As the name advocates, website builders are used in making a website from scratch, with or without the knowledge of coding languages like CSS, HTML, etc.
Not a day goes in our modern life where we do not use the internet to surf various webpages. Developers make these webpages by a programming language or by using a site builder application.
The best way to start your own site is by making a website using a website builder. Nowadays, with these builders, even novice users can make a fantastic site.
Webnode is one such website builder application that can quench your inner geek and aid you to create a site. From Gartenstrasse, Switzerland, this site builder has a fundamental look and offers very few exclusive features.
- Generous Free Plan: Webnode comes with lifetime free plan for non-premium users.
- Novice-friendly UI: The UI is really unsophisticated for a novice as well as pro users.
- Good responsive speed: The editor’s preview quickly displays the Changes done to the site.
- Inexpensive Pricing: The subscriptions included most of the features with the premium plan but required additional costs for certain E-commerce plans.
- Less learning curve: The site is too elementary, and one can learn all features in one or two days.
- Default HTTPS support: The website domain gives HTTPS tag even for free users on their site domain.
- Scope of development: Since the product is under restoration phase, there is a lot of scope for improvement, and so we can expect new features in upcoming updates.
- Decent Blogging platform: The blogging template is good for novice users and part-time
- Meager Widgets: The number of widgets are very small and are not fully customizable.
- Outdated UI: Some part of the website builder still uses an obsolete version of the UI.
- Lack of adequate customization: changing colors, fonts, size, background, etc. for any element widget is very scarce and, in some cases, not engaged properly.
- Smaller amount of templates: Templates in the builder are scarce and have less uniqueness.
- No Responsive site: One of the most critical feature viz. Mobile Editing is missing.
- Low bandwidth and Server Space: Free and Standard subscriptions users get low bandwidth and server space.
- Inadequate plugins and integration: Webnode still has an insufficient number of integrations and plugins.
- Lack of proper Analytics tools: They have no other performance and traffic analytics app except a mediocre store analytics panel.
- Paid Language Plan: The change in the language of the builder is premium, which is quite stingy for non-English folks.
- No E-commerce App Markets: Certain app markets like that of Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, etc. are absent.
- Bad SEO support: SEO features are outdated and suggest no improvement.
- No backup for free users: Backup and restore is only accessible for premium users.
- No proper tutorials and help section: Help-section and Tutorials are outdated and need an update and more thorough content.
What are website builders?
Not being skeptic about the product because it seems lackluster, we would like to check all the features of this site builder and then conclude if it is a decent product or not.
They have offered a generous freemium builder that can offer a decent amount of features to make a small business, portfolio, blog or any website.
Let us evaluate the site builder
As said earlier, the initial impression of the site builder does not give any out of the box vibe as we created an account on the website.
Once the sign up was finished, we got redirected to selecting the templates for the site. We planned to test an e-store site which is very common in site builders. We picked one such template and proceeded to edit it as per our needs. See below!
The features that came with the site editor were not so great. The site template had very basic editing options. The web page elements did not offer much customization.
There is no separate listing or grouping of the features. Users need to goof around a bit to learn them.
It was effortless to build a pick and place type site here. Users just need to replace the fonts, colors, and images and can make the webpage.
To check all the things this builder can perform, we made a website for an online game shop and tried to dig around all the perks that were provided in this builder. Let us now explore all these features one by one below.
Let’s start with Templates
For novice users, Templates are like the base of any website. These templates are the ones that decide the positioning of the site widgets, the look of the site, the type of site we are making, etc.
As we said earlier, we needed an E-commerce template for our site. There were many templates on the site, but they did a decent job in grouping them together under multiple categories. You could see some templates for e-commerce store like Shoe stores, Clothing, etc.
When compared to other popular site builders like Duda, Site123, Wix, the template database was minuscule. There were only six to seven groups for templates and had low stock of templates in each of them.
We used the kids’ product listing template and started editing the site. Most of the elements were fixed. You could only change the color and fonts in some elements.
The users can choose to preview the selected templates before working on it. You can also change the design template later on, but that will reset all your work.
