Sitebuilder Review 2018: The ‘Serious’ Drag-and-drop Builder
Sitebuilder is usually regarded as one of the main competitors to the leading lightweight web builders, such as Wix, Bookmark and Weebly - a class of web building tools distinctive in their ease-of-use, drag-and-drop interface and the ability to build a website within minutes.
Unlike some of Sitebuilder’s harshest critics say, it isn’t all that terrible. Sitebuilder simply emphasizes certain aspects of web building, while giving up others. It’s not bad - it’s just aimed at a bit of a different audience than most other web builders.
What audience is that? In short, Sitebuilder is loved among people who might not be professional web designers or developers, but would feel fairly confident in their ability to learn and build websites with a bit more effort put in than the other web builders would require.
While, in its essence, Sitebuilder is still a lightweight drag-and-drop website builder, it looks and feels like something a bit more refined, more raw than the competition. While Wix and Weebly are all about the smiles and cheers, sites like Bookmark or Sitebuilder will actually give you the interface and the tools to build the website you’ve imagined.
That’s probably the main difference between Sitebuilder and other web builders: you can go to services like Weebly with zero imagination and no ideas and have a professionally designed website built in 30 minutes; Sitebuilder works best when you already have an idea of what you want, and you’re looking for the tools that could make that vision come true without getting all too technical.
Sitebuilder doesn’t have an app market where you can add useful (or not) extensions to the functionally limited interface, characteristic to most web builders on the market. Instead, Sitebuilder has many useful options in its default interface - options that would only be available through plugins, or apps, on other web builders.
Sitebuilder won’t greet you with a super user-friendly step-by-step guide, nor will it show you any tutorial videos, which makes the learning curve a bit steeper than the other web builders available on the market. However, once you do learn how to get things done with Sitebuilder, it is likely to be more rewarding than the other drag-and-drop builders in terms of design.
Let’s kick this review off with a couple of comparisons.
Sitebuilder vs. Wordpress - what’s the difference?
The number one question most of the people who’re new to the whole notion of website building have is whether they should choose a globally acknowledged standard of website building - like Wordpress - or a simpler, lighter service like Sitebuilder.
That’s why we always like to enlighten our readers on how these two categories of web builders are different, and what tradeoffs each of them entails.
The reason Wordpress is so popular is because it provides the tools to build even the biggest, most complex content/e-commerce sites. In fact, some of the largest websites on the internet run on Wordpress (from BBC America to Techcrunch.)
What’s the catch then, you ask? The thing with Wordpress is that while its capabilities are virtually unlimited, it takes a bit of time to learn all of its tricks - time which most business owners simply don’t have. And, as you might already know, hiring skilled professionals to do the job can quickly become a big financial burden.
Hence the popularity of DIY website builders like Sitebuilder. These services will eventually create a ‘bottleneck effect’ for most any business - sites built on lightweight DIY platforms are hard to scale, and even harder to export to other platforms (in many cases, impossible.)
However, for someone who’s just looking to test the waters online and see if their business has potential in the digital space, web tools like Sitebuilder are perfect - they’ll allow you to quickly build a decent website without making you go into the technical stuff, like the site’s code.
In the Sitebuilder vs. Wix comparison, the former stands out in its ability to provide more in-depth design options, while not making the service any harder to use.
Quick Sitebuilder Review - Pros and Cons
- Great number of in-depth design options
- Simple, clean, professional interface - a hybrid between Wordpress and Wix
- Lots of diverse, up to date templates
- App market not available
- Not that beginner-friendly, compared to the competition
Is Sitebuilder easy to use?
While sitebuilder is still a perfect example of a lightweight web builder - which means it takes some control from the user in exchange for simplicity and ease-of-use - it does fall a bit behind the competition as it’s not the most beginner friendly builder out there.
We’ve reviewed where exactly does Sitebuilder come a bit short in this aspect.
The Setup ***** (2/5)
After having tried other leading web building services like Bookmark and Wix, we get instantly put off by the fact that Sitebuilder hasn’t invested in the smoothness of the initial setup process.
