Most website builders focus on ease of use and simplicity – in short, delivering a service that even the least technical home user can handle. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it could leave more advanced users wondering if the builder has the power they really need.
Voog takes a slightly different approach. It claims to be simple and straightforward, yet the website also highlights its many pro users - businesses, developers, designers and more - when you access its landing page.
The few templates available do look better than most (check them out here), and they’re also fully customisable.
Professional extras include support for up to three website languages, full access to CSS and HTML, an API and developer tools for in-depth customisation, and a limited online store. The entry-level Starter plan offers you all of this, plus 2GB of storage, connectivity for 3 users and the creation of up to 30 pages. It’s fairly priced at $6.60 a month, paid annually, although if you don't need the high-end features, there are better deals to be had elsewhere.
The Plus account gives you 10GB of storage, unlimited pages and a more powerful online store. A database tool helps you build dynamic content, like product catalogues – a very unusual extra – and there's a custom domain thrown in. The $11 price looks like good value if you'll use the store and database functions.
The Premium account drops all resource limits, includes priority support, a custom SSL certificate, and has no sales transaction fees for your web store. That's a decent specification, but it might look a little expensive at $42.90 a month, paid annually.
There's no free plan, but Voog does give you a free 30-day trial to sample the service, no credit card details required.
Starting out with Voog is as simple as selecting a template, handing over your email address, and choosing a subdomain for your site, like yourchoice.voog.com (you can also publish to another domain of your own if you have one).
The company goes on to ask for your name and phone number, but click the Skip button and the request disappears.
Your chosen template is then displayed in one of the most lightweight and unobtrusive editors we've ever seen, with an interface so minimalist it took us a moment to notice it at all. There's no bulky sidebar or other intimidating clutter, just a small menu bar at the bottom of the screen which pops up to reveal its controls once you click on a menu, or a section on the page.
An optional tour walks you through the smallest number of features available to get you started. It's little more than a moving tool tip which tells you more about various icons and buttons, but it does imbue you with a feeling that everything you need is but a click away.
The Settings menu might be more interesting to experienced users, as it's absolutely crammed with neat and unusual features.
You can view your Sitemap.xml file, for instance, add your own Favicon, integrate with Google Webmaster Tools, insert Google Analytics or code for other services into your pages.
Our favourite feature provides a simple way to work on the site with others. You're able to send invitations to friends or colleagues and give them editing rights over the project, allowing teams to collaborate in a secure way (no more sharing of passwords). This could be a very appealing feature for many business users, and it's not one you'll often find elsewhere.
The Voog editor does its best to stay out of your way, a welcome approach which brings all kinds of benefits. There are no complicated menus to confuse beginners, no overweight toolbars hogging valuable screen real-estate, and you can browse your template as though it was a finished website. Clicking a menu link doesn't give you fifty navigation options, for instance – it just takes you to the linked page.
Even when you start exploring the interface, it remains very compact. Tapping the Add button at the bottom of the screen displays small icons for the eight widgets that you can add to a page: a text box, image gallery, video, map, form, embed box, social bar, and a Buy button.
This is far more basic than some of the big-name competition. Wix, for instance, has a host of galleries, buttons, frames, forms and more, all displayed with thumbnail previews to help you find what you need. Voog is much more stripped-back and leaves you to do more tweaking and customisation to achieve the effects you need.
The editor gives you some control over layout. Objects can be placed above or below each other. Images are a little more flexible and Voog lets you place them in various parts of the page, but that takes a little getting used to: as you drag a photo, sections are highlighted in blue to indicate where it will end up. As you move the mouse left or right, you can instruct Voog to place it either side of a text section, for instance.
Workflow isn't always intuitive. You can't delete a section by selecting it and pressing the Delete key; instead you must click and drag, then drop it into a trash can icon which suddenly appears bottom-right. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can easily miss it.
There is real power here though. Click inside a text box, for instance, and an extensive toolbar appears. This doesn't just have the usual font size, style and alignment options – you can change colours, use bulleted or numbered lists, insert tables, maps or videos. It's a capable word processor, all on its own.
Voog's Embed box is another all-purpose highlight. You can’t just paste a YouTube video’s URL, say - Voog just treats it as text - but most social media service has an ‘embed’ feature. Copy that code and paste it into Voog’s Embed section (which pretty much displays your section’s HTML code), and it’ll appear there, as expected. If you know HTML, you can use that section to alter the code to make it look as you need it to.
