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SiteW boasts some cool features and a colorful interface, but underneath the surface, there are a few frustrating quirks that really detract from the overall site building experience.
SiteW Makes a Great First Impression. Does That Impression Hold Up?
When I started testing SiteW for this review, I thought I’d found the hidden gem of website builders – a powerful, unique tool that could easily compete with the top website builders out there. But I soon learned there’s a reason (a few reasons, actually) that SiteW didn’t make it onto our list of the best website builders for 2021.
You can certainly build a functional website on SiteW, but the great first impression becomes a bit tainted as you dig deeper into the platform’s functions and features. It’s not as easy to use or as attractive as some other website builders on the market. It has a few interesting and useful tools, but there are just as many frustrating quirks.
If you’re considering SiteW as a website builder, I think it can be a good choice – but only if you know what the quirks are and can determine whether they’re dealbreakers for you. In this review, I’ve outlined both the wonderful and the frustrating so you can make the best decision for your business.
These Templates Aren’t the Prettiest, But Can You Customize Them Into Good Design?
SiteW’s templates are pretty hit-or-miss. Some of the roughly 50 options look really well-designed, while others look awkward or outdated. There aren’t any sort or filter options to find templates designed for specific purposes or industries, so you’ll have to just scroll through the list to find one you like.
Even if none of the templates set your heart aflutter, you can choose the closest one and customize it pretty extensively. There’s a great selection of pre-designed color palettes, or you can create your own combination to match your branding or personal preferences. You can also select fonts from the Google Fonts library, but the catch here is that you can only choose one font to use throughout your site – there’s no option to set your headings and paragraphs as different styles.
You’ll get a lot of freedom when customizing your page layouts. SiteW has a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to place content and elements (e.g., buttons, images) anywhere on the page – rather than forcing the image to snap to a grid. However, it’s not easy to move whole sections or groups of design elements, so each time I moved them around, I spent extra time trying to get them perfectly aligned. This had me missing a grid layout, even though Wix seems to get by just fine without one. I’m not sure exactly how Wix does it, but the process is just better.
Can a Small Website Builder Provide Top-Notch Functionality?
When testing small or new-to-me website builders, I always anticipate some pretty big gaps in features and function – often, they lack certain basic features you would expect from a website builder, or they’re limited in some way. So I was really pleased to see a long list of blog and e-commerce features on SiteW’s website (plus more).
Unfortunately, many of these features didn’t work quite as smoothly as I’d hoped. They cover the basics to be sure, but there are a few missing conveniences (which I’ll discuss) that would really take SiteW to the next level as a website builder.
There are also some features notably missing. To begin with, there’s no built-in analytics system. You can connect Google Analytics for site tracking and some of that data will display on your SiteW dashboard, but there aren’t any native analytics features.
There’s also no app market where you can add third-party features to enhance your site. That’s one of the major benefits of using a well-known platform like Wix or WordPress.com – if the platform itself doesn’t provide something you need, you’ve still got plenty of options. With SiteW, what you see is currently what you get.
Blog Content Block
SiteW’s blog setup is a bit unusual. You add a blog content block to your page, just as you would add an image, text box, or other standard features. You can then resize the block or arrange it however you’d like. All that is standard, but here’s where it gets a little weird. You add new posts and manage your categories from within the block itself, rather than through a separate blog management interface.
This block also functions as your blog feed, which you can place on multiple pages, and you can tag each post with different categories so users can filter your content. There are a few different layout styles for your post, and you can enable commenting by allowing people to log in through their Facebook accounts.
On one hand, this is a really streamlined way to do it – all actions are performed within that single block. I also really like that, when you create a new post, it has three different text fields for your article summary, article text, and the SEO/meta-description.
On the other hand, I wish there were a more comprehensive way to view and manage all of your blog posts at once, whether for bulk editing or simply to get a bird’s eye view of all your existing content. Also, it’s difficult to keep track of drafts or categories, and customizing your blog posts’ URLs simply isn’t an option.
Where other website builders automate the creation of blog category pages or an index of posts, you have to do all this yourself on SiteW. It’s an indirect, time-consuming process. I think it really comes down to personal preference – for this type of task, I really want automation. But I totally see how someone could also appreciate the odd flexibility it provides.