Overall, the templates were not only scarce in quantity; they were also of ordinary quality. Since this is still a recent product in the market; we hope that they increase the database for their templates.
Its almost impossible for a site builder to not have a dedicated editor. This editor lets you do all the function which you can do to change the look of your site or adding some elements to it.
Site Editor and UI
The site editor in Webnode is pretty basic. Most of the elements, headers, footers, body section, image fields are fixed at their designed location. You will see an” addition” icon in a bubble. This is used to add any widget to the page.
To change the local content in the elements, you need to click on that part, and some options will be displayed over the top of that element. Select the thing that you want to change like formatting option as bold, italics, font colors, etc.
When you to click on the image of the products, you will see the option to edit the products. There is also a move/copy button and also a delete button to further change the elements.
The site background can be changed by the transparent settings icon over the top right of that page section.
As you will notice, the entire site building process is too simple, and a novice user can make a good website on their first attempt.
Finally, let us head on to the main dashboard which can be accessed via My projects button after logging into your account. This will display primary options like edit the site, site name/domain, and subscription status.
Some of the features that can be accessed from here are form management and registered member information. Both these forms will collect the data inputted by the customers and inform the owners via an email notification. The owners can then modify or delete this info from here.
The owners can see the order info and customer details from this panel itself. The order details will list details like products purchased, payment methods and amount, customer contact info, delivery status, and order ID.
The Customer Info will display the details of all the people that have ordered the products. You can click on individual names to find full details of the product. The owners can also export these data to their system via the export button.
Let us now see the various widgets that this builder can offer!
Coming to the discussion of widgets, let us first know what these widgets are exactly for. For any webpage, there are certain items that you need to add, either using the coding or via drag and drop widget. These widgets are nothing but elements of a website like an image slider, video field, contact forms, review section, social media plugins, cart, etc.
Webnode comes with some preset of widgets. These widgets do not have a separate menu on the page to directly drag and drop them from there. To access them, click the + icon over the beginning or the end of a page element where you want to place the widgets.
The site will display a different widget list for distinct places. When you click the + icon below a product gallery, that will show some options to add a basic text field, images, videos, product list, maps, buttons, contact form, HTML and file attachment.
The place where the line breaks occur will list out some of these options. Once again, you can add some basic texts, image gallery, two/three column text/images, services, price list, and order form. Some part of these line breaks will display additional widgets like portfolio, newsletter, testimonials, and table reservation.
As we can conclude from above, there is not much customization to be done in these widgets. You can only edit the main stuff like fonts, colors, links, etc. The shape and size of them are fixed, along with the alignment and format they are given into.
All these widgets are very common for all site builders, and Webnode still needs to increase the number of widgets they can add. Sites like uKit, Duda, Wix, etc. provide over 50 widgets, and all of them are correctly grouped and can be customized easily.
Not having a separate drag and drop editor is quite a headache for most users. The need to search for some widget or page element can be such a drag and will give frustration. This is the first field Webnode should be working on to increase the number of widgets, group them under several categories and provide a separate menu for them in the form of drag and drop editor.
Let us check out the Shop
The main goal that we sought after was to build an E-store website. To access the store features, you will need a premium plan. However, the free trial lets us add the product list and all the related stuff, except you will not be able to initiate the selling of your product.
The E-store can be added to the website either using the template for the same or to utilize the add widget function and click the Add Products. Adding the list of products is just the first step. You must now start adding the product images, details like prize, taxes, etc.
To do this, just click on any individual product and then you can easily edit the above details. To access the main store settings, click the Settings Tab on the topmost menu bar of the editor. Go to the Online Store Tab from there.
The store settings will allow you to add the tax rates, shipping methods, contact info, and payment methods. The Products Feed will allow you to connect via Google Ads, Facebook Pixel, and edit the Complete Order page.
The Products Tab on the topmost menu bar can list out all the products. You can categorize the products in distinct groups like new, popular, sold out, and on sale. There is again an import button here that can collect data from a CSV file and update a product.
Overall, the E-store option is mediocre when compared to other top products like Duda, Wix, WordPress, etc. that have tonnes of customization available in the e-store. All these top builders have made an aesthetic and a user-friendly AI to manage the sales and customers. E-commerce plugins like EcWid can be integrated by Webnode to put better store management; their neighboring country product uKit has done that.
