Right from the start, Moonfruit states its purpose clearly and succinctly: Build a website or shop. The site builder wastes no time in getting you started by having you choose a design right from its home page! The Moonfruit website is an indication of the conciseness you can expect from its website builder, with everything nicely broken down into categories, explained plainly and presented cleanly.
Originally owned by SiteMaker Software Ltd., a United Kingdom company that is registered in England, Moonfruit was acquired in 2012 by hibu, a leading digital services provider. Besides offering its website building services in the UK, Moonfruit also serves the United States, Europe and Australia.
Moonfruit’s site builder complements the mission of hibu to provide the tools and services businesses need to grow their companies on the Web and social and mobile platforms. The Moonfruit’s builder was designed to achieve these goals:
- Develop software that anyone can use to quickly and easily build and maintain an online presence.
- Allow style and layout customization on the website without having to know HTML, CSS, or coding.
- Provide complete design control.
Based in London, England, Moonfruit launched its do-it-yourself website builder in January 2000 and continues to grow and develop, albeit slowly, new innovations to enhance its site building experience.
Moonfruit claims that with its builder, your website can go live in minutes. While not defining exactly how many minutes, it’s safe to say you need at least 60 minutes to build a very basic site.
Getting started appears to be easy, but it really isn’t. You’re directed from the Moonfruit home page to select a design. You can either use the scrolling arrows or click on the small All icon to the right and the nearly indiscernible More option for a drop-down menu displaying a list of about 14 categories.
It might take some time to find a themed design to your liking because the categories are too broadly described and are not listed by business type. But it was nice to see that blank templates are available for those who want to design their website from scratch.
Once you select a design template, you have to take a moment to create an account, even if you are planning to use the free plan. This requires creating a user name, e-mail address and password. A similar menu prompts you to fill in your site’s name and site address (URL). From there, you can finally launch the design you selected.
A convenient feature is that once you logged into your site, you are automatically in edit mode. As you begin to add content to your website, this is where the simplicity of Moonfruit shines through. The Moonfruit editor features a main toolbar with nicely arranged icons on the top. Selections are Save, File, Edit, Insert, Pages, Design, Shop, Mobile, Services, Domains and Admin. A sub-menu allows you to adjust your editing environment, change the view size of the page, choose files to upload and other tasks.
When you select an icon from the main toolbar, a side menu displays related functions. For example, if you want to add a new page to your site, you would select the Pages icon from the main toolbar. A side menu lists all the page-related functions, including Page Management, Page Settings and SEO Meta Tags. The Add a New Page task is listed under Page Management. Depending on the editing function, additional overlays or pop-up menus will appear.
All the other main toolbar options work the same way. Moonfruit made each icon self-explanatory, so it’s easy to figure out which icon to select when creating your web pages or editing content on them.
The Moonfruit website editor is a point and click interface, with drag and drop templates, making it very easy to maneuver simply by clicking on the element, dragging it to where you want to place it and dropping it into place.
Editing items on a web page is just as easy. For example, if you want to change text, double-click it, highlight it and type in your new text. The editor automatically resizes the text box to accommodate the new text, but you can manually adjust text boxes, too.
The website editor also contains a Page Master, which is a layer that resides behind each page on your site. This master page holds elements that you want to appear on all pages, such as a logo, menu and contact details.
Although not available with the free plan, the site builder also has a Contact Form Editor that makes it very easy to add a contact form to your site. In doing so, the editor automatically sends you an e-mail when a visitor contacts you. Moonfruit is promising additional customizations to the contact form editor in the future.
Moonfruit automatically creates a mobile optimized version of your website, so no action is required on your part. It should be noted, however, that mobile optimization is not available with the free website builder or Moonfruit’s Lite package plan.
Moonfruit offers mobile view options not often seen with other website builders. By selecting the Mobile icon on the main toolbar of the Moonfruit Editor and choosing Settings, you can choose your mobile preference from three options.
The desktop view will display your site on mobile devices exactly how it appears on a desktop computer. The optimized view will optimize your site for mobile devices by displaying items in a single column and providing a touch menu. The redirect to mobile site option lets you redirect visitors accessing your site with a mobile device to a third-party website.
If you’re looking for a variety of themes, you’re not going to find it with Moonfruit. Only 62 design themes are offered, although they are creatively designed and offer clean layouts. For those who want to create a brand and identity from scratch instead of using a pre-designed template, two blank templates are offered, one with a white background, the other a black background.
Also lacking in the themes area is a more specific category list. The slideshow presentation of design templates on the Moonfruit home page is convenient, but if you want to select a business category and see only those choices, you are not going to find that option.
You can see categories by selecting the More option from the slideshow menu, but the category options are just too vague. To demonstrate, the available categories are brochure, business, craft, featured, feminine, masculine, modern, natural, personal, photography, portfolio, quirky, shop, and simple. No sub-categories are listed under these main categories.