The e-commerce features operate similarly to the blog: you’ll add an online store content block to your page. Then you’ll use that interface to add new products and manage inventory, pricing, and more. (You’ll also have to add a shopping cart block separately to allow users to check out – it’s not generated automatically.)
Unlike with blog entries, you can do bulk editing for products from a separate product management interface. However, you can’t add individual products from the bulk editing interface. You can only do that via the online store block.
A lot of the product management tools are pretty basic and look a little outdated. It takes a few minutes to figure out where everything is and how to most effectively manage multiple products. Ultimately, it’s not a very smooth or effective process, so these e-commerce tools are better suited for smaller online retailers rather than massive stores.
These drawbacks aside, there are a few really valuable e-commerce features. You can accept payments via PayPal, Stripe, and PayGreen commission-free, sell digital products, and set specific dates that your item will be restocked or become available for pre-order. I also appreciate that you can add the same product variants to multiple products simultaneously. But for me, these features just aren’t enough to overcome the clunkiness of the store setup and product management.
Built-In Email Marketing
SiteW’s email marketing tools are probably its best feature – there aren’t any quirks or anything unexpected. You can send email campaigns to a list of recipients and create automatic email messages based on visitor actions. Your paid plan determines your sending limits.
My favorite email marketing feature? SiteW automatically generates recipient lists based on common actions that visitors take. There are more than a dozen triggers that will generate a list, including newsletter signups, abandoned carts, and purchasing specific products or products from a certain category. There are more than a dozen lists in total.
The email creator itself is disappointing compared to the other really useful email features. It’s a basic text editor, so there aren’t any templates or drag-and-drop tools (although you can attach files and insert links). Otherwise, you can only write and click Send.
One minor inconvenience is that, as far as I could tell, you can only access the email marketing interface through the newsletter signup block within the editor. It’s difficult to find – there’s nothing intuitive about it – but this action takes you to a separate tab where you can create and send your messages.
One feature that is often missing from smaller website builders is customizable contact forms. Thankfully, SiteW’s form block is really flexible and provides plenty of options for gathering contact information from visitors.
The default form is a simple contact form asking for the user’s name, email, and a few other basics. The form editor lets you add and rearrange these input fields as much as you like, with options to do things like upload files, add multiple-choice questions, schedule an appointment, etc.
To make the process faster, there are a handful of form templates that allow you to create advanced contact forms, satisfaction surveys, and appointment booking forms. This feature is one of the smoothest experiences on SiteW, and I only wish that other features were this easy to use.
Like most things on SiteW, I started out really impressed with the amount of assistance the editor provided. But as I went deeper and tried to do more complex things, the process got harder. Overall, it was a clunky site building experience that felt more like an early 2000s computer program (on a bright orange Mac desktop in the school computer lab) than a professional website building tool.
That said, there are a few things that did make SiteW at least somewhat easy to use.
Pop-Up Tutorials for New Tasks
As you create your first website, you’ll be invited to take a two minute tour of the website builder interface to understand where everything is and how it works. It really does take just two minutes, with pop-ups pointing out the major tools and features you’ll need to use and providing a brief explanation of how they work. If you don’t like this kind of tutorial, you can also read the Getting StartedGuide.
More of these tutorials appear when you start a new task. The initial tutorial covers things like color and font customization and how content blocks work, but you’ll get secondary pop-ups for the blog, online store blocks, and few other features. It’s a great way to get up to speed quickly on a new tool.
The SiteW editor also displays all the possible features you can add to your site, even if your current subscription plan doesn’t include them. You’ll see a description of the feature and a note telling you which plan you need to purchase in order to use them. You can even try out features that are only available for higher-priced plans, that way you can see how they work and figure out whether it’s worth upgrading to use them. This is definitely a highlight of SiteW to be sure.
A lot of site builders claim to have drag-and-drop editors, but as I’ve learned through my extensive testing of website builders, you don’t usually have complete freedom. As I mentioned earlier, most will force each page element to a grid. SiteW doesn’t have this limitation, letting you place content blocks and design elements anywhere on the page.