The product widget must have more customizations like changing the fonts, palette colors, product background, etc. Even though you can make a simple store using this builder, more features and provision can be included in future updates and improve the usability of the store feature.
Strictly speaking, this will not be part of features, but since Webnode has not categorized some of the things separately, they have clustered some features here.
Here, you will see some general settings like changing the domain, backup and recovery, and language settings.
The option Email Accounts is a premium only feature and can create a separate email platform for your website. This Webnode Email service works like any universal Email service in the market. You can access the Email dashboard via the above option.
You can also add a number of accounts and switch between them as you like. You can edit the individual identity from this section itself. You can add signatures and authentication from here. Another thing you can tweak is the theme of your mailbox.
You can also set Email forwarding from here and can link the Email account to Outlook, Google, iPhone, android and windows devices. If you want to backup all data of your mail, you can do so by the using the export button and similarly import other.CSV mail data into your mail system.
Another feature similar to other site managers integrated into Webnode is Website Administrators. This function is used to assimilate multiple user profile and give them specified access to the website editor.
There are only two ways to choose the user role viz. Admin, who can access all the website data; and other is Editor, who can only access the editor but cannot change other account and payment related portals. Other than this, the builder lacks other vital options like having more access roles, the activity checkboxes, detailed report of any access by any editors, a grouping of the various users like editor, blogger, cart managers, etc., and this hints to further improvement needed in this section.
Membership Settings has a similar function. This is used to generate the login ID and Password via a registration form for the customers of the website. All the data generated via these forms are also sent to the mail of the owners. The owners can manually edit/delete these users via the main panel.
Other settings include Search engine indexing, which can prevent search engine crawlers from infiltrating the site. These crawlers collect most site data and return to the search engine. This data is used to determine the SEO of the websites based on different criteria. However, you can turn it off and choose to do manual SEO for your site.
You can also edit the Favicon of your site, display the Cookie consent bar, change the website header and footer details.
Make your own website or Blog
Aren’t we all crazy about posting our story across various social media platforms and many of us end up making our own websites and blogs? Many people interested in politics start their own political blogs with daily feeds.
The blog feature in Webnode is full novice friendly and does not require any prior blogging knowledge. The blog feature is available only during the template selection screen. Users need to go to the blog tab in template listings and select the blog theme they want to work on.
Once you have chosen the theme to work on, you will be redirected to the blog editor. This editor is similar to the site editor we discussed before and contains the most basic tools to make a blog.
To add or edit the blog, users can click on the current post and change the content or images as per their widgets, or make new posts using the edit button on top of the blog element.
There are some general blog settings like putting a publish timer for the blog post. The blog publish timings can be changed for each individual blog. You can also restrict malicious users and allow only family or friend to access to your blog via the Restrict access to this blog button. The SEO settings for the blog are meager and are probably not much relevant SEO items are equipped in it.
The blog tabs also provide the about us and contact me pages for the builders. Just like the main site editor, a blog can also be customized by the options over the top in there. Some widgets are also armed in this blog feature.
Overall, there are many better blogs features in Site123, Wix, etc. for every user. You can use the trial version of this software for blogging since they have more functionalities than Webnode Blog.
SEO and Site Analytics
The site is armed with a modest set of tools to improve the site rankings. Even though the interface to make an elementary site is very simple, the tools to analyze the site are limited. The SEO tools are available in the Page Settings button on the top menu bar.
The SEO settings here offer outdated options like Page Title, Meta Tags, and Meta keywords. You can also omit a page from being displayed by the search engine via the unfollow search engines button. Although it does offer the custom HTML header and footer code, but still lacks many SEO functions.
Site analytics can only be done via Google analytics. Sadly, this is also a premium only plan. Once you have inputted the google analytics ID, the updated Google dashboard will display the site information and analytics.
Another good analytics step they have integrated into their site is their own Store Statistics. This feature is strictly related to product sales and its data. This will display the owners with the Revenue, total orders, products sold, and average order value. You can also see the referral sources, direct traffic, and other related stuff.
