Ucraft website builder review

Simple website building with a free-forever plan

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Our Verdict

Ucraft is surprisingly powerful in places, but has more than its fair share of issues and quirks.

For

  • Free Landing Page plan
  • Decent blog
  • Ecwid integration
  • Good value with some plans

Against

  • Some odd interface quirks
  • Limited control over page design
  • Content blocks often look similar
  • Sluggish 'live chat' support

Ucraft is a straightforward website builder which enables businesses and professional users to create good-looking websites and professional web stores.

72 stylish and mobile-friendly templates get you off to a quick start, and these can be quickly customized with the WYSIWYG editor. This allows you to drag and drop complete sections of content, as well as individual items such as text blocks or images, so just about anyone can build the site they need with minimal effort and hassle.

A limited free plan allows you to create a single landing page. This has Ucraft branding and doesn't include drag and drop editing, but otherwise it's not bad at all: there's a decent set of customization tools, an SEO app, you get a free subdomain (you.ucraft.me) or you can use a custom domain of your own, and there's basic support to help you out.

Upgrading to the Website plan enables building a full website with unlimited pages, multilingual support, and integration with a scattering of popular web services (Google Analytics, Zendesk Chat, Disqus, Facebook Messenger, more), while also dropping the watermark and throwing in a free domain. It looks to be reasonable value at $6 (£4.50) a month when compared with similar products. For example, the Wix Combo account has more features and integrations, but limited bandwidth and storage, and is priced at £6 ($7.90) a month.

The eCommerce plans don't look like quite such a good deal, at least initially. The $13 (£10) a month starter plan limits you to 50 products, for instance, and spending $31 (£23.85) on the Pro plan only lifts this to 1,000. You must spend a chunky $60 (£46) a month to remove all limits. Spending $29 (£22.31) on the popular Basic Shopify gets you unlimited products and file storage, premium features like abandoned cart recovery, and a site based on one of the best e-commerce engines around.

Look more closely at the details, though, and Ucraft's appeal becomes clearer. Even the most basic plan gets you 70+ payment and shipping methods, multicurrency support, capable payments and order management, and there are no extra transaction fees to eat into your profits.

Ramping up to the $60 (£46) a month Unlimited plan adds features like discount coupons, Favorites and Wishlist systems, more tax and VAT options, the ability to sell on eBay US, and mobile apps (iOS and Android) to help manage your website from anywhere.

Perhaps best of all, you can check out all the major features simply by signing up for Ucraft's free plan. This gives you access to the full website builder for the first 14 days, before falling back to the landing page-only basics.

Occasional glitches with Ucraft's own website left us a little concerned – the SSL certificate for a couple of areas of the site had expired three days earlier – but mistakes can happen to anyone, and overall Ucraft creates a positive first impression.

Ucraft

Getting started

While some web services make you jump through hoops before you can sign up – fill in a lengthy web form, wait for a 'validate your email' message, wait again while your account is activated – Ucraft keeps its admin hassles so well hidden that you'll barely notice them at all.

Click 'Get Started', for instance, and you're immediately prompted to choose your project type from Landing Page, Website, or eCommerce.

We chose the free Landing Page option and were presented with a choice of 21 templates. These mostly follow the same style, with a single large background photo and a small amount of text, and that won't necessarily work for every site type. They're also notably a plainer selection than you'll get with the commercial plans, but there are some appealing designs, and you can customize them a little, later on.

Templates can be previewed full-screen to check them out. Choose your favorite and the site prompts you to pick your preferred Ucraft subdomain.

We made our selection, and finally Ucraft asked us to sign up. The company requests minimal details, just your name and email address, and if that still sounds too much like hard work, you can sign in just with Google+ or Facebook.

Account created, we were redirected to the dashboard, where Ucraft greeted us with a starter video guide which highlighted all the key editing features in barely two minutes. We closed the video pane and were speedily redirected to the Ucraft editor.

Ucraft

Editing

The Ucraft editor interface stands out immediately for its ultra-lightweight, stripped back interface. On-screen clutter is kept to a minimum with all your core editing functions bundled together in a single left-hand sidebar, and the rest of the screen devoted to a preview of your website.

This isn't quite as impressive as it seems, because all Ucraft has really done is move some buttons (Media library, Blog, Ecommerce, Settings, and so forth) into a separate Dashboards area, and accessing these requires two clicks instead of the one you'll see elsewhere.

Clicking or double-clicking a website object allows you to edit and work with it, much like most other website builders. You can enter and reformat text, replace and crop images, apply some simple animation effects, and more.

Ucraft

Pages are constructed by dragging and dropping predefined blocks of content. There are around 40 available, covering everything from headers, titles and body layouts, to blogs, online stores and shopping carts. The examples you get look decent, but there's not a lot of variation within most of the block types. We chose the Cover category, for instance, and were given five options, four of which were largely black designs.

For some reason, the editor doesn't immediately allow you to change text fonts or resize columns to play with the layout. When we tried, we were warned that we must upgrade. That usually translates to 'spend more money', but here it simply meant spending a few seconds activating a free Designer Tools feature.

You're able to further customize pages and blocks by adding what Ucraft calls Elements, page objects such as images, text boxes, buttons and so on. Again, there's not much variety, but Ucraft still provides some worthwhile objects, including e-commerce blocks, blog components, page navigation options, forms, a mailing list tool, custom HTML, and integrations with Disqus, PayPal, SoundCloud, Twitter, Instagram and more.

