If you need to get a website online with a minimum of effort and a maximum of creative latitude, look no further than Wix. Its interface is the most intuitive, slick, and powerful of the growing group of website-building services. It offers standout features such as online storage for your site assets, cool video backgrounds, animations for titles, and mobile apps. A free account option, a gallery of third-party widgets for your site, and strong commerce and blogging features round out our Editors’ Choice website builder. There’s more to come, too, as the company has recently announced the beta of Wix Code, which lets novices and programmers build dynamic web applications.
Getting Started With Wix
The only thing Wix requires for you to get started is an email address. If you want a site with a custom URL, no Wix promotions, a custom favicon, and a web store, you must upgrade to a paid account. These range from the $5-per-month Connect Domain account, which merely lets you use a site address you already own, to the full $25-per-month VIP plan, which includes a shopping cart, 20GB storage, domain name, unlimited bandwidth, professional site review, and priority support. For a full rundown of account types, see Wix’s premium account grid.
After creating an account, you choose a site template. This choice in Wix is far more detailed than the seven options found in Weebly. Wix offers 15 top levels, each with several subcategories to choose from. For instance, there’s a Restaurant choice with subcategories for bar, café, catering, and more. For my first Wix test site, I used Photography > Travel Photographer. Clicking a big Go button opens a generous choice of templates. There are 15 beautiful template options just for that narrow field, including those for landscape, street, and portrait photographers. In all, Wix offers hundreds of template choices, more than Squarespace or Weebly. The vast majority of these are free, though some require a subscription at the eCommerce level ($17 per month). Each template preview helpfully shows you how your site will look on a smartphone screen, too.
After you’ve chosen a template and started editing your site, you’re treated to a one-minute introductory video. Templates are modern and attractive, many keeping your navigation at the top as the site viewer scrolls down. Five round buttons that expand when you hover the mouse over them let you add elements, change the background, access the App Market (from which you get third-party site widgets), see your uploads, and start blogging. You can easily hide these controls if you need to edit the area under them.
Elements you can add include everything we’ve become used to on webpages. All the usual options for text, media, social media widgets, buttons, shapes, and so on are available, and you can find anything not in Wix’s default selection in its App Market. You can also embed HTML and Flash code. You can easily add SoundCloud and Spotify playlists to treat your site visitors’ ears, too.
Editing the template design is dead simple. Just click on any element, and you see resizing handles and dragging buttons. You have a lot more freedom to place objects where you want them than in Weebly or Squarespace. Double-click on text, and you can edit and format it. As you move objects around, guides appear when they’re in line with other objects, to help with alignment.
A toolbar on the right offers tools for sizing and arranging objects, including exact pixel sizes for objects, size matching, alignment, and overlap options. If you select more than one object, you can move them together around the page. Any object can be animated on load, with effects like Bounce-In, Glide-In, and Spin-In. Nifty!
One thing about the Wix site-building interface that really impresses me is that it uses right-click context menus. Other builders like Squarespace and Weebly do nothing with right clicks, so right-clicking just brings up your browser options, which don’t help with site building. Wix lets you change images or edit text that the mouse is over when you right-click.
You can customize page design to your heart’s content, including the number of columns, their sizes, and their alignment. But unlike Squarespace and Weebly, Wix doesn’t let you change the original template you chose at the outset. You can easily add new pages and drag them around to change site navigation hierarchy. Pages can be password-protected or require membership sign-up or sign-in.
The main account administrative interface is clearer than Weebly’s, too, with a full page listing your sites. Click into one and the site dashboard appears with a side rail of site option buttons. You also see a feed of site activity, and there are buttons for common tasks.
One disappointment is the lack of included site-traffic reporting. However, you can use the Web-Stats app for free or set up a separate Google Analytics account (which requires a paid account level) for this functionality. Web-Stats is pretty informative, telling you where visits came from and what display, computer, and browsers were used—even for free users.
I tried using the Wix ADI in preview. It simplifies site building a lot, it’s fun, and it offers lots of hand-holding. It can, however, take some time to complete its automatic designing. I can see why it’s not yet a generally available part of Wix’s offerings, since some of my results were odd. For example, words in the title of my page were cut off with ellipses added, and there was a scroll bar that did pretty much nothing, scrolling the box up and down about a millimeter. But it’s not hard to adjust an ADI-created site to get something very presentable.