The first thing you see when you want to create a Sitebuilder account is the good ol’ “Create Account” window. No familiar Facebook or Google+ login options - if you want to build a website with Sitebuilder, you’ll have to take the long route and create a separate account, with a separate, dedicated password. While the procedure isn’t all that complicated, the additional time consumed makes you wonder why are you even bothering to create an account here at all, instead of just logging into Bookmark with your Facebook account.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Once you’re in, there are no “welcome” messages, or introduction tutorials. Nobody’s asking you what is it you want to accomplish, or whether you’re stuck and need some assistance.
No - instead, you’re instantly taken into a plain-looking website management panel, which feels like someone just smuggled you into the building through the back door in the kitchen, instead of greeting you through the main entrance. It literally feels like logging onto some back-end server, not a novice-friendly web builder you’d expect.
Again, some people will enjoy the straight-to-the-point nature of Sitebuilder. Some people don’t like long introductions - those are the same people who always skip tutorials and prefer to learn things on their own.
In fact, a great many people do that. There’s even a name for that audience. They’re called Wordpress users.
Seriously, why use a service that looks and feels like Wordpress, but offers a small fraction of its functionality and scalability? We think Sitebuilder is a bit confused about who they’re targeting with this approach - after all, people who opt for lightweight web builders are likely the same people who very much enjoy all the help and tutorials they can get.
The story continues when you click on the “Create a New Site” button. Without ceremony, the user face-plants into hundreds of uncategorized themes, struggling to understand what’s happening. Click on one of them, and you’re put into editing mode.
While the setup process feels like an interactive brainstorming session on sites like Wix and Bookmark (they ask you what kind of business do you run, whether you’re looking to run e-commerce on your site, etc.), here it just feels like installing a piece of software. Dull. Routine.
So, yes - we think the setup process is one of the weakest points about Sitebuilder, and even though it gets much, much better once you actually start editing your website, the setup is so horrendously uncompetitive that you might lose all your appetite for web building at once.
The Editor ***** (5/5)
But boy, does the story change once you start playing around with the drag-and-drop interface. If you make it this far with Sitebuilder, you’re likely to stay.
See, the editor is where you actually want the interface to be clean and concise. Add too much playfulness, and the whole thing becomes a mess. Add unnecessary editing options, and you’re at risk of confusing the user to the point of no return.
The editor is truly where Sitebuilder’s minimalistic, straight-to-the-point character shines the brightest. Everything here is where it’s supposed to be, and works the way you’d expect it to. The only bad thing about it is that it might take you a minute or two to get acquainted with the whole thing, since, again, there aren’t any tutorials to guide you.
The best part of Sitebuilder’s editor is its emphasis on design options. Somehow, Sitebuilder manages to provide a great many design altering options - options that could only be accessed through CSS code on many other web builders - like fonts and colors.
Will you need all of these options? Probably not. Does having these options make you sleep better at night? If you’re the creative, perfectionist type - yes, it does. It’s just a nice to know that you can genuinely build a uniquely designed website - a website that nobody else has, even if it’s just a bit different.
We gave Sitebuilder’s editor a strong five-out-of-five, simply because it does everything it is supposed to do, and once you overcome the initial learning barrier, you’ll find Sitebuilder one of the most convenient drag-and-drop interfaces out there.
1. Sitebuilder E-commerce Review - 2.5/5
Lightweight DIY web builders are notoriously bad at supporting e-commerce operations. They don’t have the tools to manage even a bit more complex e-commerce operations, and they’ll fail to support anything more than a small, niche online store with a few products on offer.
There is one drag-and-drop builder that’s actually good at the e-commerce stuff. It’s called Bookmark, and we’ve reviewed it in a separate article.
Sitebuilder, unlike Weebly, isn’t an exception to the rule - actually, it’s the perfect example. It’ll give you shopping cart tools, starter-level inventory management interface and a payment integration like Ecwid - which works, but is really hard to make compatible with your site in terms of design.
The funniest part about Sitebuilder’s e-commerce is that while most of the site’s functionality is available with the free subscription plan, the entire online store support is only available after you upgrade your account. Given that Sitebuilder’s competitors are giving pretty much the same e-commerce functionality for free, it makes you wonder why should you pay for it.
