Lightweight web builders are designed to allow people to create a small, simple website with a couple of hours of work and no preexisting technical knowledge. Due to the extremely attractive pricing and ease of use, these tools are perfect for the small-scale business operations of the world - solopreneurs, freelancers, musicians, consultants, artists.
Most web builders charge from $10 to $50 per month, compared to thousands of dollars required to hire a professional web development team. They don’t require any technical know-how either - which means that anyone can get their personal or business site with a few mouse clicks.
In short, it makes sense to use lightweight web builders if:
Inversely, it doesn’t make sense to use a lightweight web builder if:
If that sounds like something you’re looking for, read on and learn about one of the best lightweight DIY builders out there.
The Genius of Site123
The biggest challenge all website builders face is to allow users to build everything they need to build while keeping the process as simple as possible. It’s not always easy.
Some website builders steer steeply towards one side or the other - they either offer a lot of functionality, but little assistance to the user, or they make the building process easy and fun, but then disappoint the user with all of the platform’s numerous shortcomings.
Others try to find a compromise by offering myriads of simple tools to make sure their users have everything they need. Wix is the perfect example of this approach. The site is a hallmark of simplicity - all of their many tools and options are easy to understand and use.
The problem with Wix is that the choice of tools and elements is so vast, your whole website can very quickly become a big mess.
Site123 have recognized this issue, and they’ve taken exactly the opposite road. They’ve removed most of the redundant elements, tools and options, and left users with the essentials. And it’s ingenious.
You might ask - well, what if I do want to add something that’s not on Site123? What if I want to add a button that’s not on the list? What if I want to move elements around?
The thing is - you probably won’t. Lightweight web builders aren’t built for people who’re looking to craft award-winning web designs or make their website extremely unique. In fact, most people who choose to use DIY website builders would probably like a big red button that says “Build a Website” - and there’s nothing wrong with that. Time is of the essence.
Site123 doesn’t give users a lot of choice - but it gives them just enough to build a nicely designed website, quickly.
What’s Different about Site123?
Normally, with most web builders, you’d be given a choice of myriads of templates that you can later customize based on your needs. You would select a theme, and then proceed to manually change the design and position of each element on the site - the buttons, the copy, the menus, the pictures, the contact forms.
Site123 has recognized that this approach is far from perfect. It puts too much work and responsibility on the user’s shoulders. Entrepreneurs don’t want to play around with buttons - they want a well-designed, functional website, and they want it now. That’s why Site123 has introduced layouts. After choosing what type of business you’re running, you’ll be given a standard, customizable template that’s designed specifically for your niche.
However, instead of having to go through the trouble of making changes to each element individually, you’ve got a list of layouts to choose from. Can’t decide whether the video window should be on the left or right? Well, chances are, one of the layout options will meet your expectations.
The subtle difference here is that layouts are not a choice - they’re the only way to interact with the site’s elements. Other web builders have similar functions too, but they all offer layouts as an additional, secondary option, making you question whether you’ve really done enough work to make your website as good as it can be.
When layouts are the only option, you know that you’ve done everything you could to make the best out of your website. Call it self-deception if you must. I call it good user experience.
It is. The entire process of building and publishing website with Site123 is straightforward and intuitive, and in case you do run into a roadblock, there’s always a live customer support specialist on the other side of the screen to help you out.
If that’s not enough, you can always refer to Site123’s Youtube channel or an extensive support library, both of which we’ll discuss in the respective section down below.
The Setup ***** (4/5)
Just like most leading web building services today, Site123 allows you use your Google or Facebook account to log in - which means you don’t have to go through the process of creating a separate Site123 account and having it confirmed.
However, the site didn’t work properly the first time I tried to login. I’m not sure whether I did anything wrong, but it simply didn’t want to let me in with either one of my Google accounts, nor it did with my Facebook account. I had to find a different registration form in order to simply create an account.
Once you do get in, the very first choice you’re given as a new user is the type of website you’re looking to build. This is quite standard, yet powerful - Site123 instantly gives an indication it’s ready to serve your type of business, whatever that would be. The options include:
Remember - Site123 don’t have a separate system of design themes, unlike many of their competitors. Instead, these business-type-based templates act as standardized themes that can be quickly and conveniently edited once selected.
Each one of these templates already comes with industry-specific sections. While the template for tech companies, agencies and other agency-type service providers is designed to showcase and sell services, the one for musicians is specifically created to display tour information and tickets.