Working with Photos and Videos
Wix has a big advantage over Weebly and Squarespace when it comes to photos: It lets you reuse images you’ve already uploaded by saving them in online folders for you. The other services make you re-upload photos if you want to use them in another place on your site. Wix also lets you add images from other online sources such as Flickr and Facebook. Ditto for videos. You can use video in places where the others only let you use photos, such as the main theme background. The service also provides lots of stock images and videos to use on your site. Much of this content is free, but you can also purchase stock images from BigStock, at reasonable rates.
You get full photo editing and enhancement capabilities with the integrated Aviary editor. And it’s really easy to add a link to an image, either external or to a page in your site. You can also add a border, and animation such as a fade in, and choose among resizing behaviors such as autocrop, center, stretch, and fit.
You can set videos to auto-play on page load and to repeatedly loop, and as mentioned you can add a video as your background image.
Making Money With Wix
Wix offers rich e-commerce capabilities. The Store element from the main toolbar adds a Shop page with a product gallery pre-populated with sample products you replace with your own. You’ll need an eCommerce premium plan to actually receive payments. The web store can have multiple pages of its own, including by default a product page, shopping cart, and thank you page. There’s a detailed product-editing panel, and you can group products by collections, and offer coupons. Credit card processing options include Stripe and Square, and you can accept PayPal and snail-mailed cash. You can enter shipping and tax rules, but the built-in store doesn’t help you actually figure these things out, say, with UPS or FedEx integration.
Selling digital downloads requires a paid third-party app from POWr or Sellfy. Music, however, can be sold with no transaction fee through Wix’s own Music app. There’s even an app, Snapcard, that lets you accept Bitcoin payments. For marketing your goods, a Wix mail-blast app called ShoutOut lets you send up to 5,000 emails per month. Third-party integrations for email marketing are available from MPZMail, CakeMail, and V.I. Plus.
Adding a blog to your site is easy as clicking on the Blog entry on the main site element toolbar. You can design your blog page layout just as with any other site page, or choose a single entry style or one with no header. Subscriptions and comments are options for your readers. You can tag posts, and even display a tag cloud, and RSS button, Facebook comments, and Disqus comments.
Wix has a separate, simple blog-posting interface, as opposed to Weebly, which just uses the same webpage interface for blogging. In Wix, you can add photos, galleries, video, and of course text, all formatted to taste. You can schedule any post for later publication and designate it as Featured if you like. In all, it’s a rich blogging tool with everything you need.
Wix sites aren’t responsive in the strictest sense (where you can resize a browser to see its contents squeeze to fit a smaller size), but that shouldn’t worry site creators: Wix produces mobile versions of your sites that pass Google’s test for mobile-friendliness. Tap the smartphone icon at the top of the site editor, and you can switch to mobile editing view.
By default, my site had the “Make your site mobile friendly” option checked, and because of this, I really didn’t have to do anything to make it work well on phones. But Wix gives you the option of editing the mobile view if you’re not happy with what it produces automatically. In particular, you can hide elements that you don’t want to show up on mobile screens. You can also add a Mobile Action Bar so that visitors can email or call you with a tap of a finger.
On the other side of mobile, Wix now offers apps that let you interact with site visitors and edit store items like products and prices. You can also upload photos from your smartphone, but you can’t actually create and edit sites from the app, as you can with Weebly and Jimdo‘s apps.
Databases, Dynamic Pages, and Forms require no knowledge of coding whatsoever. The use of these prefab databases is similar to filling in a spreadsheet. Custom forms and user input controls are useful for collecting information from site viewers; a food site could let submit recipes, for example. Data-driven Dynamic Pages sound like they’re for developers, but really it just means that your site pages are built on the fly depending on entries in a table. A college course page designed in Wix can have different pages for each course, all of which use the same template.
Wix Has All the Tricks
For ease of site building and breadth of options, you can’t beat Wix. If the ability to export site code and a need for true responsive design are priorities for you, you may want to go with Weebly or Squarespace instead. But Wix’s leeway in letting you build your site the way you want it, online storage of your media, large third-party gallery of site additions, and clear, well-thought-out interface all keep it our Editors’ Choice for online website builders.