Weebly is an intuitive and powerful online website builder. It lets you build and edit great-looking sites without making you learn a secret web design language. The service sports a clear and simple editor interface, integrated e-commerce and newsletter marketing capabilities, and attractive themes—some with video backgrounds. Its strict responsive design implementation makes it more restrictive than PCMag Editors’ Choices Wix and Duda, however. Furthermore, free accounts can’t sell anything, and Weebly still doesn’t offer universal undo capability or let you reuse uploaded images—conveniences found in many competitors.
Getting Started With Weebly
You can start building your Weebly site for the price of an email address and password. That gets you a 10-page site with a generous 500MB of storage, though your free site will include Weebly ads. For $8 per month, the Starter account removes the Weebly branding and adds a custom domain name, unlimited storage, and a 10-product store. A $12-per-month Pro account adds site search, password protection for up to 100 site members, and video backgrounds. It also increases your store to 25 products. With a Business account, you can sell unlimited products, including digital goods. The $38 per month Performance option adds email marketing (five campaigns per month to up to 500 addresses), and real-time shipping-rate calculation.
The first choice you make when you start building is whether you want to sell on your site. If you say yes, you have to add store and product info. Then, as with pretty much every other site builder, you choose a template. With 65 choices, Weebly doesn’t offer as many site themes as Wix or Squarespace. Unlike most site builders, it also doesn’t show you a preview of the theme’s mobile view as well as the desktop view. Weebly’s templates are very good-looking site designs, however, and you can change the theme later without having to rebuild your site. Squarespace also lets you do this.
Next, you choose a domain for your site. This can be a subdomain of Weebly.com for free, or you can register a custom domain right on the spot, or use one you already own.
Weebly’s interface shows a dark left panel for dragging elements onto your page. The panel switches function modes when you make choices from a menu across the top offering Build, Pages, Theme, Store, Settings, and Help.
You can add all the usual elements to your site’s page, including text boxes, images, maps, spacers, and media. The latter consists of video, audio, and document files, but only paid accounts can insert audio and video, which can be of HD quality. There are also elements for feeds, forums, polls, RSVP forms, and surveys. If what you’re looking for isn’t available, you may find it in the Apps section—more on this below.
Web Design Tools
As with Squarespace (but unlike Wix), Weebly doesn’t let you just drag items anywhere you like on the page. In testing, the object I tried dragging to a spot often flew somewhere else on the page. When you move the mouse cursor to the right away from the toolbar, it hides to show more of the site you’re designing. Premium objects’ buttons have an orange lightning icon on them, and if you drag one onto your page, you get a message asking you to upgrade.
The Section element offers a way to add an area into which you can drop more objects. A Section can be a free-form rectangle or it can use one of five layout types: Contact, Featured, Gallery, Menu, and Team. Team is the typical staff-profile page you see on corporate sites, and the others are self-explanatory. You can drag the top or bottom of a Section up or down to resize it—something you surprisingly cannot do with a lot of elements, though you can use the Space element to resize areas.
The only Theme customization option is to change the text display. You can customize any text type’s font, color, spacing, and size. Most site builders, such as Squarespace, let you customize the web design template’s color palette, too.
You can add site pages from the sidebar that appears when you choose Pages from the top menu bar. I like this because it doesn’t take you off your site’s preview page. You get a choice of a standard page, blog page, store page, or external page. I also like the way clicking on navigation elements in the Weebly builder takes you to the target destination. Wix makes you navigate via the sidebar. On the other hand, Wix also lets you do some cool things that aren’t built into Weebly, such as animating your title text and using image-carousel backgrounds.
A more serious lack in Weebly is that it has no Undo feature for site changes like adding elements or changing the theme, let alone a full history feature like that in Wix, which lets you roll back your entire site to a previous state. Weebly does offer Undo and Redo buttons for simple text entry, however. With Wix, you can hit Ctrl-Z to undo a box resizing, for example, and both it and Duda have permanent undo and redo buttons for everything you do in the builder.
I do like how Weebly (like Wix) lets you enter text directly on the page rather than in a sidebar, as Squarespace and some others still make you do. But Wix also goes one better by offering right-click context menu options for things like replacing images and editing text. Wix even offers animation of your site objects!
Apps and Images
From the toolbar’s Apps button, you can head to the App Center, where there’s an array of widgets to add to your site—some free, some with fees. I tried the app feature by adding Scheduler Pro. I simply had to allow it access to my Weebly account, which is sort of like authorizing a Web app with Facebook. Its button showed up in toolbar after I clicked the Apps link. One problem with this app is that its results don’t show up in the builder interface’s preview. It’s a bit jarring to have to see site elements show up for the first time live on your site. If you’re serious about your website design, you want to see how everything looks before you publish it.
Other available apps include JotForm, Eventbrite, Shippo (for shipping labels), tabs, counters, and dozens more. In terms of sheer numbers, Weebly has a respectable widget selection, though Wix has more. Furthermore, in addition to the sheer lead in numbers, I find Wix’s apps better integrated and easier to navigate.
Perhaps one of Weebly’s biggest drawbacks is that it doesn’t provide online storage for your site images and videos so that you can reuse them. Instead, you have to store the images locally and re-upload them every time you want to use them somewhere else. Backgrounds, which appear on multiple pages, are an exception. Wix and Duda offer an online repository for all your images, but Squarespace, like Weebly, does not.