To complement its themes, Moonfruit offers the use of hundreds of images from Getty, the world’s premium image library, and additional visuals in its image tools and galleries, like slideshows, lightboxes, pop-ups and other effects. However, these features are only available with a fee-based Moonfruit plan.
Moonfruit makes it easy to see how much space you have used for your website by clicking on the Admin icon from the main toolbar and selecting Statistics. The easy-to-read pie chart shows the disk usage of your website.
As your business grows and you need more space for your site, Moonfruit provides a seamless upgrade to more advanced packages that offer more space, greater performance and additional features.
The Upgrade tab is available under the Admin icon, as well. When you scale up, your current website is not affected, which means you do not have to redesign it all over again.
According to Moonfruit, its websites come already optimized for search engines through the use of error-free W3C compliant HTML. Beyond that, Moonfruit gives you additional tools to ensure your site is found by search engines and highly ranked in their results pages.
As with most website builders, Moonfruit allows you to add meta data to your web pages, store products, or blog. Moonfruit also offers a good array of SEO tips under the Search Engines topic in its FAQs section, which can be accessed from Moonfruit’s home page.
In addition to providing basic SEO tips and help in choosing your keywords, Moonfruit takes SEO one step further by providing a comprehensive SEO guide. The step-by-step format makes it very easy to read and understand, especially for people who have no knowledge of search engine optimization.
Some Moonfruit fee-based plans also offer Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, so you can analyze what’s popular on your website and how visitors are interacting with your site.
Although not available with its free website builder or Lite plan, Moonfruit offers a blog option with its fee-based plans where you can post, edit and manage a blog in an HTML5 environment. The feature is located under the Pages icon on the main toolbar. After selecting Add New Page, choose Blog from the menu.
The site builder is intuitive, so adding a blog is a quick and easy step-by-step process. You are prompted to add a page name for your blog, choose to display or hide the page in the menu and determine where to add the page in the menu’s running order.
The blog’s dashboard has sub-menus that make is simple to perform all sorts of blog functions, such as create a post, set how many posts to display on a single page, add the author’s name, choose the position of images and enable comments. Moonfruit gives three options for comments: comment moderation, e-mail notification and disable comments.
Moonfruit’s blog tool is quite adequate and is nicely arranged. As such, adding a blog to a website takes very little time and effort.
It’s best to choose the Shop theme template right from the start if you are planning to sell products at any time. This way, the site is already optimized for e-commerce. The Moonfruit ShopBuilder is well-designed, making it easy to create and manage an online shop within your website.
As a bonus, the ShopBuilder makes it simple to share your store’s products on Facebook and Twitter. If you prefer, you can also put your entire shop into Facebook. In addition, your store is automatically optimized for mobile and has a mobile checkout option so customers can buy from your store using a mobile device.
To get started, it’s recommended to read Moonfruit’s “How to Create an Online Shop” guide, which is accessed from its home page under Our Guides. The three-part guide covers getting started, products and the shop page. Moonfruit also offers several video tutorials on setting up a shop, designing a shop, adding categories to your shop, customizing your shop images and setting up a Facebook shop.
But it’s really quite simple to begin on your own with no guidance. Simply select Shop from the main toolbar and a secondary toolbar displays Product List and Settings options. Use Product List to upload products to your shop, add additional images, add or edit descriptions, add product categories, or manage any other task related to what you are selling.
What makes building a shop easy with Moonfruit are the intuitive fill-in forms for typical store information, like quantity, price, sizes available, etc. You just simply add in the information.
Use the Settings option to set backend functions, like shop currency, shipping rates and your Facebook shop. There are a lot of cool features within Settings, too. For example, you can set up e-mail alerts for low stock notifications under General Settings to notify you when an item stock is low. You can also set shipping charges based on country or region, or set different shipping fees for customers purchasing multiple items in an order by using the Shipping Settings option.
To accept payments, you’ll need a PayPal Premier account since that’s the vendor Moonfruit uses to process payments. But here’s a nice feature. If you don’t have this type of PayPal account, an account will automatically launch when you make your first sale. PayPal will send you an e-mail using the address registered with Moonfruit and give you access to your Premier account and complete the account setup process.
It appears that Moonfruit does not host its domains directly, but rather uses Gandi, a domain registrar and cloud hosting company. This is different from other companies where a do-it-yourself website builder is among their web-related services.
All websites created in the Moonfruit site builder are served from a content delivery network (CDN), so this large distribution system of servers is designed to provide high performance and high availability (uptime).
Although the Moonfruit site builder is optimized in HTML5 to ensure quick load times, it still uses Flash for some of its building tools, which could make site loading a bit slower. In the Moonfruit forums, there are several concerns about slow load times, but many pertain to websites with large images, long pages, or too much content. Others have found that Moonfruit sites load slower in the Firefox browser.
In terms of broadband speed, Moonfruit offers the option of unlimited bandwidth with two of its plans, so there is no limit on the amount of data that can be downloaded by visitors to your site.
