1&1 MyWebsite is a comprehensive Wix-like website builder which aims to make it easier to build featured-packed and professional websites.
Unlike some of the competition, the MyWebsite plans don't have any catches hidden in the small print. There's no bandwidth restriction, even the most basic plan has a generous 10GB storage space included, and you're able to build sites with an unlimited number of pages.
All MyWebsite plans give you a domain which is free for the first year. Unusually, there's also an SSL Certificate thrown in – that's typically a premium extra with other services.
MyWebsite Basic comes with plenty of resources to help you get started. There are around 10,000 site templates, all using responsive design to ensure they look great on any device. You also get access to 1&1's royalty-free image library with more than 20 million professional pics.
All plans provide hundreds of web apps to enhance your site. We're not just talking about embedding videos or Google maps: you can integrate a blog, calendar, contact form, assorted social media features, a newsfeed, live chat, a customer review panel, PayPal and e-commerce tools, and integrate with a library of major web services.
The MyWebsite Basic plan gives you all of this for £0.99 ($1.25) a month plus tax for the first year, £10 ($12.50) a month on renewal. That's more expensive than some other services – Wix Unlimited is around £8 ($10) a month with a free option – but it's also better specified, and reasonable value for what you're getting.
Other plans include MyWebsite Personal for £3 ($3.75) a month for year one, £7 ($8.75) on renewal. It's cheaper, but has only 200 design templates and doesn't include the full set of web apps. That's a lot of flexibility lost for very little money saved.
The MyWebsite Plus and Premium plans essentially extend MyWebsite Basic with online marketing features and e-commerce support, but cost £10 ($12.50) and £15 ($18.75) a month respectively for year one, £20 ($25) and £30 ($37.50) a month on renewal. They might appeal if you need those precise features, but there are a lot of capable e-commerce and other hosting packages around for similar prices.
Put it all together and MyWebsite Basic looks like the best deal for most users. Fortunately, if you do sign up you're protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is more than enough time to see if the service is right for you.
Setting up your MyWebsite account is straightforward. A comparison table makes it easy to find the plan you need, and once you've entered your domain and contact details, it's time to pay. Even that's less painful than usual as yearly plans are billed monthly, so your first payment is only £0.99 ($1.25). Payment options include credit cards, PayPal and direct debit, and account details arrive via email as soon as you hand over the cash.
Logging in for the first time takes you to the 1&1 Control Panel, a cluttered mess which crams more than 50 links onto its front page. Fortunately, you can ignore most of this, and clicking MyWebsite > Edit > Get Started kicks off the website creation process by displaying the available templates.
The MyWebsite template browser presents its designs well. Thumbnails are large (around 468 x 348) and clearly show both the desktop and mobile versions of the site. You can scroll through all the templates, or filter the list by keyword or industry (Wellness & Healthcare, Cars, Catering & Tourism, Personal Page, Retail and more). Clicking a template displays a larger view which also includes a tablet version of the site, and you can browse from that page if it makes more sense.
The templates look good, and there are plenty of them. The keyword filtering is basic (using ‘band’ finds lots of templates, ‘music’ very few) but you'll almost certainly find something you like within a few minutes. And if you're unsure, just pick a possible candidate – unlike some more basic editors, you're able to change the template later without losing your content.
Selecting a template opens it in the MyWebSite editor and displays the misnamed ‘Setup Wizard’ (it won't set up your site and isn't a wizard). This is a sort-of beginner’s guide which lists tasks like ‘customising the design’, ‘add pages’ and ‘publish website’, and offers links to the relevant support documents. It'll help point absolute novices in the right direction, but isn't much use for anyone else. Fortunately, once it's closed you don't have to view it again, and the real work can begin.
The MyWebsite editor opens with a near full-screen view of your website. Hover the mouse cursor over a page element and it's highlighted, plus a tooltip appears with more options.
