Founded 2002 in San Francisco by college buddies David, Dan and Chris, Weebly is a site builder that has helped over 40 million websites.
With a combined annual traffic of more than 325 million unique visitors, the company is now backed by funding from major players such as Sequoia Capital and Tencent Holdings (April 2014).
Overview: What is Weebly?
How does Weebly work?
Weebly powers more than 40 million websites. It is equivalent to 2% of all websites that are currently live. It looks great when you compare it with the vast availability of website builders. It was founded on the belief that “anyone should have the tools to take their business from idea to launch to growth”.
Weebly works by offering users a very visual interface which they can use to build their websites and requires no knowledge of coding at all. All you need is to drag and drop stuff, resize things with a mouse and add or edit text and images.
Right off the bat, Weebly gets down to business and the first thing you’ll be asked is if you’ll be selling stuff online or not (more on this later). Next, fill in your website information such as name, products and other descriptions and you’ll be shown the template selector.
Weebly features many beautiful templates and once selected, you’ll be asked if you’d prefer a Weebly domain, to purchase your own, or use a domain you already own. Having looked at the templates, I’m left wondering if there is a need for much of Weebly’s drag and drop features.
Despite the massive amount of options that you can drag and drop onto the existing templates, they are already so comprehensive and editable that most people who are seeking simple, static websites would need not much further modifications. One good point to note though is that Weebly automatically helps you create a mobile version of your site.
The catch comes in when you want to sell stuff online. While the setup for this is fairly simple, Weebly charges sites that sells products on top of monthly fees. Unless you’re a business user that pays top dollar of $25 a month, Weebly will charge you a 3% fee per transaction.
Once upon a time, Weebly followed the road traveled by most website builders and that was to offer users a ton of templates to choose from. Today they have somehow managed to optimize this even though the number has been cut to a couple of dozen templates.
I feel as if this is a two-edged sword because some people just might like to spend the time browsing through templates of various designs but also configurations. However, on a more personal basis I feel as if it is in-line with Weebly’s core mission – to help in easy, rapid site development.
As I browsed their template database (Weebly calls them Themes), I noticed that they offer a spread that while spartan, covers most of the categories that people would need for basic sites. This means that, it’s all there but has been streamlined to prevent users from wasting time and searching through hundreds of templates to find that ‘perfect one’.
Many moons ago, Weebly has a ton of templates to choose from but for some reason they cut it down to a more manageable 50-odd. I’ll be honest here and say that I’m a little on the fence about the whole ‘number of templates’ thing.
It also encourages users to get a little more creative in their own designs, so overall, I count this as a win for them.
2. Easy to use site editor
The drag-and-drop builder is the core of the Weebly system and is what helps users build websites quickly. Through the manipulation of some visual elements, users can piece together their website in a ‘what you see is what you get’ interface.
The core of this is twofold. One – it requires zero coding knowledge. Yes, completely zero. Even if you can’t tell HTML from PHP you can build a complete and functional website that has the potential to be as powerful as any other (almost).
The second part is that the system allows for rapid site development. Think of it as like modern construction where contractors use prefabricated parts instead of having to build everything in place. It cuts down development speed by a ton!
Using their builder and templates I have personally built a functional website with customizations in less than a couple of hours! Of course, this only applies if you don’t let yourself get distracted by everything that Weebly has.
3. Weebly App Centre
For those who are looking past the basic website building experience, that is where the Weebly App Center comes in. The drag and drop interface allows the use of basic website elements, but the app centre is where you go for more powerful tools.
Weebly has a total of more than 270 apps here which are a mixture of free-to-use and paid. Here you can easily add and enable things such as eCommerce, marketing, or social media features. Again, they require no coding knowledge, although some may require an understanding of basic concepts such as email marketing and the like.
4- Analytics help you monitor your site
Once a site is up and running, site owners can then monitor how their site is performing to track and understand visitor behaviour. Weebly lets you view some basic metrics like what pages your visitors are going to, how many hits you are getting, what people search for on your site or even what external sources are referring visitors to your site.
Exactly what level of access to the analytics you get depends on your Weebly account. Free accounts only can view Page Views and the Unique Visitors so you might need to ‘pay to play’ as some might say. Still, it is great to know the feature exists.
