Every couple of years I take a look at what’s available in terms of free and inexpensive marketing tools. If you don’t have a large marketing budget, these tools can help make your funding decisions a lot easier: some projects can be DIY’d while others get a full court press.
I am always checking out the latest web publishing tools because outsourcing this can be an expensive proposition. There are plenty of great looking, functional sites in the digital world. Some have a lot of “weight” (design, infrastructure, and content development) behind them while others are the product of some marketing elbow grease and the judicious use of free or near-free website building tools.
WordPress has been a long time favorite of mine but ease of use is not its strong suit. Also, WordPress is a platform, not a website builder but you can use builders like Themify to build a site. I’ve worked with designers on building out a number of WordPress sites because once the site is up and running, it’s fairly easy for marketing folks (or anyone else) to make updates.
But I’ve always dreamed of a website builder that was so easy I could build it in a couple of hours after spending ten minutes looking at a couple of videos and reading a few “help” hints. And I wanted a true visual representation of the site while I was working on it so that design decisions could be made on the fly with little or no effort.
Full disclosure: I’ve looked at a lot of web publishing tools from free to fairly expensive and have always been disappointed. Maybe the tool was easy to use but what you could do with it was limited. Or the tool was difficult to use but the finished result was beautiful and functional. Or somewhere in between.
And then I read about Weebly in an article about the best website builders of 2016:
I took a look at Weebly and was interested enough to try and build a website using their free model. After an hour playing with it, I signed up for a year of Weebly’s starter site package and hosted my site using a domain I had lying around (www.mludloff.com). Yes, I built this site using Weebly.
Why build a marketing consulting site? Well, most of my clients have been referred to me by other clients and I operate pretty much on word of mouth. That being said, I’ve always thought it would be useful to have a site that included some of my portfolio work and give prospective clients an idea of my background and philosophy. But I’ve never had the time to actually do it. Until now.
It took me about an hour to build out my mobile-friendly site, select the theme and templates I wanted to use, and start my content development process. Since this is a site about me and I happen to be a marketer, the content development portion was fast and easy.
In marketing, the phrase “intuitive drag and drop” is overblown and overused but in Weebly’s case, it was spot on. I dragged, dropped, and tweaked text boxes, images, and lots of other elements to create pages with ease: in this case, WYSIWYG lived up to its billing. Images were easy to select and use with inexpensive license fees for stock images at $5 a pop. I did shop around and purchase a few stock photo images to give my site more of a custom look as well as built additional graphics using Canva, an online graphic design tool.
There are a few cons:
Cons aside, this was the easiest web publishing tool I have ever used and it has all the bells and whistles one needs for a robust site.
So how long did it take me to build it out? From start to finish (publishing a fully realized website), I estimate a little less than 20 hours (over four weekends). What did it cost me? Approximately $96 (per year) for the starter plan which removes Weebly branding and allows me to use my own domain plus another $100 for image licensing fees (for five years).
For small businesses and startups, Weebly is an economical way to have a strong digital presence at a fraction of what it would cost to outsource design and content development.