You could say mom was behind the simplicity of the Webs website builder. The two Mokhtarzada brothers who founded Webs in 2001 after designing websites in their spare time, recognized the need for a tool the average person could use, including their mom, to create a great website on a small budget. The end result is the Webs builder that enables you to create a website in just four steps without the need of a web designer, programmer and big money.
Based in the Washington, D.C., area, Webs became a subsidiary of Vistaprint, the leading online supplier of printed marketing and promotional products, in 2011. The website builder also expanded its focus to include small business owners and nonprofits.
Innovation is a cornerstone to the Webs site builder, which is evident with a well-engineered website building platform that features:
- Easy drag-and-drop interface;
- Useful and extensive features and apps, more so than other site builders.
- A membership sign up website incorporated into its builder, one of very few website builders that offer this feature.
In addition, Webs consistently listens to users’ feedback and enhances its builder accordingly. For instance, a 2012 upgrade removed numerous glitches and improved upon the ease of its site editor.
Webs site editor makes it very easy to build a website, but before you can access it, there’s some account business to take care of. Whether you opt for the free service or a fee-based package plan, Webs requires setting up an account. This calls for an e-mail address, password, website title and category selection for your site. From there, you choose a design template and click on the Create My Website button. E-mail address verification is required before proceeding further.
Once your account is established, the Main Navigation screen gives you access to everything you need to start building your site. Areas include the Webs Dashboard, the Builder for creating web pages, Pages listing those in your site, Theme for picking and customizing a design template, a Help button and the Publish button.
The Builder is where you’ll be doing most of your site building. This screen features a smartly designed dock at the bottom where the site building modules are nicely displayed and organized with icons. These modules make it easy for you to add text, images, slideshows, videos, maps, contact forms, buttons, page columns and more. What’s more, the modules are drag and drop placement, so adding content to your site is quick and simple.
Webs simplified the dock even more by categorizing other commonly used modules into tabs under the icons. The five categories are Popular (modules used most often to add general content to a site); Structure (modules to create tables and columns and resize them); Media (modules for adding video and audio); Social (modules for adding social networking components, like a Facebook comment widget, Twitter feeds, social media sharing boxes and login sections); Commerce (modules for adding e-commerce options); and Other (modules for app feeds, custom HTML and maps).
One flaw, though, is the extra step needed to change the color of your text or other site component. It’s easy enough to do, you just highlight what you want to change. But if you select a color and don’t like it, even though the component is still highlighted, you have to reselect it again to try another color.
At the top of the Builder on the right are additional tools, including undo and redo arrows, which come in handy when making changes, and the Page Settings drop-down menu. This is where you create a new page, rename a page, change a page’s layout and add meta tag descriptions.
What makes Webs easy to use is its WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface, which means what you are building is actually how it will appear when your site is published. The Webs site builder is probably one of the most streamlined ones out there. All the tools and modules of its builder are clearly presented to make navigation a breeze. A huge plus are the extremely helpful definitions that accompany the various tools.
You may or may not need to use the mobile features provided by the Webs mobile website builder. To find out, check how your desktop site looks on mobile devices by using the Mobile tab on the Webs Dashboard under the Main Navigation screen. If the preview looks okay, no other enhancements are needed.
However, if your site doesn’t look right or loads slowly, you have to create a landing page for a mobile version of your desktop site. Unlike other website builders that automatically optimize your desktop website for mobile devices, Webs has a mobile website builder that syncs your mobile site with your main desktop site. However, you have to perform some additional steps to optimize your site for mobile devices. The steps are easy to do, but time-consuming.
Before beginning, you must make sure the mobile website selection is activated (On) in order to have access to the editing options. This can be found under Site Settings on the Webs Dashboard.
On the Mobile Website screen are three tab options: Landing Page, Theme and Header. From the Content section under the Landing Page tab, you can use the editing options to easily choose the content you want to appear on your mobile landing page. By default, Webs uses the same navigation links as that of your main desktop version website, so if you need to delete or reorder any of them, or add additional elements, such as a phone number from your contact page, it is easily done by selecting it from the drop-down menu.
Next, the Theme tab is where you select your mobile site’s color scheme. Match My Site is an option, but only if you are using a mobile compatible theme, something to keep in mind when choosing a design template. Otherwise, your choices for your mobile site’s background are light or dark color schemes.
The final step is the Header tab, where you can check which header elements, such as logo, tagline and site title, you want displayed on your mobile site version.
Despite the extra work, there is a plus side. You don’t have to pay for a separate mobile website and manage it separately.
