It has been a year since I reviewed Puzl, a free website builder geared towards small businesses.
I noticed that the company has been making progress since then, and decided to update this review.
If you’re like me, then your first impression of a web service is based on the homepage. If it’s well-structured, modern and engaging, so is the system. When I landed at Puzl’s homepage I was really surprised to see that their signature origami birds have been replaced with overused stock images, that made me think they didn’t have a staff designer. The new homepage shows off a number of things, but in no particular order. I wish it was less cluttered.
#1 Ease of Use
Because Puzl is primarily intended for business owners, first you have to run through a wizard full of business-specific questions before you can actually start building your website. The wizard walks you through the following sections: General (business name, business type, establishment date etc.), Website details (site name, language etc.) and Contact details (business email, phone number, opening hours, address etc.).
Once you have finished the wizard, you will be redirected to the builder itself. As with most website builders, Puzl offers an easy-to-navigate interface allowing you to put up your site in a WYSIWYG environment. In general, it looks quite cohesive.
Despite its old interface, it allows you to easily rearrange your pages, edit your business information and make minor design changes. Puzl does support inline editing, but it makes it impossible to edit your website’s look in a more substantial way. So when you choose a template – that’s actually the look of your future website. You can upload your content and add some widgets, but you can’t change the layout in any meaningful way.
That’s because their editor is based on the so-called ‘box model’ where your content is being added to pre-determined containers. In the long run, it makes it easier to transfer your content from one template to another, because all Puzl templates have the same number of containers. Wix, for instance, works in a completely different way: it uses the ‘absolute positioning’ method. This method lets users position design elements and widgets with pixel accuracy – there are no pre-determined boxes. However, this approach makes it impossible to switch templates in the future.
The system itself is divided into two sections: the Control panel where you can set your site’s main settings and the Site Builder.
#2 Feature Set and Flexibility
Though Puzl is advertised as a feature-rich website builder for business sites, its feature set appears to be below average. Its ‘business wizard’ simply transports the data you specify during the checkout into the corresponding areas on the page.
Other business-specific features of Puzl include Products, Services and News (blog). Using Products you can add various goods and display them as products on your pages. However, there’s no shopping cart – your visitors have to contact you via email in order to purchase your goods.
Using Services you can create an online pricelist. The pricelist features the following properties: service name, service type, photos, top description, title, full description, price, taxes, region and some others.
The Publish news section lets you add blog posts and share all your site updates directly through the control panel. For instance, you can share the news about a new product. You may want to see the official blog of Puzl that is powered by the builder.
‘Optimized for mobile’. This is the biggest disappointment of Puzl. ‘Furthermore, website built on Puzl is also optimized and rendering a wonderful effect when visiting them from smartphones and tablets’, – their site says. Unfortunately, I failed to feel that wonderful effect. I checked my test website on my smartphone – it wasn’t optimized. I couldn’t navigate it.
They’re outdated. The choice is poor. Most templates have the same structure, and differ in tiny details only. Puzl templates are switchable – you can go back to the gallery and choose a new design (that will barely differ from your previous choice).
Puzl themes are responsive. The builder offers built-in mobile solutions. That’s not a big advantage today, likely it’s a ‘must have’.
#4 Customer Support
There’s a FAQ section, but its informative value is questionable. You can also contact the Puzl team over email. The good news is that the builder contains many explanatory popups so that you can learn the system as you build your website.
#5 Pricing Policy
You have to log in to see their pricing. Your free Puzl website remains free until you decide to attach a custom domain. To be able to do that you have to purchase a paid plan. These start at $6.50/month. By paying for 3 months in advance you get 5% off, 6 months – 10% off, and 12 months – 15% off.
Note: now Puzl offers 6 month of free using, so if you want to test your website, it’s the best time.
I don’t think that’s a good deal. You can get much more features wrapped in a more intuitive interface at a lower price. Take Weebly for example. With their Starter plan ($4/mo) you can publish an ad-free, responsive website, and even sell up to 5 products.
Old, cookie-cutter templates. The level of customization is very low. Bad news for those who want to get under the hood – Puzl doesn’t offer any advanced editors. They do have a widget to insert custom code, yet there’s no way to write your own CSS rules or openly edit the code of your site. Puzl sites aren’t optimized for mobile viewing. Too expensive for what it has to offer.
Five or seven years ago Puzl would be a nice place to start a site, but today, when the competition is so fierce, it’s simply left behind. It does require a major overhaul. The lack of functionality, customization issues, the overall look and feel will drive you towards a more feature-rich website builder. And what are your thoughts?