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Wix Review Large-3-0

3.0
  • Lack of structure can create long term website problems.
  • Full app store is a nice touch.

Review by Steve Benjamins. Last Updated on .

By far, one of the most popular website builders, has built it’s reputation on building “stunning” websites. Originally, “stunning” websites really meant “Flash” websites because Wix was one of the best Flash website builders. But Flash is a big no-no these days because it doesn’t perform well on mobile and is not search engine friendly.

So had to redefine themselves. They rewrote their website builder to create HTML5 / Javascript websites. But as I’ll show in this review, this ambitious, radical change to infrastructure isn’t an easy thing to pull off and legacy issues persist.

A true drag and drop editor

Wix is a true drag and drop editor. Which means you can drag elements literally anywhere on the page. I’ve seen this attempted before by website builders like Moonfruit and Basekit with disastrous results. In fact, I’ve never seen it done well.

But Wix has the best true drag and drop editor I’ve seen. In part, it works because it employs lots of little tricks that help the user out.

For example, the “snap to grid” button is a must for anyone using the editor. Snap to grid is a smart tool that can accurately guess how you’d like elements to align. If it’s turned off, you will end up inches from your monitor trying to line up items perfectly. Not fun and an inevitable pain with a true drag and drop editor that Wix smartly fixed.

Another annoyance with true drag and drop editors is with element ordering on a page. For example if you have a paragraph with an image below it, it can be a hassle to add new text to the paragraph because the text will overlap the image:

Element order overlap

Element order overlap

But with Wix, elements automatically move if a text above it enlarges, so it’d automatically look like this:

Element ordering without an overlap

Element ordering without an overlap

Another nice touch that fixes the usual problems that crop up in a true drag and drop editor.

The cracks start to show …

So far, it would seem that Wix has managed to build the first good drag and drop editor. But unfortunately the cracks start to show. Particularly, a true drag and drop editor basically disregards conventional website structures. And if you use Wix long enough, you’ll start to see issues arising from it’s lack of structure.

Here’s an example: Wix’s templates are nice, dynamic and widely variant. You might ask yourself, why don’t other website builders have such varied templates? Can’t they make something widely unique?

The answer is that most website builders have structured templates. That’s why many templates will have a similar layout. Structure allows users to be able to switch between templates and make changes without losing their entire website. It’s actually a fairly remarkable feat that most website builders pull off: you can change your entire website theme and the pages remain intact.

But with Wix, you can’t change your theme. Once you choose your theme— it’s locked in. It’s impossible to change it (unless you start over).

This belies a deeper philosophy from its Flash based days. Wix’s support seemed to consistently referred to websites as “documents” that users create. I thought it odd. But it actually makes sense. Wix offers a blank canvas for users to build whatever they want— thus the open-ended documents. But websites are not blank documents— they are at their best when they have consistent structure.

I know I’m getting a little philosophical here, so let me explain what I mean by talking about Wix’s mobile options.

Mobile

Like many website builders, Wix doesn’t have truly mobile websites. They use the shortcut route of creating a separate “mobile” version website. This approach isn’t ideal because you end up having two separate websites where the experience and branding can feel inconsistent.

An alternate, better solution would be for Wix to provide responsive website templates (“responsive” website templates are templates that dynamically change based on the device— so iPhones would see a mobile friendly website automatically).

Unfortunately for Wix, the lack of structure in their website templates means it’s unlikely they’ll be able to pull this off. Since they can’t control where users are putting content, they can’t also automatically change that content into mobile friendly versions. Again, lack of structure.

Some things to like

Moving on from the editor, Wix is packed with features that many users will find handy and helpful.

When Wix abandonded Flash, they rebuilt themselves using Javascript. Javascript is not a conventional tool to build small business websites with and so it allows for some cool things that most website builders can’t offer. For example, there are no page reloads on Wix websites- only the relevant new content is loaded. You can also add cool page transition effects to pages like horizontal scrolling or fade-ins.

Site-wide elements are also really easy to control. Just click off the “Show on all pages” radio button in an elements settings:

Show on all pages

Show on all pages radio button

Wix also ships with an app store. Here’s a few sample apps:

  • Instagram Feed – Easily add a fee of your Instagram photos.
  • Live Chat – Free live chat with your visitors
  • And quite a few more (including Tumblr, Google Maps, Bookfresh, Social Calendars).

Detractions

If you want to use Wix’s free version, don’t even bother. Free version websites on Wix add two very obnoxious “free” bars that will distract your visitors from engaging with your content:

Free website built with Wix

Obnoxious advertisements on free Wix websites

Furthermore, the URL’s Wix automatically provides with free users are completely unusable. When I signed up, I was given: www.s9239183.wix.com/mysitenamehere as my URL. In what world is that usable? It’s certainly not going on my business card.

In SEO, your website markup is what search engines read to determine what your page is about. But Wix markup is a quagmire (in part because of it’s heavy Javascript usage). In fact, page which were clearly content optimized received an “F” from SEOMoz’s on-page SEO keyword report card.

I’ve also seen lots of complaints of Wix’s Javascript editor being high usage and slow to load. This doesn’t bother me personally, but you do have to wait approximately 5-10 seconds for the editor to load each time.

Summary

Wix is hard to score. They do some things well— app stores, beautiful templates. But it’s equalled by the amount of things they get wrong: mobile, a lack of structure and poor SEO.

It’s a bi-polar product.

And that’s why I can’t really recommend it— because even if they offer the right features for you right now, I think you’ll eventually run into issues with their core infrastructure down the road.

Wix markets itself as a very flexible website editor with stunning templates— but the truth is there is drawbacks to such an approach. In website builders, a little structure can go a long way.