GoDaddy's Website Builder is an easy-to-use product which the company says enables anyone to "build a better website in under an hour" - a claim that should stake a place for our best website builder list.
The service provides a simple editor which allows creating responsive websites from pre-built content blocks. An integrated Getty image library means great pictures are never more than a click or two away, and GoDaddy says you can design sites on anything from your desktop to your phone.
Website Builder's starter Personal plan gives you all the basics for £4.99 ($6.50) a month plus tax.
The Business plan adds an SSL certificate, some SEO assistance and simple PayPal integration for £6.99 ($9.10) a month.
Business Plus adds social media integration, including the ability to create a Facebook page for your site (or manage the one you have already). Email marketing tools allow sending up to 50,000 emails a month to a maximum of 5,000 subscribers, and website performance should be improved by "globally-optimized speed" (CDN integration). This seems reasonable value at £10.99 ($14.30) a month.
Finally, the Online Store plan includes a capable e-commerce solution, with support for up to 1,500 products. You also get credit card, PayPal and Apple Pay support, and extras including discounts and coupons, configurable shipping and tax rates, inventory management, abandoned cart recovery, and more.
There's a lot of functionality, but the price is relatively high at £19.99 ($26) a month, and specialist e-commerce platforms such as Shopify have far more powerful services for only fractionally more (around $29).
If you're even slightly tempted, the good news is that GoDaddy provides a one-month trial to check out what the service can do. There are no credit card details required, so no commitments or danger of any accidental billing – you can just browse the interface and see what you think.
Signing up for Website Builder requires you to first create a GoDaddy account. This doesn't involve anything out of the ordinary: you can either hand over your email address and choose a username and password, or take the one-click route by using your Facebook account.
GoDaddy next asks for the name and topic of your website. This isn't to choose a template, unusually – it's just so that Website Builder can select matching images for your starting site. For example, when we chose Computers as a topic, GoDaddy picked a photo of a laptop as our main image (imaginative, it isn't).
Surprisingly, that's it. You're not asked to authenticate your email address, provide payment details or anything else. GoDaddy skips all that, generates a basic default site and displays it in the editor.
Our first results looked very simple – just a single-page website with none of the visual flash of a quality template. But there were some signs of genuine power, including a Contact Us form and an option for visitors to sign up to a mailing list, often a premium feature elsewhere. Overall, it wasn't bad for two minutes work, and you can always tweak and adjust it later.
The Website Builder editor opens by displaying a simple preview of your website. Unlike most competitors, this doesn't support in-place editing. You can't resize objects, drag and drop them, edit text directly on the page or do anything else from the editing area to immediately affect the site.
Instead, to carry out any useful work, you must click a website object – a header, a text box, an image – to view its properties in a right-hand sidebar. That gives you access to captions, text, image controls and more, and you can adjust these to customize the page.
While this works, it doesn't feel nearly as natural as editors which allow you to manipulate content more directly. With 1&1 Website Builder, for instance, just moving your mouse cursor over an image or text box highlights its border for speed resizing, and you can click inside a text box to begin editing its contents right away. Here you're forever switching your attention between the page and the sidebar, which becomes distracting over time.
As the initial site is extremely basic, you'll probably want to begin by making some major edits. You might start with choosing a new theme, a combination of font and color scheme. There are only eight of these bundled with the service, but they look very different and it's easy to create your own.
Scrolling down the page reveals multiple Add buttons in the margins. Clicking these allows adding pre-built content blocks called ‘sections’. These include basic content containers (photo galleries, video and audio players, custom HTML code), standard page elements (About Us, Contact Us, Menu and Price Lists), more complex integrations (blogs, calendars, e-commerce) and supporting tools (accept reservations, collect email subscribers).
GoDaddy's business-oriented sections are the clear highlights. The ability to build a mailing list, take appointments and integrate iCal-compatible calendars may be essential for some business sites, and GoDaddy makes it easy to add these and set them up.
One immediate problem is there aren't many other sections, and what you get isn't generally very configurable. There are just three Blog templates to choose from, for instance, and even a section called Content – which you might think would have scope for infinite variations – only includes seven.
You can't do much to customize the layout of a section. There's no way to resize a video, add an image box next to a text block, drop in a Share button or anything else.
There are no significant low-level editor features, either. We didn't notice any keyboard shortcut support, there are no right-click menus, and you don't even get a general Undo, although there is an option to manually back up a site so you can restore it later.
For the most part, though, Website Builder's editor is horribly basic. If you're looking to knock up a simple website in half an hour, you might not care. But anyone with any interest in tuning or customizing their site will get very frustrated, very quickly.