There are, of course, cases when upgrading and adding e-commerce to your website would make sense. For example, if you’re really enjoying the rest of Sitebuilder already and want to:
- Display a few products on your services’ page
- Test out an e-commerce idea cheaply
- Add the ability to order items from your portfolio (e.g. paintings)
2. Sitebuilder Analytics Review - 5/5
One of the things that makes Sitebuilder stand out of the crowd is its analytics support. On Sitebuilder, you really do get a Wordpress-worthy analytics dashboard: you can see all of the key metrics of your website like bounce rate, daily visitors, ROI and many more.
This is the second time we’ve felt as if Sitebuilder has a dual personality disorder. While it’s still a lightweight DIY 30-minute web builder, it gives users the option to see in-depth stats and analytics - data that skilled webmasters use to analyze the conversion rates of their landing pages and marketing campaigns.
Is all of this information relevant to the average small business owner looking to build an online representation? Hardly. Is it nevertheless fun to have these numbers available at any time? Definitely!
To access a full-on analytics gadget, you’ll need to upgrade to one of Sitebuilder’s premium plans. Similarly, on other web builders you’d have to buy an analytics app from the app market; since Sitebuilder doesn’t have one, they simply ask you to upgrade your site and give the access to analytics as part of the package.
3. Sitebuilder SEO and Marketing Review - 5/5
Drag-and-drop DIY web builders are also famous for being terrible at SEO stuff and marketing functionality. Even the leading services like Wix used to lack essential on-site SEO tools like adding alt text to your images or setting up title tags properly. These drawbacks made web-builder-based sites virtually impossible to rank on search engines.
However, it’s the marketing interface where you finally start to sense what Sitebuilder is all about. The platform might not be the most user friendly, or have the nicest designs, but when it comes to SEO, it’s hands down the best web builder in the segment.
Not only will it give you the basic SEO options like adding meta descriptions to your pages and changing tags in your content, it will also allow you to optimize for two search engines (Bing and Google) separately, run Adsense right from the main interface, manage your sitemap and review your keyword density for the best results. That’s not bad at all for a DIY builder.
However, the story doesn’t end there. For an additional fee, Sitebuilder will let you use the Social Booster, an administrative Facebook tool that’ll allow you to save and schedule posts, set up social media alerts, measure growth and install result-driven apps from an award-winning marketplace.
Plan on setting up newsletter campaigns for your visitors? Sitebuilder’s got you covered with their full-scale email marketing software.
So, yeah - Sitebuilder’s got a lot of weaknesses, but marketing definitely isn’t one of them. Non-negotiable 5/5 in this category.
4. Sitebuilder Hosting and Exporting Options Review - 3/5
Like pretty much all other competitors, Sitebuilder has very limited - almost non-existent - support for exporting sites to other platforms. You can’t export any data from the site, and you can’t sync your website with some other one through an RSS feed.
And this really is a pressing issue among the class of lightweight web builders.
See, the DIY web builders were never intended to serve as a final stop for a person or a business looking for a website. No, they’re meant for users to play around with, to see if small businesses get any attention online. To showcase your portfolio.
But what if you do start getting traffic, and want to expand your website? What if your personal brand cannot be represented by a free DIY portfolio website anymore?
With Wordpress, you could simply build on top of what you already have, or have someone else do it. With services like Sitebuilder, you’re either stuck with what you currently have or need to rebuild the website entirely on a different platform. Just never made too much sense for us.
As for the hosting, it’s included into the price of monthly subscription plans, so the only ‘techy’ thing you’ll have to take care of is the domain. Worry not, Sitebuilder will remind you to do so before you upgrade, and it’ll also show you how.
You don’t have to pay for the hosting even if you use the free plan, but we doubt you’ll find the free subscription enough.
5. Sitebuilder Blog Review - 5/5
Right from the moment you click on the ‘Blog’ button on the sidebar of your editor, you know the team behind Sitebuilder have invested time into making the site appealing for those of us who are planning to blog. After meeting Weebly’s basically non-existent blogging interface, this was a refreshing experience.
