at Weebly. But then, you are paying a premium for the increase in performance.
As a word of caution, the performance at Weebly is likely to increase on a paid plan without the larger footer.
The Weebly Footer - Free Plan
This criticism only applies to the free plan, and to be honest, for any business serious about their website it would not be an issue as you will “want” to upgrade to one of the paid plans.
However, just for to both clarify the speed test results, and because it demonstrates why the free plan is not really usable when signing up direct with Weebly, but just about passable if signing up with SiteGround.
Below are screenshots between the two versions, SiteGround first, then Weebly:
But, as we said, this is not an issue with a paid plan, which we would recommend. The great thing about the “free” plan, though, is that it allows you to try out the Weebly platform before committing.
The Different Plans at SiteGround
The Weebly plans are almost identical to those at Weebly. The only differences are the small increase in cost, and if you need an SSL \ Dedicated IP for your E-Commerce store, this would be at their standard rates. Hosting is free at Weebly with all plans, and SSL Certificate free with their Business Plan. You can see a summary of the different plans below:
How to Activate Weebly at SiteGround
It takes just a couple of minutes to activate your Weebly website at SiteGround. Under the “My Accounts” menu item within your client area, you will see a tab for the Sitebuilder. Where it says “Free Sitebuilder” select the domain you wish to activate Weebly on, and then click Enable. Note that any content on that domain will be overwritten.
You can see this more clearly in the screenshot below:
You can then access the admin. area by clicking the “Access Sitebuilder” button shown in the image.
At present, the only way to access the Sitebuilder interface is via the Account Management area. This has caused some dissatisfaction by developers, and others with end users that may not have access to this area. Responding to the criticism, SiteGround’s Kiril Hristov commented:
We’ve actually already started discussion on a stand alone login for the sitebuilder. Hopefully we can add that functionality in the future.