SITE123 is a fast-growing, independently-owned, website builder based in Israel focused exclusively on DIYers. They claim to be “the most intuitive and easy to use website builder on the market”.
Recently, I gave SITE123 a try for a small project after receiving a few reader questions. But before I get into the pros and cons of my SITE123 review, let’s consider a bit of background on building a website in general.
There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
|Services||Website Builder & eCommerce Platform|
|Best For||Small and quick website design|
|Strengths||Easy-to-use onboarding & design options|
|Weaknesses||Limited options & lack of customer support|
|Promotion||Start Now It's Free|
What Is SITE123?
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, SITE123 lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. I wrote a post on Website Builders, Explained for more background.
Using SITE123 is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control with all software, but especially with website builders.
Everything may fit together just right with a site builder like SITE123, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.
As far as competition, SITE123 competes with all-inclusive hosted website builders like:
Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed and ease by providing done-for-you templates and designs so you can focus solely on content.
Instead of operating like a traditional drag-and-drop website builder, SITE123 has you pick your niche and then customize a curated template based on that niche, which appeals to beginners who have no design or development experience (think DIY-ers who need to create a website ASAP without having any website experience).
|Free Domain Name||1 year|
Pros of Using SITE123
Here’s what I found to be the pros of using SITE123 — not just in comparison to other website builders, but as an overall website solution.
Straightforward Signup Process
One of SITE123’s best features is how quickly you can get up and running. Signing up for the platform is a simple, three-step process (hence the name SITE123), and it’s straightforward, easy to understand, and efficient.
Plus, SITE123 builds in education through a simple, step-by-step tutorial that walks you through how to customize your assigned theme and add content to your website, which is an excellent feature for users who haven’t customized / built a website before.
SITE123 is also seriously simple to use. As I mentioned before, SITE123 provides you with a template based on your selected industry and type of business/website within that industry.
While the website builder is not drag-and-drop, you can choose from a menu of page elements to change the design within your selected theme.
The whole setup is like painting by numbers.
There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options.
The site layout is mobile-friendly and maintains an acceptable look/design no matter what you do to the design options.
Another benefit of SITE123 is its extensive list of product integrations. Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, SITE123 also offers several plugins (software that you can “plugin” to your website to get additional functionality). From advertising software to analytics tools to marketing + support, their library is extensive.
SITE123 also offers eCommerce functionality. One thing to note here though — to use the integrations, you have to have a paid plan.
And to get eCommerce functionality, you have to choose between the two higher-priced tiers. We’ll talk more about pricing in a moment, but just know that you could get the same (or better) functionality for less elsewhere.
Cons of SITE123
But of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Here are the cons I found with using SITE123
SITE123’s paid plans start at $12.80/month, which includes a free domain for a year / the ability to connect your custom domain, 10 GB of storage, 5 GB of bandwidth, and the ability to send 100 email messages (side note – who counts email messages?) to your mailing list per month. It also removes the SITE123 branding that comes with the free plan.
But compared to their direct competitors like Wix and Weebly (and even Squarespace), SITE123 is a bit more expensive and offers much less on a feature-to-feature basis. At each stage, SITE123 doesn’t even allow unlimited bandwidth or storage. The one part they have going is a bundled online store, which a worthwhile feature for a small store.
If you’re using a SITE123 premium plan for more than a few months, it’s going to be more expensive than going with a competitor (and more restricting due to the design and technical limitations – more on that shortly).
Limited Feature Set – Design
With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control.
And you can really see this trade-off with the website creation with a site builder. The convenience of their website editor is great. It’s straightforward, fast, and not confusing. It puts your focus solely on getting your content onto the premade template by generating a curated SITE123 template for you.
But here’s the thing — if you don’t like the template you’re given, changing it up is a pain. If you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you have very limited customization options with SITE123.
For your theme, you can edit the color, the font, and the general ‘feel’/structure of the design.
With pages, you can choose certain layouts from pre-made choices.
But you cannot change the layout. You cannot drag and drop. And you certainly cannot edit the HTML and CSS, much less add any other design element.
It’s even difficult and near impossible to edit the menu without changing other design elements on the website.
The best way to describe it is a ‘paint-by-numbers’ set up. It’s great to have the basics, but if you want to do anything extra or outside of bounds, then you’re out of luck.
If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a SITE123 website builder.
Limited Feature Set – Technical
The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations. Technical limitations are features and functionality that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.
These are things like social media integration with Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet. Now as I mentioned above, SITE123 does offer additional features through plugins and app market, but due to the control you give up with the website, you’re fairly limited in how much you can integrate, add on, or even edit within the tools provided.
For example, let’s look at simply editing SEO elements on a page. With the STE123, I can add in a meta description and site slogan, but that’s about all I can do aside from adding header tags inside the content editor. Even basic SEO needs more than that.
Think of it like the difference between cooking in your own kitchen and building your own burrito at a fast-food restaurant.
With SITE123, you can certainly choose the ingredients that go into your burrito, but your choice is really an illusion because you’re limited to the ingredients that are offered by the restaurant. Like the design, that can be a good thing if you need something simple, and will always need something simple. But if you ever need to upgrade or do something unique or custom, it can be very limiting.
Culture & Lock-in
After looking at a lot of companies across domains, hosting, VPNs, website builders, ecommerce, and more – I’ve noticed that company culture, structure, and policies can speak more about a customer’s long-term experience than a feature matrix.
A website builder is inherently a global business. Every Internet company has remote employees and worldwide data centers. But I’m never a fan of companies not sharing their story or what they are all about. SITE123 is incredibly vague about their story, their policies, and your relationship with them as a customer.
For example – here’s their about page.
It’s a sales page. Here’s a couple answers to FAQs –
Now – I get that they are a free, hosted website builder. Most website builders have trouble with website export. But their messaging is quite stark with no offer of help scraping or downloading even image files and text.
And the cancellation policy is very odd because it conflicts directly with the purported difficulty of providing a website download. A hosted website builder service should be able to be canceled at a click of a button. There should be no manual reviews of forms.
But it extends to their customer support. It’s really vague and pushing customers to DIY.
They have a live chat option, but it’s very sales focused after pushing customers to a knowledgebase answer. It’s a couple layers to actually reach their support team.
Again – this point isn’t meant to raise a potential non-issue for no reason. SITE123 might provide a fantastic long-term experience. However, difficult cancellation policies and vague about pages tend to correlate with less than ideal long-term experiences.
SITE123 certainly makes creating an online presence easy, especially if you need something that’s done-for-you and requires little coding knowledge. They have a straightforward user experience and easy-to-use editor that makes getting your content out there a breeze.
However, there are trade-offs to consider with an all-inclusive website builder — specifically functionality, customization, and control. And this is where SITE123 falls short when compared to other all-inclusive website builders. If you’re looking to create a website with a base template but still have some flexibility over design and functionality, SITE123 may not be the best option for you.
Not sure SITE123 fits your needs?