The selection of themes provided by Webs is extensive, with 725 themed design templates spanning 20 categories. The themed templates are beautiful and professionally done and offer a nice mix of design options. Those more focused on design might find the themes rather basic and not very innovative. But for most, they are adequate, providing a clean and modern design.
Webs couldn’t have made it any easier to choose a theme. Simply select the Theme tab on the Main Navigation screen. From there, you can choose the Theme Picker to select a new theme, or the Theme Editor to customize your theme. Extremely convenient are the many ways to browse the themes, especially the keywords option. Also particularly helpful is the Cost drop-down menu because you can search only for those templates for Webs free plan, or premium themes that are available with paid plans.
Although you can customize the themes, you are limited in doing so to just the background colors and images, and font styles in the navigation bar, body and footer. But what is noticeably missing is the flexibility to edit the templates’ CSS and HTML.
The Webs site builder is designed to meet the needs of small businesses, so it’s not surprising that being able to scale up your website as your business grows happens seamlessly if you start with a paid plan. Since all paid plans offer unlimited pages, you can add as many pages as you wish. However, you may need to upgrade to a more comprehensive plan if you need more storage space or want to sell more items in your e-commerce store. The Webs builder also can accommodate the need for more custom e-mail addresses.
A recent enhancement to the Webs site builder is page cloning, so when you add more pages, you don’t have to build that page from scratch. You can clone certain features, like layout customizations or sidebar elements, from one page to the next. The clone page option is listed under Page Settings from the Pages menu.
If you start with a free Webs site, your site will include advertising banners, something to keep in mind as your business grows. However, you can scale up to a paid plan to remove those ads from your site and have access to more features and services.
Webs has this great SEO Booster feature that makes your site search engine friendly without you having to know anything about search engine optimization. It’s accessible from the Webs Dashboard, but you have to have the Pro package plan.
The SEO Booster lets you evaluate your site for SEO by guiding you with questions aimed at optimizing your content so the major search engines not only find your site, but connect you with the people looking for exactly what you offer based on their search criteria.
Once you’ve answered the questions, the website keyphrase optimizer automatically generates key phrases that will help your site rank higher on search engine results pages. But it gets better. The SEO Booster scans your website for the three key phrases you selected and returns with an optimization score and a checklist to help increase that score.
Webs also offers Webs Stats, its advanced website statistics tool that shows you where your traffic is coming from, how visitors navigate your site and where they spend the most time on your site. The internal traffic tracking tool, accessible under Statistics from the Webs Dashboard, is particularly helpful for measuring your site’s traffic and drilling down deeper to see the number of page views, traffic sources, monthly averages, etc.
Webs also gives you the option of using Google Analytics instead of Webs Stats. To do so, use the Settings tab on the Webs Dashboard and insert the tracking code from Google Analytics.
For those not on the Pro plan, Webs provides basic automatic SEO functions, such as optimizing your website’s titles, descriptions and meta tags. However, unless you have a paid plan, you cannot do SEO on individual web pages.
Webs treats blogs as specialty pages and provides preset structured web pages for blogs. This doesn’t make it easy to add a blog to your website for several reasons. First, you have to select a preset blog page in the Webs App store. Second, the blog application uses a different interface than the Webs site builder for posting text and images, which means no drag and drop interface.
You get to the Webs App store from the Pages tab on the Main Navigation screen and selecting My Pages and clicking the Apps tab at the bottom. From there, you can select from three tabs: Webs apps, which are applications created by Webs; all apps, which are applications from Webs and third-party providers; and installed apps, which are applications already installed on your website. Click the Install app button to add the blog application to your website.
From there, you can manage your blog and post new entries the same way you add pages to your site. While some might find this process more tedious than say using a widget, the blog app does integrate nicely into the site builder.
Webs provides e-commerce capabilities with three choices: using the Commerce tab on the Builder module, setting up a Webs e-commerce store, or integrating your Esty store into your Webs website. To clarify, the Commerce module is mostly for selling only a few items. A Webs e-commerce store is for those planning to sell a large number of products and are looking for complete functionality to manage all facets of an e-commerce store.
As with setting up a blog, you need to go to the Webs App page to install either the Web Store application or the Etsy store application. Select Web Store and it will be added to your site’s navigation menu.
The Web Store application is very comprehensive and includes all the tools you need to quickly and easily build your e-commerce store. Get familiar with the Settings, Edit Categories and Add Product buttons because they are the ones you’ll be using most to perform tasks like adding product images, descriptions and price; setting color, size and other options; configuring different versions of the same product; setting sales tax; choosing a payment processor (options are PayPal or Stripe); and setting shipping options.