Actual image editing in Weebly has gotten a boost since my last evaluation, however. You can now adjust brightness, contrast, and color saturation. You can also apply over two dozen adjustable Instagram-style filters. You also have the ability to add text, as well as a linear or circular focus effect. One quibble with the last tool is that it’s only a circle, making it hard to fit to a face. Squarespace and Wix still offer a fuller set of photo editing capabilities, with the integrated Aviary online image editing tools.
You can upload multiple images at a time with Weebly’s attractive gallery widget. It’s also easy to assign an internal or external link to an image. Wix lets you access your photos from other online sources, such as Flickr and Facebook, as well as offering stock photography (as Squarespace also does). Weebly’s image search lets you find both free and paid photos, and you can set these as favorites, though you can’t do that for your own uploaded images.
Blogging and Publishing
Weebly’s blogging interface is as straightforward as the rest of the site builder, letting you drag any page element onto a blog post. I do find it odd that there are no standard blog templates, however. Maybe you just want text and an image for every post; with Weebly you have to drag even those basic elements in every time. You can control social sharing and commenting, however, and comments are threaded and can be easily deleted.
Weebly lets you add tags to your posts, and you can save them as drafts before publishing. You can set posts to be announced on your Facebook and Twitter feeds automatically, too. Wix offers a few more blog-related widgets like tag clouds and feature posts, but Weebly does a good job of presenting the archive and tag list, as well as offering Flickr and LinkedIn badges. Both services automatically produce RSS feeds for your blogs.
An orange Publish button takes your Weebly site live. There’s no need for a Save button, since edits are saved automatically. This contrasts with Wix, which requires you to explicitly hit save any time you want site edits to stick. Which you prefer depends on your work style. Weebly also thankfully contrasts with some site builders, such as 1&1 MyWebsite, which publish whenever you edit, giving you no chance to change your mind. Another plus here for Weebly is that, as in Wix, you can have multiple editors working on a site. To set it up, you just send an email and specify whether your coeditor should have full Admin, Author, or Dashboard-only rights.
Making Money With Your Site
Weebly lets premium account holders add Store and Product page types with a rich set of commerce tools. You can even import products from Etsy, Shopify, or a CSV file. You can accept payments using PayPal, Square, Stripe, and Authorize.net. New for Weebly stores is the ability to accept Apple Pay. The builder includes inventory tracking and abandoned cart notifications, the latter of which requires a top-level Performance account. After a recent change, free accounts can’t do any selling—even slapping a single PayPal button on a page requires a paid site. And Weebly—unlike Squarespace, Wix, and Simvoly—charges a 3 percent transaction fee on top of what the payment processor charges, unless you have a $25-per-month Business account or higher.
The Store builder has all the elements you expect, including a shopping cart, sale prices, invoices, coupons, sizes and colors. In fact, there’s a whole Store mode accessible from the site builder’s top navigation bar. Like Squarespace, Weebly lets you sell digital downloads, but this requires a Business account. With Wix you can only sell digital goods via third-party apps.
You can paste AdSense ads on your Weebly pages, for an additional (albeit usually meager) stream of revenue. An easy-to-use integrated setup feature lets you authorize Weebly for your AdSense account (or even create a new one).
Weebly includes an integrated newsletter email feature for paid account levels, called Promote, and an element in which site visitors can subscribe. When a user signs up, Weebly sends an email to your admin email notifying you of the new subscriber. The email marketing tool is easy to use and offers a flexible way to get the word out, even suggesting mail blasts when you have a product on sale.
Mobile Site Design and App
Weebly has mobile site-creation strategy similar to Squarespace’s. It automatically generates a good-looking responsive mobile site based on your site template. Like Duda and Wix, Weebly still offers a button that takes you to mobile site editing, but with Weebly that view only works if you’re using an old template. With old templates, you can even choose a mobile theme that differs from the main site, and turn off header images, the search box, and social icons. The new Weebly responsive designs do look great on mobile phones, and can even fill the whole background with an image, but all this comes at the cost of customizability.
Weebly is ahead of most of the pack in delivering a touch-friendly, drag-and-drop supporting iPad app for site building. Weebly’s app even offers an associated Apple Watch app that alerts you about site traffic or commerce transactions. Jimdo has an app, too, but it’s limited in the number of page elements it can add. The Wix app lets you edit ecommerce features and blog with it, but it doesn’t offer site creation and design edits like Weebly’s does. In any case, editing a site design on the iPad isn’t ideal. For example, iOS has its own ideas about what should happen when you long-press on an image, making it hard to perform some edits.
Site Statistics and Mobility
Even free users get access to some site-activity stats for their Weebly sites—not the case with Wix or Virb. Free users can see page views and unique visitors for each day of the month, but upgraded accounts can see search terms used to get to the site, referring sites, and top-visited pages.
A big advantage of Weebly, and one that differentiates it from nearly all other online site builders, is that you can take a site you built elsewhere for hosting. From the editor’s Settings page, Weebly lets you download your site as a ZIP archive file with all of your HTML and send it via email. This means you can move the site to a standard Web hosting service. This doesn’t include some of the interactive features like your storefront and comments, but even this much is not possible with Squarespace or Wix. This capability is a serious differentiator, and it’s worth considering if you don’t want your site to be locked into one service.
Weebly: Worth Considering
Apart from its lack of undo functionality and photo storage, Weebly remains one of the easiest site builders to use. It offers generous free options, and is the only one of the many such services we’ve reviewed that lets you export standard site code. The responsive designs are great looking, though they come at the cost of design customizability. Our Editors’ Choice website builders Duda and Wix edge it out, however, because they are more intuitive and full-featured.