Website Builder's media support is as limited as the rest of the product. Native widgets allow embedding images, slideshows and simple photo galleries, YouTube or Vimeo videos, and SoundCloud tracks and playlists. The ability to insert custom HTML might allow you to add other content, but there are no other add-ons or controls to extend your website's abilities.
There are a few small plus points. GoDaddy offers a good stock photo library, for instance. We searched on multiple keywords and most of them returned plenty of quality images. Need a shot of 'headlights', for instance? We found 25.
A My Uploads area is another handy feature. Upload your favorite images and they're stored in the cloud, allowing you to add them to additional web pages without having to find or upload them again.
Elsewhere, though, the editor delivered no more than the core media-handling essentials. This isn't a service for demanding or ambitious users.
Until recently, Website Builder's sole blog offering was a frontend for displaying the posts on an external blog, with no management options of its own. It was a horribly basic and unprofessional approach, and totally inadequate for anyone looking to build a business site.
This is beginning to change with the introduction of Website Builder's own integrated blog, allowing you to create and publish posts from within GoDaddy's web console.
Features are limited, even by the standards of a first beta. Posts are created in a custom editor which supports only text, images and dividers; you can't schedule when posts are published; posts can have categories, but not tags, and there's no comments system (not even via a third-party like Facebook or Disqus).
The implementation is clumsy, too, with an awkward interface which is entirely separate from the main editor.
Put it all together and this clearly isn't a blog for serious users. But it's better than it was before (no, really), and hopefully GoDaddy can add more functionality over time.
After all our Website Builder disappointments, we didn't hold out much hope for the integrated web store. But we were wrong on that score, because it turned out to be a surprisingly decent system.
The Add Products dialog is neatly designed, and gives you plenty of control over your product details. You're able to provide names, images, regular and sale prices, an SKU for inventory management, and mark products as taxable or not. You can configure both product options (color, size) and add-ons (gift wrapping), and price them accordingly.
Shipping options allow you to calculate costs by weight, product dimensions, or by using a specific per-product shipping price. You don't get the flexibility and features of a dedicated e-commerce platform, but it's still far more useful than the very basic flat rate schemes used by many other stores.
Abandoned cart support – often a premium feature elsewhere – allows sending automated emails to remind customers to check out. There's support for accepting payments by Stripe and PayPal, and applying tax rules according to your location. Bonus features include the ability to build up subscriber lists and launch email campaigns, handy extras that (again) you won't always see with other builders.
None of this makes up for Website Builder's other limitations, and the £19.99 ($25) a month cost for the store plan is quite high – specialist e-commerce platform BigCommerce enables building industrial-strength web stores from $29.95 (£23). But it is a surprisingly capable product, and if your website needs a simple web store, GoDaddy should be on your shortlist.
Website Builder has a sizeable web knowledgebase of support articles, but these can't be viewed directly from the editing screen. You must open the GoDaddy help site in a separate browser tab, and browse the articles there.
The site has a search box, and when we entered the keyword 'video' it displayed a list of supposedly relevant searches: video background, video choppy, video file size, and so on. While that sounds great, most of the search results are forum threads which have nothing to do with the apparent topic.
Searching for 'video background' doesn't tell you how to set a video as your page background, for instance (Website Builder isn't even capable of that). Instead you're linked to forum posts with titles like "Add link to video" and "How to upload video from URL?" The 'video choppy' and 'video file size' searches are equally pointless as Website Builder only plays videos hosted elsewhere, and there's nothing you can do to change the video quality or size.
We ran searches for single keywords and although these typically returned many articles, most had nothing useful to say on our chosen topic.
Even when you do reach the most important articles, the results are mixed. Our video search got us a genuinely helpful walkthrough on setting up a video control. But searching for blog help gave us setup instructions based on a different interface and a previous software version, leaving us more confused than when we started.
If you can't find your answer online, GoDaddy offers phone support, although you'll have to get through the automated menu system first. This asks for an unusual amount of information before allowing you in – your phone number, customer number, support PIN – but the questions do eventually come to an end.
What's more, when we finally reached the support line, GoDaddy delivered. Our call was answered within 20 seconds, and a friendly agent resolved our simple blog-related question right away.
There's no guarantee you'll see the same results with complex issues, but it's good to know that phone support is there, and it's far better than the 'send an email and we'll reply when we feel like it' systems you might get with smaller website builders.
Basic site designs and a lack of customization options mean that GoDaddy's Website Builder isn't for demanding users, but if you're mostly interested in selling online then its web store might appeal, and the responsive phone support was a plus, too. Overall, it’s worth a look – just about.
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