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build free websiteThe other day, I was checking out a freeware app called Folder Axe; it’s a lovely utility with an equally-lovely website, that feels elegant and professionally crafted. Imagine my surprise when I scrolled down to the site’s footer and discovered it is powered by (and created using) a free service for creating websites, called Weebly. I was surprised for two reasons – one, the site just felt well-made, and did not seem like a cookie-cutter type of affair. And two, there were no ads, no annoying popups or anything else that might indicate this was a free service. Naturally, I decided to check out Weebly, and below you can read (and see) what using the service is like.

Important note – while Weebly’s free option is excellent, the service does offer a paid version for $4.58/mo for a six-month subscription, all the way to $2.99/mo if you sign up for two years. Some of the options are only available in the paid version, but they are clearly labeled in the interface. For this review, we’ll be looking at the free service.

Upon signing up, you’re presented with a large and simple form letting you pick out a name for your site, and specify its type:

build free website

For this review, I’ll be going with a personal website. Next, you get to pick an address for your site. You can either use a subdomain of Weebly, register your own domain, or use one that you already own. I decided to use a Weebly subdomain.

That’s it for the setup process. It’s now time to start crafting your website, and you’re taken to the visual editor. It uses an interface similar to Microsoft’s Ribbon, which should feel familiar to anyone who’s used a recent Office version.

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build your own website

To get started, you just need to drag and drop elements onto the page. When you drag an element onto the page, you get instant feedback showing you where you can drop it:

build your own website

In no time, you can end up with a layout like this:

build your own website

However, you may not like the general default design. Fortunately, you can select any one of a gazillion (I counted) possible themes, presented in an easy-to-browse gallery format:

build own website

I went for a dark theme with a vertical menu:

build own website

Quite different from the look I started out with, right? But if I wanted to, I could take it up a notch and customize it even further using the built-in HTML/CSS editor:

build own website

The site looks good (if dark, grungy themes are your thing), but it only has one page. Let’s remedy that, using the Pages menu:

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Adding pages couldn’t be simpler; you just click Add Page and fill in the form. What’s interesting is that you can also add a blog to your static site, by simply clicking the Add Blog button. Your blog fits with your theme, and you can manage it using the same interface you use for designing the site:

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You don’t have to be the only one working on your site. Using the Editors tab, you can easily allow other people and collaborate with them on the site. Using the free version you can only add other administrators, but the paid version also lets you add authors (who can edit only pages you specify) and dashboard users who can review stats or manage comments only.

Last but not least, let’s take a quick look at the Site Settings:

build free website

The SEO section is a nice touch. Google doesn’t really use Meta Keywords for ranking anymore, but the other options are certainly handy, and points novice users in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Weebly strikes a fine balance between complexity and ease of use. The “Pro” options scattered throughout the interface can get a bit irritating after a while, but the free version is definitely powerful enough for most personal and small-business websites. All in all, it’s a lovely tool.

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