The first option Sitebuilder gives you when setting up your blog is the layout you want to use - at the time of this review (February 2018), 15 different layout options were available! That’s 14 more than the industry average!
Once you do select the style and layout you want, you’ll enter the blog post management system. And believe us when we tell you - it’s a proper content management system, not just a decorative resemblance of one. Sitebuilder will give you much of the Wordpress’s standard blog managing functionality, like previewing posts, archiving them, or pinning them on top of your blog feed. You’ll even be able to add the RSS subscription option to your visitors.
The actual blog writing interface doesn’t disappoint, either. You get a separate window to write your content, set up the SEO for posts (post URL’s, H1, H2 tags, etc.) and even add visuals, like videos and separating lines. The only thing we missed here that we found on Wix was the GIF addon (very similar to the one you’ll find on Facebook Messenger) - the smallest of details, but it was just so much fun searching for the right GIFS and adding them to your blog posts right there, in the editing window.
So, yes, if you’re looking to actively blog on your website, Sitebuilder is one of the few options among lightweight web builders you should consider. It has the tools to manage dozens of blog posts at a time, the selection of layouts to fit any user’s taste, and the editing interface that makes writing posts a pure joy.
6. Sitebuilder Customer Support Review - 1/5
Besides the standard Knowledge Base/Email support combination, there isn’t really any other way Sitebuilder will help you. They don’t give you a customer support line at all, and there is no live chat.
However, the reason why Sitebuilder gets the lower mark for their customer support is because of their notoriously bad billing practices. In some reported cases, Sitebuilder’s customer support team have repeatedly refused to cancel memberships after being explicitly asked to do so many times; ‘forgotten’ to refund the money to an unsatisfied customer; didn’t obey to their own cancellation policy.
While we can’t confirm any of this ourselves, even if only a part of these allegations are true, it’s bad, very bad. It shows that the company doesn’t really care about their customers.
7. Sitebuilder Mobile Viewer Review - 2/5
Don’t get us wrong - Sitebuilder’s mobile previewer is OK - it’ll ensure you that the theme you’ve chosen is indeed mobile-responsive, and that your logo is properly resized to look nice on a mobile device.
However, what these previewers really do is they help justify the pricing a bit and pat you on the shoulder - hey, look at you, what a website you’ve built; it looks great even on mobile!
In reality, such previewers are more or less useless. You’ll switch to mobile mode, go through your pages in a minute or two, and switch back to the desktop mode, since there’s really nothing else to do.
And that’s pretty much the case with all web builders out there and their mobile previewers… except one. Wix.
What Wix did is they built a mobile editor that allows users to actually make changes to their mobile sites, without altering the main, desktop versions. Instead of letting us merely look at how our sites would look on a smartphone, we can actually edit them, just like we do with the desktop sites.
And that changes everything. See, while the themes may be all design-friendly and responsive, that might not always be the case with the content we publish. Some elements that make sense on desktop versions of the site might look completely out of place on mobile devices, and vice versa. That’s why Wix’s feature is extremely value-adding, and that’s why Sitebuilder’s isn’t.
Sitebuilder Pricing Review
While the free options aren’t really viable on any of the DIY web builders (unless you completely don’t care about your image), on Sitebuilder, it’s nearly impossible to get anything done with the free subscription.
What it does is it simply locks out major features of the site, like e-commerce, mobile preview and SEO tools, making the free sites near to useless.
However, the premium plans are priced rather competitively. The most expensive one will cost you just upwards of $15.
Sitebuilder Review: Verdict
So, how does Sitebuilder compare to other lightweight, DIY web builders out there?
In short, Sitebuilder is oriented at more marketing, design and content savvy people out there. It’s not very beginner friendly as it doesn’t meet first timers with a step-by-step process or an AI assistant, but if you’re looking to do some serious business with minimum effort invested, Sitebuilder might just be the site for you.
While people who’re a bit more experienced with the online world will appreciate Sitebuilder’s functionality, the customer support and billing issues are very worrying, so we’d be very careful with using the service.