For example, when you click on the Add Product button from the main store page in the builder, you can easily add a product to your e-commerce store using the simple New Product fill-in prompts.
Depending on your Webs pricing plan, your store also comes with other features, such as adding coupons to give customers discounts and an inventory tracking system.
Unlike other site builders that provide shopping carts, Webs does not take a transaction fee from your sales.
Webs is built on a very robust platform, so it has the power to handle millions of websites at once. And since Webs hosts its own platform and all the sites on it, it has the capability to quickly handle any technical or security issues. The engineering teams at Webs are very responsive to the needs of the site builder and make enhancements to not only maximize the speed of building a website, but to ensure the speed of your site when it goes live.
Of course, speeding up your site’s load time also depends on the sizes of your files (the smaller the better) and its type. Webs recommends using file types, such as the MP3, JPG, PNG formats, that load faster, and to keep your page content short.
Webs offers a free site building option, but unfortunately, there is no free trial period and your free site will contain advertising banners to help Webs offset the cost of web hosting and maintenance associated with offering a free website builder. However, you can keep the free site for as long as you want; there’s no time limit like with other site builders. But, if you want the advertising removed, you have to upgrade to a fee-based plan.
Webs offers three pricing package plans and you can switch between plans at any time. All fee-based plans include a free custom domain name, free hosting, unlimited and password protected pages, a mobile website and a 30-day money back guarantee.
The Starter package at $5.99 a month is ideal for basic sites and comes with 1GB of storage, basic statistics and e-mail support. The Enhanced plan at $12.99 a month is designed for businesses and adds advanced statistics, 5GB of storage, 20 web store items, premium theme templates, three custom e-mail addresses, and e-mail and live chat support. The Pro plan, best for online stores, is $22.99 a month and features advanced statistics, unlimited storage, premium themes, 25 custom e-mail addresses, search engine submission, the SEO Booster, $100 in Google ad credit, and e-mail, live chat and phone support.
Top 3 Pros and Cons
- Extremely user-friendly, a basic website can be built in under an hour.
- A membership site feature is integrated into the site builders, a feature very few other builders offer. Webs calls it one of their core features. After setting up the membership site by adding a Sign In or Register element on your site, you can manage which sections of the website are viewable by members only, send out group e-mails to members and manage your membership list. The membership site feature can be used in different ways, such as for clubs and groups, as an intranet function for your business, or to build a fan site or fundraising vehicle.
- The Webs App store, where you can access even more site features and third-party tools, like document sharing, client information and interaction tools, forums, calendars and so much more. Plus, all the apps integrate seamlessly into the site builder.
- With your e-commerce store, you do not have the capability to offer both a range of prices and coupons for one item.
- Webs does not support Paypal Payments Pro in their Web Store application.
- Webs does not offer a service where they will build a website for you or help to market it for you.
The level of support offered by Webs is based on the pricing package you select. For those using its free service, the only help available is what is offered on Webs.com, which is a support community with a wide range of forum discussion topics. This support community, as well as a billing support center, is also available to paying customers.
Other types of help available are e-mail, live chat and telephone support, however, the extent of these support services are based on the type of plan package you have.
Whom This Website Builder Is Ideal For?
The Webs website builder is ideal for entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits and personal use. It is also great for small e-commerce businesses and especially beneficial for anyone who wants a site with a members only area.
The online platform serves many purposes, whether it’s to provide information, engage customers, raise funds or donations, sell products, expand a business online, start a business, or build an online community, group, or club.
Webs.com likes to compare the ease in building a website with its builder to that of sending an e-mail. The comparison is a slight exaggeration. Webs certainly delivers what it promises – four easy steps to building a good looking, quality website with a professional look. But, it definitely takes more time to build a website with its site builder than to send an e-mail.
It’s evident that Webs focuses on the needs of small businesses with the many features it has built into its platform and the numerous others available in its App store. Furthermore, Webs provides a comprehensive solution by including web hosting with its site builder and the option to add e-commerce.
Perhaps the one thing that sets Webs apart from the rest is its membership site feature. This makes the site builder appealing to a wider audience, particularly small businesses that want to distinguish between information available for public view and members only in one site.
If you’re a small business, definitely take a look at Webs. It’s a money saver and very easy to use. You won’t believe how easily you can build a fully-functional, quality looking website using the Webs site builder.