Weebly: A good-looking tool for making simple Web sites

Weebly is a fantastically easy-to-use site design and hosting tool. But its limitations will drive you insane.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

If you ever find yourself needing to throw a basic site up on the Web quickly, it would be worth a few minutes of your time to check out Weebly, the 2.0 version of which launched today. It is a free Web design and hosting system that takes nearly all the pain out of creating a site.

Weebly has big gaps in its feature set, but as a quick-and-dirty site host, it's not bad. I really like its simplicity. You can start by selecting a page layout from Weebly's templates (all of which look good), or just start typing on the default template. Adding elements like pictures (via uploads or a Flickr gallery module), YouTube videos, and Google maps to a page is very simple, and adding pages to your site is also easy.

Weebly's template library is a snap to use. CNET Networks

Changing the look and feel of a site is easier with this service than with any other site designer I've seen. You just go to the "Designs" tab and roll your mouse over the templates. Your whole page changes on the screen, but it isn't locked in until you click to select. It's like changing formatting in Office 2007: intuitive and fun.

But here's the bad news: The limitations in this service will drive you insane. You can't put a picture into a block of text after the fact--there are separate module types for text and for text-plus-image. You can't put a headline or a caption on an embedded object (like a Google map or YouTube video); you have to use a separate headline module. And if you want your site to have its own domain name instead of a Weebly.com URL (like our test site, phosphorphresh.weebly.com), Weebly leaves all the configuring to you and your registrar.

There are also missing content types. There's no blog module, no discussion forum, and, for that matter, no community features at all except for a contact form module.

I hate to be mean, because Weebly looks like the beginning of a great service, but, at the moment, I'd say it's a really good tool for a kid doing a book report. It could also be useful for an entrepreneur looking to set up a very temporary site while the team builds a real site for the business.

I'd like to see Weebly brought in under the wing of a large company (like Google) where they'd get the resources to extend on this tool's potential.

See also: Microsoft Office Live, Google Page Creator, SiteKreator, SquareSpace, HomeStead, etc.

Weebly editor (left) and resulting live site (right). CNET Networks