The content is adaptive, too. The menus change accordingly. The ‘About Us’ section from the agency page becomes a ‘Bibliography’ page for musicians. The ‘Services’ page is replaced with ‘Tour Dates’. Those are small details - but they can help the user (who’s unlikely to have experience in web development) see the bigger picture, which can facilitate the process enormously.
You can also select between having a single-page, scroll-down website or the traditional multi-page form.
Overall, the setup is as easy as selecting what kind of business do you run. Once that is done, you’re into the editing part.
The Editor ***** (5/5)
Most lightweight web builders offer editors that are either overly complex and confusing, or simply don’t work as intended. Nothing like here, though.
The Site123 web editor is surprisingly lightweight, but extremely effective. At first glance, it seems like the builder has very few options available when it comes to customizing your website and adding elements. Other builders, including Wix, offer a tremendous amount of customization options. You can literally edit everything you see on the website, each element, one by one.
With Site123, you don’t have all that. You can play around with fonts. You can change the colors. Switching the background photo will come in handy for most. But you can’t move the elements around. You can’t resize them. You can’t send elements to the background.
In fact, the only substantial change you can really make to the site is the general layout by choosing one of the presets.
And you know what? A couple of moments into the building, you realise that the simplicity of choice is exactly what you’ve been looking for. You don’t need rich editing interface - you’re not a designer and don’t know which looks would convert better. You don’t need plenty of element options, either - you’re not here to build websites, you’re here to do business.
Arguably, Site123’s editing process is the smoothest and most convenient out there today. There’s simply no one who has reached this level of compromise between simplicity and effectiveness. Not even the AI features available at Bookmark and Wix make the process this easy.
1. Site123 E-commerce Review - 5/5
If you’re looking to build and successfully run a small-scale e-commerce operation, Site123 is one of the best options to go with, perhaps only overtaken by Bookmark’s full-on e-commerce integration.
Let’s begin with the template. Just like every business type on the platform, online stores come along with a dedicated e-commerce layout and functionality. There are sections to place your products, and e-commerce specific windows (such as product selection, checkout and payment pages) come completely finished and functional as you soon as you enter the editing phase.
The template, despite multiple, well-visualized layout settings for each section available, is not designed to accommodate a large number of products. In fact, anything over 20 products is hard to imagine on Site123’s online store template.
The builder’s limitations are also imminent on the e-commerce back-end management system. Some web builders, including Bookmark, are rich with in-depth product management tools that allow entrepreneurs to ship, manage and track large numbers of products. I’m talking extensive product subcategorization. Importing-exporting product sheets.
Site123’s e-commerce interface doesn’t have that large-caliber capacity - it’s designed to support small, boutique stores - which is by no means bad or wrong. It’s just what it is.
And it does a great job at it. The whole process, just like anything else on Site123, is so easy even your child could run an online shop. To be more specific, with Site123’s e-commerce you’ll be able to:
So, basically, everything you’d expect out of a lightweight e-commerce builder. However, there are a couple of areas where Site123 took it one step ahead of their competition:
In short, Site123 isn’t the option to go with if you’re looking to showcase more than 5-10 products on your page. But if you’re looking to run a small e-commerce shop, and monitor each and every sale closely, Site123 is one of the best platforms to do so.
2. Site123 SEO and Marketing Review - 5/5
Most lightweight web builders aren’t meant to be used for content-heavy, SEO-focused site production - that’s why the SEO options are usually very limited.
Site123, however, did the smart thing. Instead of trying to replicate the functionality of the big players in the industry, they gave users access to Google, Bing and Yandex Webmaster tools in form of plugins. This fact alone puts Site123 miles ahead in terms of SEO.
What about controlled traffic, though?
Site123 is the only player in the market to have three most important paid traffic analysis tools: Google Analytics, Google Adwords Remarketing Tag and Facebook Pixel. Without those, analyzing traffic and measuring your ROI from Adwords and Facebook Ads campaigns is impossible, yet no other web builder has those implemented.
In addition to that, you’ll be able to analyze Twitter traffic with the Twitter Conversion Tracking tool. Hotjar and Linkedin Ads Remarketing Tags are also available.
The tools come in form of easily installable plugins.