All Moonfruit sites start out as a free, 15-day trial. From there, you can continue with the free site or upgrade to one of four plans. Moonfruit does a nice job presenting options to accommodate the needs of businesses in all stages of an online presence, as well as budget concerns.
As with all website builders, the free plan is Moonfruit branded, which means your site will display a Moonfruit badge and a link to the Moonfruit website. The fee-based plans, ranging in price from $6 to $35 per month, remove the Moonfruit branding. If you want to pay in full, click on the Annual tab on the pricing chart to see the savings for each plan. For purposes of this review, pricing is based on paying monthly.
The free site, as well as all upgraded plans, include free web hosting. Here’s a breakdown of the plans and what they include:
The Free plan includes one website, 15 pages, 200MB storage and an e-commerce shop.
The Lite plan at $6 a month is ideal for starter sites. It includes one website, unlimited pages, 500MB storage, an e-commerce shop, Google AdWords coupons and customer support.
The Standard plan is $12 a month and is designed for small businesses. It features five websites that are mobile optimized, one domain name with five free e-mail mailboxes, unlimited web pages, royalty-free use of Getty images, 1,000MB storage, 20GB bandwidth, a starter e-commerce shop that allows for 50 products, a Facebook shop, a blog, a Google AdWords coupon and customer support.
The Plus plan is $20 a month and is ideal for businesses and small online stores. It includes 10 websites that are mobile optimized, unlimited pages, two domain names each with five e-mail mailboxes, multiple e-mails, royalty-free Getty images, 5,000MB storage, unlimited bandwidth, a full e-commerce store for 150 products, mobile checkout, a Facebook shop, a blog, a Google AdWords coupon and customer support.
The Max plan is $35 a month and includes the maximum features. It includes 20 websites with unlimited pages and mobile optimization, unlimited pages, three domain names each with five e-mail mailboxes, 10,000MB storage, unlimited bandwidth, an e-commerce shop that allows for 1,000 products, a Facebook shop, mobile checkout, a blog, royalty-free Getty images, a Google AdWords coupon, customer support, and unlimited site administrators.
The Standard, Plus and Max plans also come with access to the drag and drop website editor, image tools and galleries, the form editor, HTML snippets, the widget library, automatic SEO friendly web pages and Google Analytics support.
Top 3 Pros and Cons
- Really extensive customization options, so you can do some really detailed styling on pages, images, etc.
- The user interface is clutter-free and self-explanatory, with overlays and pop-up menus instead of cluttered toolbars.
- Offers the option of building your website for you with its Moonfruit Kickstart product, priced separately from its website builder plans.
- The themes need to be better organized into more specific categories other than broad ones like featured, simple, natural, quirky, feminine, modern, etc.
- No snap-to-grid in the drag and drop interface, so aligning elements on a web page is a bit of a challenge.
- Moonfruit is still innovating when it comes to switching from Flash to HTML5, so there aren’t as many advanced tools, features, plug-ins and widgets being introduced as much as other website builders.
Moonfruit offers several different avenues for getting help and support. Extremely helpful resources are the beginner’s guides for websites and e-commerce shops, as well as other topical guides, all of which are quickly accessible from Moonfruit’s home page.
The FAQ database and forum are also good ways to access quick support. While there is no phone support or live chat, there is an e-mail ticketing system in which Moonfruit pledges its team will help resolve your issue as quickly as possible.
There are also extensive video tutorials, also accessible from the Support menu on Moonfruit’s home page. The video tutorials cover a wide range of topics and are nicely listed by categories, such as Moonfruit tutorials, shopbuilder tutorials, design tutorials and functionality tutorials.
This extensive video help library is convenient and extremely helpful, especially since Moonfruit does not have phone or live chat support.
Whom This Website Builder Is Ideal For?
In creating its do-it-yourself website builder, Moonfruit keyed its intent on small businesses, start-ups, and creatives, such as graphic designers, photographers, crafters, artists, etc. But the Moonfruit site builder is also an adequate solution for professionals, brick-and-mortar retailers seeking an online presence and e-commerce entrepreneurs.
Moonfruit should be considered by those who have very little design experience and no coding or technical knowledge who are just looking for something that offers the basics with some enhancement options.
Moonfruit probably isn’t one of the top best website builders, but it does have its place as a site builder that can help you build a website without a lot of bells and whistles fairly quickly. Some may say that Moonfruit lags behind other web builders in terms of technology and innovation, but the tools and features it does offer, it offers well.
In the end, if the goal is to have a nice looking website that is functional, Moonfruit delivers in that regard. It also provides an adequate interface for an e-commerce store. But there are opportunities for more functionality, such as integration into other social media networks and widgets that can make a site more interactive. But if you just want a basic site, Moonfruit is a good choice.
If Moonfruit invests in additional enhancements to its website builder, it would definitely move up the rankings and give the top builders some strong competition.