The Voog form opens with three boxes for your name, email and message, but you can change these, define an expected format (email address, web URL), mark a field as required, and more. It's far more customisable than it looks.
A nice touch is support for multiple languages. In a few seconds you can set up your site to, for example, support English, French and Spanish. These options are available from a menu, or you can even have the site automatically detect the language from the visitor's location.
It's a neat idea which works well, although it also has a big catch: if you’re not careful, when you add a new language you’ll be graced with an empty copy of the website template, not a clone of your existing site. To avoid this, you must make sure the ‘Duplicate content from’ option is activated (you get to choose which language you wish to copy).
It’s such a crucial feature to avoid you re-imputing all your content (text, images, etc) from scratch, that it’s a puzzle why this option isn’t more prominent to avoid you forgetting about it.
Voog offers only the bare minimum of media support: single images, image galleries, videos, and the ability to embed media from third-party sources. There's no native media player, no direct audio support and no document viewer. There's also a limit of 50MB on the size of files you can upload, which means you're not going to be able to host videos of any significant length on your Voog site.
This is a little better than it sounds. Voog may only have just one image gallery control, for instance, but it has plenty of options. Your images can appear in grids, walls, a slider or a custom 'squares' view, with full-screen viewing if you need it, and control over settings like the slider delay.
The service also scores with its ability to organise your media via the Files area. You can easily upload files of any type and optionally organise them into Collections, making it simpler to find them later. Once they're stored in Files you can then use your media on multiple pages or websites without having to upload them again.
Voog has a distinct lack of media tweaks and customisations. While other services boast about their integrated image editors and filters, Voog can't do much more than set an overlay and background colour, add a caption or assign a link.
Put it all together and Voog does a reasonable job of covering the multimedia basics, but we suspect many users will be left wanting more.
Website builders sometimes struggle with blogging, and even basic tasks like adding a new post can take some work. Voog avoids that in the simplest of ways: once you've chosen to add a new post, you just enter your content on the page where it will be displayed. There are boxes for your title, an excerpt, body copy, tags and more, and you can complete them just like any other web page element.
Voog's sophisticated text control gives you plenty of options, as we mentioned earlier. You can set text font, styles and alignment, enter lists, insert tables, images, videos, maps and more.
If that's not enough, you're able to add any of the components you can include on a regular Voog web page: galleries, forms, social buttons, etc.
As with the rest of Voog, the blog is distinctly short on extras. You can't organise posts into categories, limit the number of comments, close them after a period of time or do anything else even faintly advanced. But the system is undeniably simple to use, and if you want a basic blog with the minimum of hassle, it could be a smart choice.
It doesn’t seem that Voog was built for e-commerce, and although you can add a web store, it feels a more cumbersome and awkward process than with many other website builders.
The support pages explain that you can start selling once you've configured a few key settings, for instance, but this is at the most basic level – best for adding a few products only. It's nothing like the pre-built store components you'll get with Wix and some others.
Starting from a web store template gives you the ability to create product pages and organise them by category, but that's hardly convenient, and there are only five store templates to choose from.
Supported payment providers seem to be only PayPal and MakeCommerce, and the website asks you to contact support to enable them for your site, which is hardly convenient. Keep in mind that you'll pay an extra 3% transaction fee, on top of any payment provider charge, unless you opt for the most expensive Premium account.
There are some significant limits. There's no direct support for selling digital products, physical products can't be given weights, and you can't set up custom shipping or tax rules to any significant level.
As with other Voog modules, the store does have some useful abilities. You can define product variations (size, colour), set up discount codes, manage product inventories in a basic way, use multiple shipping methods, and more. It's not a bad system, but it feels very lightweight compared to other services out there.
Help is never far away on Voog, not least because of an unusually complete Help menu at the bottom-right of most Voog screens.
The menu gives you speedy access to the basic Voog tour, for instance. There's a link to the FAQ, and the Voog Facebook page. Start typing in the search box and matching articles appear immediately. If all else fails, there's a box where you can enter a question and send it to Voog support with a click.
Still, we found the support site usually provided enough information to help solve our problems. If support is critical to you, or you just want to better understand how Voog works, check out the support site for yourself before you buy.
Voog's quirky interface and lack of website widgets and integrations mean it's not the best choice for novices who want everything done for them. But if you’re not averse to a little customisation to make each page more unique, Voog’s feature set may appeal, and it's certainly worth taking the free trial.
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