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Zoho Sites Review

Zoho Sites provides a lot of freedom but often buries the user under an avalanche of options with confusing language. It also has too few themes and no ecommerce

My work is supported by affiliate commissions. Last Updated Sep 11 2017


User Experience

Zoho Sites recently redesigned their website builder from scratch and it feels entirely new. The new version provides more freedom but often buries the user under an avalanche of options and confusing language. It also has too few themes, no ecommerce and no form builder.

The new Zoho Sites editor

Right: The new Zoho Sites editor

Pages are built by dropping individual elements into the body. You can also select from a variety of sections, which are pre-designed collections of elements.

The difficulty comes in customizing sections and individual elements. There's a lot going on and it's seldom very intuitive. For example, when editing a heading, there are 3 different toolbars.

Are three toolbars necessary for a editting a heading?

Right: Are three toolbars necessary for a editting a heading?

You can drag elements around the page but placing them within columns is tedious. Unlike other website builders which just let you drag elements into columns, Zoho Sites requires you to navigate to the Row layer of the template (not to be confused with the Column layer) and the amount of columns you want from the sidebar editor. Unfortunately there is no way to adjust the width of columns.

Language throughout Zoho Sites is puzzling. For example, the Page Editor feels like a Windows 98 file folder structure. What is Doc Root and why are folders called Directories. This is so much more confusing than other website builders.

The Settings page is an avalanche of content. This is going to overwhelm most users. It doesn't help that it's disorganized— for example, I assumed I would make edits to the website logo under Logo & Favicon or Customize Templates. Instead, it was under General -> Preferences.

It's unnecessary to dump all of these settings on this page— and very frustrating.

Right: It's unnecessary to dump all of these settings on this page— and very frustrating.

Here's one upside to the new Zoho Sites website builder: it's lets you download your site so that you can move it elsewhere. Unfortunately this seemed seemed to break the contact forms and only downloaded the homepage when I tried it.

Very few website builders give this option, so it's worth pointing out.

Right: Very few website builders give this option, so it's worth pointing out.

Features

  • Blog

    Adding your blog is very counter-intuitive. You have to go into Settings, click Blog -> Preferences and then create a blog. Before that you can't find your blog anywhere in the editor. Otherwise you can do everything you need with the blog: comments, drafted posts, editable permalinks, add cover photos and more. There's even a few extra features: you can import an existing blog from Wordpress (or export your Zoho Sites blog to Wordpress— a welcome feature many other website builders neglect).  Show Screenshot

  • Ecommerce

     Show Screenshot

  • Form Builder

    A huge step backwards. Zoho Sites used to have one of the best form builders— but for some reason they removed it and replaced it with a contact us form that has no meaningful customization: you can't add or remove fields or even edit what email the submissions are sent to. The lack of customization is all the more frustrating because fields have unusual titles— the Email field is called Email ID.  Show Screenshot

  • iOS & Android Apps

    No. 

  • Retina Ready

    Images did not appear sharp and crisp on retina devices (such as iPhones and Macbooks).  

  • Newsletter

    You can add a newsletter signup form that integrates with Zoho's newsletter service or Mailchimp. Awesome. (Most website builders with their own newsletter service— such as GoDaddy and Weebly— don't integrate with 3rd party services. It's great to see Zoho Sites do what's right for the user here.)  Show Screenshot

  • Membership System

    For $4 / month (for every 1,000 users) you can add Zoho's membership system. It's pretty simple: users can sign up to be members and you can restrict certain pages or files to registered members. It's a pretty narrow system— I can't see this being widely useful without more features.  Show Screenshot

  • Design from Scratch

    No. 

  • Multi-lingual

    No. 

  • Restaurant Menu

    No. 

  • Donations

    No. 

  • Audio Player

    Solid audio player— supports Mp3 (but not Mp4's).  

  • Podcasts

    No.  

Themes

There are 7 themes to choose from— which is not a huge amount. Themes are all responsive and work well on mobile devices.

These are 6 of the 6 themes.

Right: These are 6 of the 6 themes.

Themes are a bit outdated and uninspired.

This theme feels a bit uninspired.

Right: This theme feels a bit uninspired.

You can select colors for themes but it's not thoughtful— you have to set 8 different colors. This is really complex— it's difficult to figure out how color #6 is applied.

It doesn't help that the color titles aren't descriptive in any meaningful way. Instead of Color Uno, Color Duo, why not Button Color, Text Color etc.

Right: It doesn't help that the color titles aren't descriptive in any meaningful way. Instead of Color Uno, Color Duo, why not Button Color, Text Color etc.

Text customization happens per element. Which means you have to customize every heading individually if you want to set a custom heading style. This is tedious and error-prone.

Good Billing Practices

I was able to pay and cancel Zoho Sites with ease.