5. Built-in SEO tool
Search Engine Optimization is an extremely large chapter in the book of website development and management. While some might scoff at the very basic functionalities Weebly has where SEO is concerned, I again urge you to consider what Weebly is meant for – quick and easy site development.
As such, in this Weebly review, I find that more limited SEO options are better for basic sites and what Weebly has already covers that. They allow for the entry of page titles and descriptions, header and footer code, search engine indexing control and redirects.
6. Great for eCommerce
One category of websites which is popular given the popularity of online shopping is eCommerce sites. Weebly is simply great for this and has everything you need to start setting up an online shop all on your own.
There is even a system to add and maintain a product database, complete with images and categories. Their eCommerce segment comes in templated form as well, affecting how you display products. There are even difference templates for different types of goods; for example, to manage the separation of digital versus physical goods and services.
It even helps users manage payments and will allow you to let your customers pay by various means like Credit Cards and PayPal. In this area there are many options and anything you can’t find in Weebly’s main payments area can be found in the app center.
It can also help you in other ways for eCommerce, such as:
Coupon: Offer coupon codes to attract more sales seasonally.
Gift Card: Send surprise gift cards to your customers through e-mail.
Shipping: Set shipping rules and rates for different types of orders.
Tax: Set up taxes for each country and state you ship products to.
Cons: What I dislike
1. Bloggers Might Shy Away
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as if you can’t blog with a Weebly site. However, for someone like me who is very familiar with the WordPress content management system, Weebly seriously lacks in this area.
Yet using the Weebly blog tool feels so much like I am using a very primitive version of a word processor that it feels so… dull. There is very little that is dedicated to content and allows extended functionality there.
The entire blogging experience on this platform felt strange and it seemed like a cumbersome attempt at offering something they really didn’t want to do. Your formats are mainly fixed, and you are allowed to craft a title and dump in contents, that’s about it.
Given the massive number of blogs exiting today, I was a little surprised that Weebly didn’t seem more keen on tapping that market as well. Perhaps it didn’t want to get in direct competition with WordPress.com.
2. Help Can be Expensive
Customer support can be expensive for companies – I understand this. Yet at the same time, bad customer support can make or break a company. Therefore I am a little curious as to how Weebly decided on a very clear-cut tiered customer support plan.
How much assistance you get from Weebly depends on what plan you are on with them. Of course, the basics are all there for everyone (e.g. knowledge-base, FAX and even some video tutorials) but unless you are on anything other than a free or starter plan, you won’t have access to their phone support or priority support.
They do have a community forum but when I peeked in there it looked a little … bare.
3. Not the Greatest Backup System
This is something that had me hopping mad – the poor backup system offered by Weebly. Backups are something that is critical to almost anything that is tech-related. On a local computer, website or anything, you always need backups. Unless you don’t mind losing countless hours of your work if something goes wrong.
The Weebly backup system takes a little navigation to get to, but the most ridiculous thing of all is that even if you backed up your website, Weebly doesn’t let you import the backup file back into its own system!
Given this, I am not sure why they allow the backup at all.
4. Issues with Images and Photo Editing
For an all-in-one site builder, the image editing capabilities offered by Weebly are simplistic at best. In fact, you could do better by using Microsoft Paint (if you’re on a Windows system). In Weebly itself all you can do is Zoom, Blur, Darken or apply a color filter.
Weebly Site Performance
Weebly Plans & Pricing
Weebly offers free accounts that are capable of handling basic sites easily. That scales up in varying degrees offering extra features such as video backgrounds and user registrations. At the top end of the scale with full bells and whistles, Weebly can cost up to $25 per month.
The majority of Weebly users seem to be varied individuals or small businesses. Some, through the help of Weebly’s site builders have built successful businesses and extended their reach globally. Dharma Yogi Wheel, for example, was founded in 2014 and over the past 3 years has sold more than 15,000 products via their Weebly-built site.
Though it does have its advantage and disadvantages, I feel that Weebly is a success and will work well for almost anyone. The basics are all there and it certainly is a powerful tool for budding eCommerce site builders.
The primary features are easy enough to use for almost anyone, even considering a little time needed for familiarisation. At the same time, the app center gives more advanced used the tools they need to make their sites more powerful.
Best of all, you can start off with a free plan to see if it suits you and if it does, then you can choose a paid plan.
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.