Ucraft

These elements look horribly basic, but explore their settings and you'll sometimes find real power. The Form button, for instance, only gives you a standard ‘Name, Email and Message’ contact form, by default, but in reality, it can do so much more. A Designer enables adding many more field types; every field can have custom defaults; reCAPTCHA support protects you from spammers; form contents can be sent to an email address or via MailChimp, Google Sheets or Intercom; and after the form is submitted, you can display a custom Thank You message and optionally redirect users to a specific page on your site.

Positioning and resizing these objects is difficult, and in some cases impossible. You can't drag a button just anywhere on the page, for instance – Ucraft only allows objects to be dropped in permitted places, and figuring out where they are can be tricky.

But there are some plus points, too. All blocks have a Visibility menu, for instance, which allows you to hide or display that block depending on whether the viewer is using a mobile or desktop device, or the country, city or even custom IP used to access the site.

Page management is nicely handled in a straightforward dialog which also enables access to system pages, such as 'Error 404 - Not Found', and allows you to customize them in much the same way.

Overall, Ucraft's editor is an odd mix. It's simple in some areas and there are good ideas here, but the lack of features and configurability, and the interface’s many awkward-to-use areas make it hard to recommend on an overall level.

Ucraft

Media

Image handling is a key element of any website builder, and Ucraft delivers most of the features and functionality you would expect.

You're able to upload your own images, for instance, of up to 5MB in size each. Alternatively, Unsplash integration gives you easy access to top-quality free photos.

Adobe's Aviary editor is on hand for all your image editing needs (fixes, enhancements, drawing, annotations), and you can save your content to an online Media library for easy access and reuse later.

You're able to display multiple images with the Slider and Gallery elements. That doesn't exactly give you much choice, but you do at least get a decent set of tweaks and customization options. These start with the basics like layout, spacing, titles and descriptions, but then they get more interesting. You can apply your choice of 16 loading and nine hover effects, for instance, and there's a handy ability to convert a photo gallery into a slider when viewed on mobile devices.

Video support is weaker: you get a basic front-end player which accepts your chosen YouTube or Vimeo link. This worked, but we had to click our test YouTube clip twice for it to play. We liked the ability to choose our own video thumbnail for any specified image, but noticed that the element isn't always smart enough to change the thumbnail itself. When we changed our YouTube URL, for instance, the thumbnail remained set to the previous clip, and that could become confusing, later, if you don't notice immediately.

Bonus integrations enable adding a simple SoundCloud player to your page, embedding iTunes widget code, Instagram content and Twitter feeds.

If you need more, a Custom HTML element should allow you to add content from other websites and services. It's more difficult to test than usual, though, as Ucraft doesn't display the results until you've connected your website to a domain.

Ucraft

Blogging

Most Ucraft templates come with a blog, and although it took a while for us to figure out how it's managed (the option is hidden behind a Dashboard > Articles button), it turned out to be implemented very well.

The opening screen displays a neat list of blog posts, for instance (there were four sample posts with our template), which can be neatly filtered by category or keyword. You can edit existing posts, add new categories or blog feeds in a couple of clicks.

Tapping an Add button allows you to create a new post. The editor is easy to use, but basic, and doesn't support anything more than formatted text and images. Wix also uses a simplified editor for blogs, but still manages to support image galleries, videos, music, and custom HTML.

The post management tools are more interesting, with the ability to set post tags and categories, main and social images, enable easy post sharing or connect to Disqus to allow comments (there's no integrated comment system). Posts can be previewed on demand, then published immediately or scheduled to appear at a later date.

The Ucraft blog has its limits, then, but it's easy to use and doesn't have the odd design issues we've seen in other Ucraft areas. If you're only looking for the blog basics, it should serve you well.

E-commerce

E-commerce platforms are complex creations, and it's usually very difficult to tell whether a website builder's own web store has the power it takes to compete with the rest.

Ucraft is different, because the company hasn't built its own e-commerce engine, instead partnering with the popular and powerful Ecwid.

This acts as welcome reassurance that the various e-commerce plans really will deliver what they promise, including 0% transaction fees, multicurrency support, 70+ payment and shipping methods, and a host of order management tools.

They're also a marginally cheaper way to get hold of Ecwid, which is perhaps interesting if you were looking at the package, anyway. The lowest priced commercial Ecwid plan costs £12.50 ($16.25) a month, paid annually, for a catalog of up to 100 products. Ucraft's starter plan costs $13 (£10) for up to 50. There are even better savings on the Unlimited plan, where Ecwid's costs £82.50 ($107) a month, and Ucraft's is $60 (£46).

Ucraft

Support

Ucraft support starts with the official website knowledgebase. A good support website will present you with common articles upfront, and will organize everything else into sensibly chosen categories, but this one falls short on both counts. There's no opening list of articles, some categories are distinctly light on content, others are confusingly named, and several take some effort to find.

You can search for articles, too, and the search engine does a decent job of placing the most relevant items at the top. Unfortunately, most articles are lacking detail, and unlikely to help anyone but the novice user. There are exceptions, but Ucraft's knowledgebase didn't impress us overall.

In theory you can talk to one of the company’s support agents via live chat, but, well, it could take a while. We were a little suspicious when we opened the chat window and noticed a warning that 'the team typically replies in a few minutes', a smartly crafted piece of non-committal vagueness. We posted a question anyway, and the chat window reported that it had been seen within a minute or two, but we didn't get any response – not even an 'I'll check this for you' – for more than an hour.

The eventual chat reply was friendly and helpful, though, and if you don't want to wait at the chat window, you can contact support via email, 24/7. As with the rest of the service, Ucraft support isn't going to satisfy the demanding user, but if you're happy with the basics, there's just about enough here to get by.

Final verdict

Ucraft is an interesting website builder with some worthwhile ideas, but the similar-looking templates and content blocks, clumsy editor and frequent design quirks mean that it’s a little off the pace compared to the top services out there.