Final opinion on Site123’s marketing compatibility? It’s great. If running ad campaigns, ranking for search engine queries, tracking conversions and analysing numbers sounds like something you’re looking to do with your website, Site123 is for you.
3. Site123 App Store Review - 5/5
Since we’ve already started talking about plugins, it makes sense to note just how much better Site123’s plugin section is than anything else out there today. Basically, there are two options lightweight web builders go for these days:
Site123 did what I thought was impossible for a lightweight website builder - they built a plugin section that’s a natural and essential part of the platform. Each and every one of the plugins is irreplaceable. Here’s a rough rundown of what kind of extensions you’ll find on Site123’s platform:
4. Bookmark Customer Support Review - 5/5
On paper, Site123’s customers support seems to have it all. They have video tutorials, a dedicated Youtube channel, an extensive knowledge base, and live customer support. The videos are short and on-point. The library is big and in-depth.
To test their live support, I contacted Site123 with a specific question about one of the premium plans. At first, it looked like a I got a chatbot-generated response (which might’ve been the case), but then a real person plugged in and I got my answer within two minutes. Small details like the ‘seen’ feature from Facebook have kept me entertained.
Moments later, I also received an email recapping our conversation with Pedro and offering me more information. Good job!
5. Site123 Mobile Editor Review - 4/5
Site123 are one of the very few website builders that actually offer mobile editing capabilities. Most of the other DIY builders merely give a mobile preview to the users, and even doing that properly seems to be quite an achievement in the industry.
The hallmark of Mobile Editors is - without a doubt - Wix. With Wix, you can literally create two entirely different versions of your site - one for desktop and one for mobile devices.
Site123 comes close to Wix in terms of their mobile customizability. Due to the fundamentally simple structure of the builder’s editor, you can actually swap layouts and modify elements while in mobile preview mode. Most other web builders don’t allow that - you’d have to go back to the desktop version, make your changes, and then turn the mobile preview function back on.
6. Site123 Blog Review - 4/5
Dysfunctional or non-existent blogging interfaces are a common problem among lightweight web builders. After all, DIY builders are primarily designed to create small, representational company websites, rather than heavy content-based platforms. If that’s what you’re after, check out Wordpress.
Site123, however, went the extra mile to add a proper blogging section to their list of features. Here, you can choose among multiple blog layouts, and managing content is a breeze. In fact, you’d probably get away managing a relatively large content base, since there are search options that will allow you to find specific posts quickly.
This is the closest lightweight website builders have got to Wordpress in terms of content management.
I found it funny that the only part I really didn’t like about Site123 was the pricing section, which I usually review in the very end. In fact, it was so bad I felt like I started to doubt whether I want to use the service at all.
What’s so bad about it, you may ask?
Well, for starters, it’s inconsistent. When you’re yet to login and start creating the website, the only two plans you’re given are free basic plan and Premium - which costs $9.80 per month. The Premium plan is presented as having all of the site’s functionality the basic plan doesn’t have - including E-commerce.
However, once you actually create an account and start building the website, you learn that the Premium plan doesn’t include everything the site has to offer - you’d need to upgrade to one of three other, more expensive plans, which cost up to $28 per month. The Premium plan you’ve paid for turns out to be the most basic plan available. Wait… What?
But the story doesn’t end there. Say, I would be interested in buying one of the more expensive plans. What exactly would I be getting? Currently, the descriptions are vague and ambiguous, like ‘Advanced E-commerce Features’. Not really sure what I would be paying for here.
Site123 has recognized a few essential problems that were ruining the user experience for many lightweight website builders for years, and they’ve done a great job introducing solutions to those issues.
Many DIY web builders believed that the more in-depth editing options they would offer, the more different elements could be added to the website, the more you could customize those elements, the easier it would be for entrepreneurs to build a website they wanted. However, in reality, the number of choices has often proved to be overwhelming for people without design or coding experience.
Site123’s solution was to implement entire section layouts that would change the entire site’s appearance in a few mouse clicks. Many DIY web builders have failed to build a market of useful plugins. Site123’s extension interface has become an essential part of building a website using the platform.
It does have shortcomings - no AI system, relatively few options. Sometimes, it might feel a little awkward that you can’t actually move website elements around yourself.
But overall, it’s one of the best lightweight web builders out there today. If you’re looking to build a quality website quickly and want to monitor your marketing efforts closely - definitely consider Site123 as an option.