Designing a great looking website doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive or overly complicated. In fact, you don’t need to spend a single nickel and you don’t need to have any specialized coding skills whatsoever to have a clean, responsive web design, complete with built-in SEO tools and fancy features like integrated Google Maps, Soundcloud integration, website passwords and even e-commerce functionality. This is the promise of SITE123 and they say they can do it for free.
The Easiest Website Builder
Positioning itself as “by far the easiest free website builder” around, SITE123 is meant to be as accessible as possible to all users, regardless of technical expertise or experience.
While web design might feel like an incredibly daunting and intimidating proposition for a lot of people, SITE123 makes it easy for anyone to have a professional-looking website up and running literally in a matter of minutes. All you have to do is decide on the type of website you want to have, customize the options to suit your preferences and enter your content.
SITE123 is casting its net wide with its browser-based solution. This is great for entrepreneurs and freelancers, for instance, who want to have a great online presence without the potentially huge expense of hiring a professional designer to come up with a completely unique design. All you have to do is work your way through the easy-to-follow wizard.
Easier Than Drag and Drop
You’ve likely come across some other site builders where the interface is designed to be drag-and-drop. You choose the elements you want to have, you drag them into place, and then you can move them around or resize them, adding the details (like text and color) accordingly. That’s far easier than raw code, of course, but it still adds a layer of complexity that can be confusing or frustrating to use for some people.
SITE123 works differently in that you get to pick between a number of pre-configured designs and layouts through more of a point-and-click kind of interface. The “live” preview of your website or webpage appears on the right as you navigate through the multi-tiered menu on the left. What you see above is an example of a homepage that I worked on for the purposes of this review.
I was able to simply and easily choose the website name, customize the text for the title and slogan, and select from a huge library of royalty-free images to use as the background. In going through the available layouts, I found several that made it easy to integrate a video as part of the design too. While you may not have quite as many options as some other site builders, this also allows for a greater level of simplicity and approachability. The same holds true for the various pages you want to have your website.
A great way to catch a glimpse into how the SITE123 free website builder works are with the three-minute video they posted on YouTube. It offers a quick overview of several of the key features and interface choices for the site builder, so you’ll know what to expect before you decide to build a website of your own.
SITE123 Offers All Kinds of Websites Tools
What’s really fascinating about the SITE123 system is that it can be used to power a wide variety of websites.
Regardless of the kind of website you want to run, you have access to a huge wealth of features, including free hosting, free SSL/HTTPS encryption, unlimited web pages, email accounts, 24/7 website support, and access to a gigantic image, icon and video library that you can use to populate your website as you see fit. This “gallery” tool is incredibly useful and easy to use too.
Based on the type of website that you are interested in building, you’ll be presented with a slightly different set of options and default layouts. The tools that integrate into a photography website, for example, would not be the same as the ones used for promoting and selling tickets for an event, or the kind of website you might want to have to host your CV and portfolio.
I was surprised to see the online store among this list of options, as e-commerce usually comes at a cost with most other providers. With SITE123, you can quickly and easily set up an online store that is always open and ready to accept orders. Simply populate your online store with your products, and you’ll be able to manage orders and handle customer inquiries with ease.
SITE123 Even Has Full Blogging Capabilities
Yes, you can use SITE123 to create a blog too. Remember that you get access to a great library of images and videos, as well as the ability to host unlimited pages on your account, making it a great option for a blog. The site is automatically responsive and search engine optimized too.
The interface for managing your blog posts is kept simple and straightforward. You can see the thumbnail image and title along the left, the publish date and time in the middle (including the ability to schedule posts), and the buttons along the right to edit, delete and change the visibility.
Within each individual blog post, you are similarly offered a simple but very robust WYSIWYG editor. Here, you can assign the title, date and time, as well as post tags. The image can come from the royalty-free gallery or you can upload your own. The short description is the meta description that shows up on your homepage and in search engine results, and the long description is the blog post itself.
As you can see, you have access to full formatting tools like bold, italics, bullet points, blockquotes and so forth. You can also easily insert images and videos, adding links and changing other properties as you see fit. One feature that I found helpful was that when you click in an empty paragraph space in the editor, a small “plus” symbol appears on the left for “quick insert.” Clicking on this reveals a floating toolbar to insert images, videos, tables, unordered lists, ordered lists and horizontal lines. Handy!
Is It Really Free?
The site builder itself is completely free and it really does come with free hosting too. The catch is that your website can only live on a SITE123 subdomain and you are limited to 500 MB of storage and 1 GB of monthly bandwidth. You can have theoretically unlimited pages, but they need to fit within the confines of your account.
If you wish to map your website to your own custom domain, you will then need to invest in at least the $9.80/month premium plan. This removes the SITE123 floating tag and upgrades you to 10 GB of storage and 5 GB of bandwidth, as well as providing you with a free domain for a year and access to e-commerce tools.
Beyond the free and premium plans featured on the pricing page, there are also options for even higher plans too. These generally increase the amount of storage and bandwidth you have, but there are some other notable upgrades too. For example, while the $9.80/month plan gives you e-commerce, you are limited to 10 orders per month. Each successively larger plan increases that number. You can also add more mailboxes, unlock additional languages, remove the SITE123 footer tag, and leverage more advanced e-commerce features.
Go ahead and take SITE123 for a free test drive first. It costs you nothing to get started and you can have an account in a matter of seconds. This really is the easiest and most robust free website builder around.