In the first post in this series, I described how I set up two versions of a test photography site to compare self-hosted WordPress with WordPress.com.
In this article, I consider another alternative – Weebly. Weebly could be a good choice if you are looking for something simpler than WordPress and you don’t want to be responsible for backing up your website and keeping your theme and plugins up-to-date.
You may find the limitations of Weebly frustrating, but if your site is fairly basic then it could be all you need. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised and quite impressed. Weebly’s drag and drop editor is easy to use and there are options allowing you to personalise your site.
You can sign up for an account at Weebly and create one or more free websites. There’s a monthly fee for additional features such as having your own domain name, removing the Weebly footer link and having more pages. If this was a real site, rather than just an experiment, I would want to pay for at least a starter account (currently $3.29 per month).
The compromises here are different from those at WordPress.com. There you also have to pay for a custom domain name but a free account does not limit the number of pages you can have. On the other hand, a free WordPress.com account may show adverts to your visitors but this does not happen at Weebly, and you cannot remove the footer link to WordPress.com even if you pay to upgrade your account. None of these restrictions apply to self-hosted WordPress.
Adding a new site to your account is easy.
The Weebly site has a section with some easy to follow instructions and a video: Beginner’s Guide to Weebly.
There are over 100 themes available, but only the most recent 9 themes (as at the time of writing) are responsive – a mobile version of your site is created for the others.
Adding a Logo
Unlike WordPress, Weebly has a drag and drop editor and you build your page directly on the screen. Hovering over the site title (or logo if you have already uploaded one) causes some options to appear as shown below:
There appears to be just one main navigation menu. You can re-order pages and indent them to create drop down menu items. It does not seem to be possible to have menu items that have a different name from the page, as in WordPress.
Slideshows are elements that can be dragged onto a page. It’s straightforward to add images and there are some basic options for controlling the appearance of the slideshow.
The free version of Weebly allows you to have up to 10 pages. It’s easy to add a new page and elements can be dragged onto the page to build the layout. I was a bit disconcerted to see there is no “undo” feature.
There do not appear to be any sidebars or widget areas (apart from on the blog page), but sites for paid accounts can include a footer to which you can add elements.
One of the elements that can be dragged onto a page is a Contact Form. Clicking on a form brings up some special form related elements that you can add.
Gallery is yet another element that can be dragged on to the page. It seems that images have to be uploaded from your computer – I couldn’t see an option to use images that I had already used in the slideshow or blog posts (as I would with the WordPress media library).
Gallery images can automatically open up in a lightbox, they can have links and captions (with some options for how and when these display).
A blog can be added to the site by adding a new page with a type of Blog Page.
There are limited post options compared with WordPress; you can allocate categories but not tags and there are no featured images.
Links and a Search Box
The social icons element can be dragged on to pages or the blog sidebar. Ideally I would put it in the footer, but this is a paid feature so I can’t test it.
For the WordPress version of the site, I made a custom menu with links to my other websites, and added it as a widget into the footer. I don’t have this option with Weebly, but would be able to add some text links to the footer if I upgraded to a Pro account.
I am able to set pages to be External Links and add them to menus that way.
The search box element is available only for Pro accounts.
Changing fonts is straightforward – with drop down menus for the various different areas of the site. This is available even in the free version of Weebly. Colours of the fonts in some places (e.g. titles, paragraphs and links) can also be changed here.
Background and Colour Scheme
Even the free version of Weebly allows you to edit the CSS to make changes to the appearance of your site. When you save your changes, a new version of the theme is created.
To change the background I needed to upload a file to the Assets folder and then add some CSS code.
The Weebly version of the site is here: http://janebphotography.weebly.com/
Here are some links to other blog posts on this subject:
Weebly Review – Site Builder Report
WordPress vs Weebly – Which one is better? – WP Beginner
WordPress vs Weebly: Customization Meets Drag-and-Drop – Elegant Themes