A few years ago, I interviewed the product manager for GoDaddy’s website builder. He explained to me that GoDaddy had surveyed users and found a consistent complaint: building a website took too long.
Armed with this insight, GoDaddy radically re-designed their website builder. The new website builder would let people build websites in less than an hour. They called it Website Builder 8 and it's been the current version of GoDaddy's website builder since then.
Build a website in less than an hour is fine in theory but problematic in practice. Overall GoDaddy's website builder is simple— often too simple. It has extremely limited customization options and feels cookie-cutter. It's easy to use but website builders such as Weebly have shown that it's possible to be both easy to use and powerful.
My name is Steve Benjamins and I’ve been building websites for 20 years— I sold my first website by cold-calling Yellow Pages companies when I was eleven years-old (I think they were just amused by me...).
Since then, my websites have been featured in Wired, The Next Web, The Huffington Post and Forbes. Today my full-time job is running Site Builder Report— where I spend all my time reviewing website builders. I work hard to avoid fluff and nonsense. I try to go in-depth into the details that make or break website builders. You can contact me here.
GoDaddy websites are made of sections. Sections are content blocks that you stack vertically on your GoDaddy website:
Adding and editing sections is simple and clear. The easiest way to edit a section is to click it in the website preview pane. This reveals it's customizations options:
GoDaddy includes 52 sections that you can add to a page. This includes standard content and contact us sections as well as more unusual sections:, a calendar, restaurant ordering with ChowNow and reservations with OpenTable. There are email subscription sections but unfortunately they don't integrate with 3rd party email newsletters like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
Sections are frustratingly cookie-cutter. There are very few customization options.
For example, you can remove individual elements within the section but you can't add additional elements— you're stuck with whatever GoDaddy has included. Want to add an extra image to the section? You can't. Want to add another paragraph? Nope. You're limited to whatever the section gives you.
The upside is that the editor is simple— so it's hard to screw things up. It's like bumper bowling. But simple is not the only way to make something easy to use— Weebly is an example of a website builder that's just as easy to use as GoDaddy without being limited.
There are times where the GoDaddy editor feels unpolished. For example, when editing your store you have to navigate to a completely separate interface— abstracted out the website editor. This is not ideal.
In contrast, Squarespace does a much better job of integrating ecommerce into the website editor UI:
There are 20 themes you can choose from with GoDaddy— which is an improvement. Last year they only had 8.
Unfortunately there is very little variation between themes and little meaningful customization you can do.
As you can see in the examples below, themes all have roughly the same layout. Differences are mostly cosmetic— the same underlying structure with a different style.
One odd thing: there is no variation between the body fonts of the templates. Every theme uses Open Sans for the body font. That's kind of crazy. And while you have the option to choose the header font there is no option to choose the body font!
You have the option of choosing one "accent" color which is used throughout your website theme. Unfortunately you have no control over where this color is applied:
Remember GoDaddy's slogan? Build a website in less than an hour? I think GoDaddy's themes reflect this slogan. Unfortunately this simple premise leaves you without any meanginful customization options.
I wouldn't recommend GoDaddy for ecommerce.
For starters, GoDaddy doesn't host the checkout form on your website. I added the domain name yourgiftologist.com to my account and watch what happens when users go to checkout on my website:
Customers are sent to an entirely different domain during checkout! This is not a good look. Trust is everything in ecommerce and having checkout hosted on your own domain is an important trust signal. Users know to be wary of redirected URLs.
When it comes to features, GoDaddy covers the basics: abandoned shopping cart recovery, coupons, product variations, digital products, a variety of shipping methods and offline payment methods. This is enough here for you to run a simple ecommerce store.
Unfortunately you'll probably start running into limitations after a little while. For example you can't customize the email receipts your customer get, you can't sell gift cards and there are no smart defaults on taxes— you have to set them for each region which is not fun.
One weird thing I uncovered: When I added a newsletter section to my website, it included a checkbox that by default gives customers 10% off on orders if they subscribe to the newsletter. This is a really dangerous thing to have on by default. How many stores won't notice this until it's too late? No website builder should ever have discounts on by default!
Like other website builders, GoDaddy advertises a monthly rate that is actually the annual price divided by twelve— not a month-to-month rate.
I would suggest the Personal plan for most websites. The Business plan gives you access to very, very simple Paypal buttons and a simple SEO tool. Neither of these are worth an upgrade— you can find plenty of better SEO tools (see my list here) and PayPal buttons can be created and embedded for free.
The Business Plus and Online Store are for ecommerce.
Most GoDaddy domains cost either $0.99 for the first year of your plan or $2.99 / year for the first two years.
These prices are heavy discounts on the standard domain registration rate. The exact factor of the increase you experience in the second or third year of your plan depends on the precise domain you choose, but third-year prices for a .com domain name will be at least $17.99 / year.
In addition, GoDaddy charges $9.99 for domain privacy (domain names require contact information to be public— domain privacy anonymizes the contact info). Other website builders like Squarespace include domain privacy free!
You can read my in-depth look at GoDaddy pricing here.