Well-thought out website editor. Unfortunately, no mobile options and signs of a stale corporate product.
Homestead was one of the first really strong website builder companies. It’s founder, Justin Kitch, was known for being passionate and transparent. In 2008 he sold the company to Intuit, writing on his blog that the sale was “just a big milestone on a long journey.” But the journey didn’t turn out to be too long: one year later he left Intuit. It’s always an interesting question when a founder leaves. Will the product stay the same? Will there still be a push to be the best?
Homestead has maintained some strong features. But it’s also a very corporate product that hasn’t been very responsive to changes in the market.
Ease of Use
Homestead has one of the best executed editor interfaces I’ve seen yet. It’s polished and straightforward. Ordinary tasks, such as adding pages, images or blogs are very intuitive. This is done through a standard drag-and-drop interface, but in a way that makes you feel like you’re using something quick and responsive.
An example of this polished interface is navigating through pages in the editor. All website builders have different ways of doing this. Homestead has the simplest and best way I’ve seen yet. It’s really easy:
There are even some nice extra’s that are really easy to use. For example, it’s very straightforward to edit your 404 error page (see above). It’s automatically listed in your pages. A smart touch.
Homestead also has a really smart way of making website-wide changes. You just turn on the “global editor” and any edits you make will be made website-wide. You’ll use this every time you need to add new pages to your navigation, update your footer text or change your logo. It’s a really simple solution to a common problem.
Homestead includes plenty of templates— many of them specific to industries (examples: restaurant, travel, photographer etc.). Most of the templates are decent and a few even stand-out. Unfortunately, anytime you change your website template any pages or files that you’ve created in Homestead will be deleted. So you have to be very careful which template you choose (you’ll be locked in to it!).
Curiously, Homestead had very few fonts available to use. In the age of webfonts that’s something that will need to change. The only fonts that are included are the ugly 14 default fonts on the internet (Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman etc.). It really limits your ability to make your website beautiful.
Homestead doesn’t seem to have a mobile strategy. They don’t even mention mobile on their homepage and there are no options for making your website mobile friendly.
When I asked their sales staff about being mobile friendly they replied: “One thing to keep in mind is the majority of smart phones/PDA’s now allow you to view websites in full form.” This isn’t an adequate answer. With the growth of mobile you need to have a website that can respond to different screen sizes. Showing your full form website on a mobile device is not a solution.
Most progressive website builders have responded to the shift to mobile by automatically creating responsive websites or offering a mobile version. I’d like to see Homestead try to do this as well. But perhaps this is the sign of a corporate product? An inability to keep up with and change with the times.
Homestead requires you to add a credit card to your account in order to access their 30-day free trial. They advertise that 30-days is one of the longest free trials around but it makes me suspicious. I can’t help but wonder if the only reason Homestead offers such a long free trial is because it increases the rate of people who forgot they added their credit card during sign up.
Requiring a credit card upon signup seems to be something only larger, corporate website builders have the luxury to do. But it’s undoubtably a poor way of treating users (and a borderline scam). I’d like to see Homestead stop it.
Homestead nails the fundamental drag and drop website editor. It’s really easy to use and expertly done. Unfortunately, Homestead is a little behind in the game in other ways: they have no mobile options, no web fonts, force you to use your credit card on signup and delete your pages and files if you change templates.