This feature, however, is a double-edged sword: you get full creative freedom, but if you don’t have an eye for design, it’s easy to turn an attractive template into an awkward layout. It’s especially easy to go awry on SiteW since it’s difficult to group blocks and move them together. Also, many site builders let you access pre-designed layouts that are separate from the templates – pages with placeholders for text, images, and buttons so you can build your own pages following that structure. SiteW doesn’t have these.
Ultimately, I consider the flexibility of the editor to be a big asset: nothing is more frustrating to me than trying to place a block somewhere and being unable to do so because an invisible grid limits my design capability. Combine that freedom with some of the other available features and you’ll still be able to create a good-looking website.
Rulers and Gridlines
To make the drag-and-drop editor work best for you, SiteW includes some ruler and gridline tools to help you align site elements. You can toggle these on and off at the top of the editor, but I’d recommend turning on automatic alignment right away because it really makes a huge difference in how your design looks.
You can customize the placement of gridlines to help you design specific layouts or features. There are six different color options for these guides so you can see them regardless of your background colors.
Can SiteW Effectively Support an International Market?
Before we dive into my experience with SiteW customer support, I want to give a little context on SiteW’s origins. The founders of SiteW noticed a lack of French customer support on website builders like Wix, so they wanted to create an entirely French website building experience.
SiteW has since internationalized and expanded its language offerings, but it’s clear that French customers are the priority, and translation efforts may be insufficient for non-French speakers. (One time, I received an email about my subscription entirely in French.)
I mention this as context for the overall experience of using SiteW and trying to find assistance, although my actual experience with SiteW support was fairly smooth. You can only contact them via email, which I did twice – once to ask about free trial options and once to ask about customizing URLs for blog posts. I sent my questions over the weekend, and I received a response first thing Monday morning. The support team is prompt in their responses, but only during French business hours, it seems.
The support team answered my question well, which I am grateful for because the Help Center and support guides aren’t particularly useful. They are more like blog posts than technical tutorials for how to do something. On top of that, the search function simply doesn’t work, so you have to browse around to find what you might need.
There’s a Great Free Trial Option, But Is It Worth It to Pay?
SiteW’s free trial allows you to access all the features for 15 days so you can fully test everything it has to offer. You won’t be able to publish anything you build with advanced features until you buy the corresponding subscription plan. These higher tier features, which include the blog and online store content blocks, are clearly marked in the editor so you know what will be publishable when your trial ends.
This is a really practical way to test the website before making a financial commitment to a plan. If 15 days isn’t enough, you can simply start another website with a different account to keep testing.
The pricing plans themselves are pretty reasonably priced, although you definitely get the best value when purchasing a year or two at a time. Each plan tier adds quite a few more features to the one before it, such as more e-commerce features and the ability to send more marketing emails.
SiteW accepts payments via MasterCard, Visa, CB cards (France only), and PayPal.
Cancellations & Refunds
Cancelling your subscription is very simple and you don’t need to contact customer support. You’ll retain your website until the end of your billing period, at which point they will shut it down. SiteW has no refund policy on its site, and when I wrote to customer support to ask about it, I received no response.
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August 23, 2019
Feels like building a site in 1990s
It's clunky, incredibly restrictive, there's no space for images. Its exhausting trying to build a site on through. There's seems to be no ability to evenly disperse and lining things up doesn't even work properly. It's the best web design site if it was the 1990's but now its just the worst to use.
SiteW makes a strong first impression, but the deeper you go the more that great impression fades. It’s not that you can’t create a functional and decently designed website with SiteW – you certainly can – but it’s harder to use than you might imagine and it lacks some key features.
In general, I’d recommend SiteW as a website builder for smaller sites – limited online stores, event sites, or small businesses. It won’t work well for a robust blog or a large retailer, which is why it didn’t make our list of the top website builders in 2021. And, it’s far more suited to a French-speaking customer base than to an English-speaking one.
There are a lot of quirks to this website builder, and since there’s a generous free trial, there’s plenty of opportunity to test it for yourself and see whether those quirks are a big deal to you.
Sophia is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. She specializes in digital marketing and B2B content for small businesses and entrepreneurs. When not writing or editing, she can be found searching used bookstores and watching the penguins at the San Diego Zoo.