Basic editing is simple. Click on some text, it's highlighted and you can edit it in place. Double click an image, hit the Change button and replace it with something else. Content may be dragged and dropped on the page, perhaps changing the order of a column of photos, and individual elements can be deleted, though not with the Del button (you must find the option on a menu). Still, a couple of minutes of pointing and clicking and you'll be ready to replace the default content with your own.
Some of these features deliver more than you expect. Clicking an image reveals a built-in editor, for instance, which supports crop and rotate tools, tweaks for colour, lighting and brightness, a text tool, simple blemish remover, even a couple of effects and photo frames.
Playing around with size and layout is more difficult. You can't drag-and-drop content to any position, as instead it reflows to match the responsive layout. Click a text box or image and you'll find you can't resize that element, either. You can use a different column layout, although this is buried in the Insert Elements box, even though we'd have thought it's more of a top-level design feature.
The template pages can be extended with ‘sections’, large prebuilt chunks like collages and articles. You don't get too many of these, but they're a simple way to customise the page without manually creating something like a collage yourself.
MyWebite supports adding a huge number of widgets and design elements to the page, organised into categories such as: Basics (headings, text, images, tables, custom HTML); Multimedia (image gallery, Flash movie, YouTube); Products & Documents (document viewer, file downloads, a comments system); Contact & Communications (forms, calendar, Google Maps, Skype); Social Networks (all the usual social network buttons); Web Services (visitor counters, RSS feed and more).
You can also extend most of these sections by adding one or more ‘web apps’, widgets which integrate to other web services. Many of these you'll recognise (Amazon, BBC, Flickr, Reuters, SoundCloud, Tumblr), many you won't, but it's an impressive selection. Choose something and it's added to your toolbar for easy access later. Drag-and-drop the element on the page and a dialog appears allowing you to set it up.
Some of these apps are basic. The Blog app isn't a mini-WordPress, for instance: it just allows creating simple blog posts as required. On the plus side, even though the MyWebsite Basic plan doesn't specifically include e-commerce support, adding a PayPal Mini Shop enables setting up a simple shopping cart.
The editor has a few issues. Dragging and dropping is sometimes awkward, with content reflowing unexpectedly, and icons warning you can't drop an element when you can. The Elements browser is another lowlight, placing some widgets in odd categories and forcing you to scroll and click through multiple sections to track down a key item.
On the plus side, the editor has a full undelete history for every action. If you make a mistake, or just change your mind, it's easy to reverse anything you’ve done.
Despite the occasional hassles, the MyWebsite editor manages to get a lot right, and overall it has more than enough power to create very capable personal and business sites.
Publishing and more
By default MyWebsite points your domain (or your temporary URL, if you've not set a domain yet) to an ‘online business card’, essentially a ‘coming soon’ placeholder which can optionally include your contact or other details.
To publish the site you must hit an Offline button and choose the Website option. That puts the site online and provides options to share the good news on social media, but oddly it doesn't display the URL, or even show a button to open the site in a new tab.
A surprisingly capable 1&1 SiteAnalytics feature tells you everything you need to know about your website visitors: referring pages, the keywords they used to find you on search engines, how long visitors spend on your sites, the pages they view most often, the pages where they leave, and more.
The MyWebsite editor and SiteAnalytics module can be browsed on a mobile. That's not the ideal option – both need as much screen real-estate as possible – but it does mean you can easily access your site details, or tweak the content, wherever you might be.
Support is reasonable. If you're having trouble with a feature, there are online support pages and videos to help out. We've seen better written tutorials but there's a lot of detail here, and 24/7 telephone support if you still have problems.
1&1 also offers premium supporting products, including a ‘personal consultant’ who acts as a single point of contact for all your questions, and an aftercare service where the company helps to monitor and maintain your site, and alerts you to any issues. With prices starting from £10 ($12.50) a month, these options aren't cheap, but if you don't have the time to spend managing your website, they just might appeal.
It's sometimes a little awkward to use, but MyWebsite's SSL certificate, appealing templates and wide range of web apps enable anyone to build powerful and professional websites.