Last Updated Apr 2 2019
Weebly isn't as flexible as Wix and it isn't as sophisticated as Squarespace— but it's easier to use than both. Weebly is what I recommend to anyone who doesn't feel tech savvy.
Now, it's not that Weebly isn't flexible or sophisticated— at times it can be both. Instead, it's just that what sets Weebly apart from it's competitors is it's simple, clear interface.
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Since 2014 I've written about how uniquely easy to use Weebly is. Even as they've added new features, the interface has stayed simple and clean— which is an impressive balancing act. (Simple is easy to do if you don't have many features but Weebly has lots of features.)
It starts with the website editor. Pages are built by dragging elements from the side drawer into your page. Elements are then then edited within the page:
Pages are built by dragging elements into the side drawer. Elements are then edited within the page.
Pretty simple, right? Now let's trying something a bit more complicated. Let's try editing a background image (below). Notice how the drawer slides out and the background editor slides in from the bottom. This does two things: (1) opens the editor up so that the background image is unobstructed and (2) keeps the interface from getting too cluttered. It's really smart.
Notice how parts of the interface slide in and out.
Honestly this is the type of thing you might not have notice when using Weebly— but it's these details that make Weebly so easy to use. Other website builders like Wix just stack additional interfaces on top of your website when editing a background:
With Wix, the interface obstructs the very thing you are editing — the background!
Weebly also uses this trick of sliding parts of the interface in and out with the form builder. When you begin editing a form, Weebly neatly replaces the elements in the side drawer with the form builder elements:
Notice how once I started editing the form the elements in the drawer change to form elements.
Another trick Weebly uses to keep the interface easy to use is spotlighting. Basically, Weebly will focus your attention by dimming the rest of the website.
They use spotlighting with the form builder...
... And with the footer editor.
These might feel like minor details— they're not. Keeping the interface tidy and easy to understand is how you create a website builder with lots features that also doesn't overwhelm users. It's a real balancing act.
Now Weebly isn't completely perfect when it comes to ease of use. For example, moving your mouse across the page can start to feel like Minesweeper— where you're not always sure what you'll find. Plus pages are made up of headers, columns, sections, spacers and elements— and occasionally it can get tricky to differentiate them— what's the difference between a section and a header?
But minor greivances aside, Weebly is still the easiest website builder and I highly recommend for anyone who doesn't feel tech savvy.
Moving your mouse through your Weebly page can occasionally feel like playing Minesweeper.
You build pages in Weebly with individual Elements or with pre-designed collections of elements called Sections.
Weebly provides a wide selection of core elements— text, photo galleries, products, video, forms, dividers, spacers and more— but most website builders offer these. Where it starts to get more interesting is in the additional elements you can add using Weebly's 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:
The App Center is a really smart way for Weebly to support additional features without making the core website builder too bloated— users can just add an "app" when they need it. Only a few other website builders also have an App Center (Shopify and Wix).
One thing bothers me about the App Center though: there is no Mailchimp or Constant Contact app. Mailchimp and Constant Contact are popular email newsletter providers— and I am imagine many Weebly users use them. It seems like one of the first apps you would add to the App Center is a sign up box for Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
Unfortunately I believe Weebly hasn't included these apps because they compete with Weebly's own email newsletter software called Promote. So in order to get users to use their own email newsletter software, it seems like they make it more difficult for users to integrate with competing software. Disappointing.
Weebly offers around 70 themes— which is less than Wix (500+ themes) and about the same as Squarespace (70+ themes)— though Weebly's themes are better than Wix and not quite as good as Squarespace (which I believe has the best themes among website builders).
Example Weebly theme
Another example Weebly theme.
You can get access to more themes by using Weebly's old themes but don't bother using them— they're not responsive (which means they don't work well for mobile). If you really need more themes I'd suggest looking into buying a Weebly theme in the Mojo Marketplace (there's about 19 for sale, costing $49 each).
Theme customization is limited. It's easy enough to customize default fonts...
...But customizing the colors of your website is surprisingly limited. You're limited to choosing one color:
This one color is applied in several different places— for example, it's applied to the color of buttons and the active navigation. But what's weird is you can't individually choose colors for your button and active navigation— you're stuck with this one color.
Notice how the color is applied to both the navigation and the button? You can't adjust these colors individually.
I also wasn't able to change the color of my footer without editing code— which feels like an unnecessary limitation.
Weebly has been aggressively building up their ecommerce features in recent years— probably because they were building towards their 2018 acquisition from Square (Square is a payments provider).
Weebly supports a long-list of ecommerce features— you can sell gift cards, add customer accounts, deal with abandoned shopping carts and set in-store pickup as a shipping option (my personal favorite). There's a few ecommerce apps in the App Center (Digital Downloads and Print Fulfillment) but nothing close to Shopify's enormous app store.
Like most things in Weebly, ecommerce is easy to use. A great example of this is the email editor. It's the easiest email editor I've ever seen in ecommerce— other website builders (for example Wix) don't let you edit emails— but Weebly has made an editor that anyone could use it:
The product editor is also clear and easy to understand:
If there's a downside to Weebly ecommerce, it's that the limited theme customization extends to ecommerce— for example, you can't customize the style of the checkout page— like you can with Squarespace.
Weebly offers five plans. Three of the plans are for websites and two are for online stores— I've written an in-depth breakdown of the plans here.
Weebly also offers a free plan that's better than most free website builder plans. It includes unlimited bandwidth, basic ecommerce and a solid subdomain— which is pretty great.
Domain names on Weebly are more expensive than you would find at a domain name provider such as Namecheap. Weebly charges $19.95 / year for a domain name, while Namecheap costs around $15 / year.
On top of that, Weebly charges $10 / year for domain privacy and Namecheap includes domain privacy for free. What is domain privacy? Domain names are required to have someone's contact information publicly available— domain privacy allows you to anonymize that information.