Any review of Weebly in 2020 should begin with this fact: Weebly is currently maintaining two different editors for creating websites: the Weebly editor and the Square editor.
Existing users will be familiar with the Weebly editor. It’s an excellent, easy to use editor that Weebly suggests is best for customized, non-ecommerce websites:
But then there is the new Square editor. It’s significantly less flexible but a bit easier to use. It’s meant for ecommerce websites.
The Weebly editor is still an excellent, easy to use editor. In the past I’ve given it a perfect 5 stars.
The Square editor is limited. It has more in common with GoDaddy than it does Squarespace or Wix. Despite it’s limitations, Weebly has told me they “prefer to shift traffic to [the Square editor].” And while the Square editor may one day be great, it’s not there yet.
Note: Square is not Squarespace. Squarespace is a seperate company. This can get confusing.
The Weebly Editor
Pages in the Weebly editor are built by dragging elements or sections from the side drawer into your page. Elements and sections are then edited within the page:
Pretty simple, right?
Now let’s trying something a bit more complicated: watch below as I edit a background image. Notice how parts of the interface slide out and the background image editor slides? Weebly’s interface is modular— it moves in and out depending on the task. This keeps the interface from becoming unnecessarily cluttered and overwhelming. It’s a trick you’ll find often in the Weebly editor.
You might not notice Weebly’s modular interface when you’re using it— it’s pretty subtle. But it’s these details that make Weebly so easy to use. By comparison watch how overwhelming Wix’s interface becomes when editing a background:
In terms of quality, Weebly’s themes are better than Wix but not quite as good as Squarespace (Squarespace has the best themes of any website builder).
Here are a few example Weebly themes:
You can get access to more themes by using Weebly’s old themes but don’t bother using them— they’re not responsive. If you are desperate for a wider theme selection you could always try a 3rd party theme provider like Mojo Marketplace— Weebly themes cost around $49 there.
Theme customization in Weebly has always been limited.
It’s easy enough to customize fonts…
…But there are few choices for customizing the colors of your website. You choose one color that gets applied in several different places— for example, it’s applied to the color of buttons and the active navigation. You can’t customize where or how it is applied.
I also wasn’t able to change the color of my footer without editing code— which feels like an unnecessary limitation.
One interesting part of the Weebly editor is the App Center. The App Center lets you install apps that add new elements and features to your Weebly website.
Some apps are free and some are paid:
|APP||PRICE||WHAT IT DOES|
|Multilanguage||$3 / month||Add pages in multiple languages that visitors can swap between.|
|Paid Members||$10 - $30 / month||Create a paid subscription, membership site (for example: selling an online course)|
|Simple Table||Free||Adds a table element for building tables.|
Theoretically the App Center is an ecosystem for 3rd party developers. But in practice it’s mostly just apps created by Weebly. For example, there isn’t even an email subscription box from Mailchimp or Constant Contact— the most popular email newsletter providers. In this way the App Center isn’t comparable to Wordpress Plugins or Shopify’s App Store.
The Square Editor
The Square editor is significantly less flexible from the Weebly editor. With the Square editor you create your website by adding pre-designed sections:
These sections are cookie cutter. Customization is limited— you can toggle individual elements on and off but you can’t add additional elements!
This is a major step backwards in flexibility. The Weebly editor let you add sections but also allowed you to add individual elements. With the Square editor you can only add sections. It’s unusual to see a website builder purposefully remove options.
It’s the same thing with editing your website footer. The Square editor simply let’s you toggle elements on and off…
… While the Weebly footer editor was much more flexible— you could add individual elements, columns and more.
Theme customization is also quite simple in the Square editor. You choose a main color and an accent color and they are applied automatically to different elements. You can’t adjust the color of a specific element:
There are also many features in the Weebly editor that are not present in the Square editor:
No blog. The Weebly editor had a full blog editor— RSS feed, comments, spam protection, categories, tags— but none of that is available in the Square editor.
- No video backgrounds.
- No membership system.
- No App store— which is a shame. It had included some long-tail features. For example: tables, tabs and accordians, multi-lingual pages, promo bars, audio players and calendars.
While other features don’t feel as polished:
- The form builder is good although it doesn’t include file uploads.
- There is a restaurant menu section you can add to websites but it only features certain menu items— you can’t display a full restaurant menu like you can with Wix or Squarespace.
Weebly’s ecommerce is not as powerful as Shopify but it is much easier to use.
It’s ideal for low-volume stores. For example: the farmer at my farmers market uses Weebly to sell her farm shares and it’s a perfect fit.
The big upside to Weebly is that it works perfectly within the Square ecosystem. Square can also cover your point of sale, appointments, invoices, gift cards, team management and more. All under one login.
Besides covering the fundamentals of ecommerce (inventory, customer accounts, taxes, analytics), Weebly also provides offers some ecommerce features particularily well.
For example, it’s really easy to customize stores emails. Unlike Shopify, you don’t have to know how to code to customize these emails:
You can also send your product to Square and they will take professional photos for you:
And there is plenty of fulfillment options: curbside pickup, payments over the phone, payments with their point of sale system and more.
One important thing to when comparing pricing: Weebly advertises the per month cost of annual plans. The real per month-to-month cost is actually higher. Unfortunately almost every website builder advertises pricing in this way:
Weebly has one of the best free plans of any website builder. It’s especially generous with ecommerce features and even includes phone support— no other website builder I’ve seen offers that to free users!
For professional websites, I can’t really recommend either the Free plan or the Personal plan becaues they both include this Weebly advertisement at the bottom of your website:
Instead, I recommend the Professional plan for most websites. It’s the cheapest plan with no Weebly advertisement. And at $16 / month the Professional plan is priced to be competitive with the cheapest plans from Squarespace ($16 / month) and Wix ($17 / month).
The way Weebly rolled out the Square editor concerns me.
They didn’t announce it anywhere— there are no blog or social media posts about it. Instead new users were just automatically funnelled into it. Which is confusing. For example, I was tipped off to the new Square editor by this email from a confused reader:
Plus Weebly doesn’t make it obvious which editor you’ll end up with.
Here’s how Weebly told me it’s supposed to work: this page (below) is supposed to sort you into the Square editor (“I need a website with an online store”) or the Weebly editor (“I just need a website”).
But I found that if you build your FIRST website with the Square editor, all FUTURE websites will also be the Square editor— even if you choose “I just need a website.”
It’s all… confusing. And it would be less confusing if Weebly just communicated this in an obvious way.
Since it’s clear Weebly is prioritizing the Square editor, I don’t know what future of the Weebly editor will. Will it continue to get updates 2 years from now? How about 5 years from now? Weebly has assured me the Weebly editor will continue to get updates and improvements but if their priority is the Square editor, you have to wonder if the Weebly editor will be improved at the same rate it always has.
In the end, the Weebly team deserves some benefit of the doubt. I’ve been writing about them for eight years now— and they’ve always had great vision and execution. The Square editor may be the future but right now I find it too simple— and that’s why I’m giving it 4 stars. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how it grows and improves over the next year.