It’s been more than a year since we reviewed Zoho Sites, a web publishing solution developed by Zoho Corporation in 2012.
With the launch of this builder, the company filled a much-needed gap in Zoho’s business apps lineup. The new product integrated with other business tools in Zoho’s productivity suite. For example, Zoho stores all content in the Zoho Creator Database and offers the CRM Form Builder which lets users handle such things like support requests.
Initially, the builder followed the freemium model; there used to be two plans: a free and Premium. But in September 2014, the company decided to make the builder completely free. They simply cut their advertising costs and left marketing to the end user.
The Zoho Sites team believes that the best way to spend their marketing budget is to invest into new features. So, currently, the builder is free which means we can easily sign up and see how it works. Join us reviewing Zoho Sites website builder 🙂 .
#1 Ease of Use
The builder is really pleasant to use. It’s clean, intuitive and easy-to-navigate. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be taken to the library of templates. Then, you’ll be redirected to the builder itself.
Zoho Sites is a typical drag-and-drop website builder: in order to add a widget or website element to the page, simply select it in the top toolbar and drag the chosen object to the canvas. Each element includes additional customization options.
Zoho Sites Builder
If you want to go beyond what is available in their drag-and-drop toolbar, you can make use of the HTML/CSS editor.
All in all, it looks very well organized.
#2 Feature Set and Flexibility
When you create an account with Zoho Sites, as a small bonus you get access to the rest of the Zoho Suite, directly through your Sites dashboard. Zoho Corp. has been developing business software since 1996, so it’s no accident that their website builder has a ton of handy features tailored for small businesses. These include custom CRM forms, dynamic content, multiple contributors and blogging engine. Other features include:
- Page versions. The system maintains the database of edited pages so you can get back to and republish your previous page versions anytime.
- Mobile view. Every website is automatically optimized for mobile viewing. You can edit your site’s mobile look via the HTML/CSS editor.
- Basic shopping cart.
- Password-protected pages.
- Pages without navigation (landing pages).
- WordPress and Blogger import.
- Custom 404 pages and more.
What I like most about some of the business features like their CRM forms, for example, is the extensive degree of customization. Other website builders often provide something more watered-down.
I think their library could be more diverse. The good news is that you can swap templates anytime without losing your content. For beginners, they offer a visual editor, and for advanced users there’s a built-in HTML/CSS editor.
Zoho Sites Templates
#4 Customer Support
There’s a well-structured knowledge base comprised of video tutorials and how-to articles. Below is a brief overview of the Editor:
In case you face an urgent problem, you can reach one of their experts via email directly through the control panel.
Zoho offers one of the best deals in the market: its basic version is absolutely free. Using your free account you can attach your own domain and remove Zoho Sites advert from the footer. No one will ever guess you’re using a completely free website builder. Other free features include: unlimited pages, galleries and slideshows; blog; themes; mobile site; comment box; highlight box and more.
But how do they make money? – you may wonder.
Zoho Sites platform comes as one of the products developed by Zoho Corporation. Their other products include, but are not limited to BugTrackers, Custom Apps Creators, LiveDesks, Invoices, Reports and Surveys. As I see it, this smorgasbord of software lets the company keep their site builder absolutely free. Besides, they also earn from business add-ons for Zoho Sites. These are eCommerce, password protection, multiple authors, PayPal integration and some others. For more details, visit the pricing page.
The theme library is a bit outdated. The eCommerce solution is very basic.
Zoho Sites is an absolutely risk-free website builder. Using its free version, you can create and publish an ad-free website, as well as connect your own domain name. In other words, you can get a simple website up and running for the price of your domain name. There are also paid business add-ons ($4-8/month).
In my opinion, Zoho Sites is an excellent place to try your skills, regardless of your webmaster level, as it offers both WYSIWYG and HTML/CSS editors.
Zoho Sites isn’t the best option for those who are looking to create a fully-featured web store or really complex website with custom functionality.
Zoho Sites user? Tell us your story in the comments!