Overall, both SEO and Site Analytics are mediocre when compared to top end products like WordPress, Wix, Duda, etc. Also, both of them are quite outdated and so needs a significant update to improve their functionality and ease the user base.
Have you ever experienced that the website you are visiting is very slow and takes ages to load? Or have you ever encountered a site that leaks your form data after being hacked?
All this trouble happen if the basic steps to fortify the security of the website are not taken. Also, optimization of the site and its performance is a must-have task if you do not want the site visitor to abandon your site.
When it comes to reinforcing the security of the website, it is advised that the owners of the site have some basic programing language knowledge. This can make sure they themselves can verify the site codes and vulnerabilities and avoid third party dependence.
One of the major steps in security breaches starts with the attackers looking for vulnerabilities in the headers of the site. After that, they target the forms via SQL injections and try to get admin access by searching for those queries.
When we carried out the basic testing for Webnode website that we built using the Netsparker’s Tool on the security headers website, we got an overall score of D. the headers for content security, XSS protection, referral policy, and feature policy had vulnerabilities. Attacks like Mime-sniff, cross-scripting, clickjacking can be prevented when the above header vulnerabilities are patched.
Good part from the site builder is that they provide an HTTPS tag by default on their personal domain Webnode.com. There is not much info regarding the CDN used by them. One of the policies regarding XSS protection seemed to be patched, and one can now defend their site against clickjacking attacks.
Does your site load fast?
Now comes the part where we can check the details about the loading speed of the site. Usually, the loading speed of a website refers to the average time the home page of that site takes to load entirely on the viewer's machine.
Generally speaking, the average data shows that the loading time preferred by most viewers is around 4-5 seconds on a normal mobile connection. With a high bandwidth connection, this is expected to 3 seconds. That too in the fast-paced modern world, people can get triggered if the site gets too long to load.
We went ahead and tested the site that we made using the GTmetrix. The site scored a lousy result of F in the test. However, it was part intentional from our side by uploading big sized images on the site. Another thing that the GTmetrix results recommended was the lack of usage of browser caching.
Browser caching allows the site to store some parts of a website like its logo, certain scripts, product images, or any other component that does not require frequent changes, into the viewer's browser. This allows the browser to download only the non-cached content and save data and increase the loading speed of the site. However, browser caching could only be enabled via the custom CSS/HTML coding function in the premium subscription.
Lastly, it was recommended to serve scaled images. Scaling images can help reduce image size and eventually reduce the loading time. As we have discussed earlier, the lack of a CDN also affects the site’s loading speed. CDN allows the site viewers to access the site via their closet servers and thereby reducing the page speed. Cookie-free Domains was also suggested.
All the above data from the scan helped us analyze the ways to increase the site speed. Some of the above things can be rectified by the users themselves. Other issues are due to inherent coding issues with the builder.
Overall, the site builder needs to provide an internal tool to scan the security and speed of the website. These tools need not to be too much detailed but must be able to give some underlying support to improve the protection of the website as well as advise to reduce the loading speed and page size.
After the GoMo initiative by Google, most site builders now focus on making a responsive site editor. What exactly was this GoMo initiative?
Since the advent of mobile and tablet devices, the sites that were visible on the desktop browser could no longer fit on these devices. This started giving a headache to the mobile device user base. The website owners initially did not bother much to aid the viewer experience. To stop this apathy towards mobile users, Google started giving low rankings to the sites that were not made as responsive sites.
This made the site owners to use responsive editors and build a website that is compatible and available on both desktop and mobile devices. To aid the novice users who cannot edit the responsive versions of a site, site builders now have accommodated responsive editors in their product.
Webnode had such a responsive editor. The sad part is that this editor is not available on the desktop version anymore. They have mentioned in their knowledge base about it, but we did not find any such editor on their site. They claim that the website automatically adjusts on mobile devices, but this does not justify the lack of a devoted mobile editor.
We cannot comment on whether the developers are lazy to add this feature, or they are trying to renovate that functionality and offer us a good mobile editor. But the need to add this feature is significant. Many site builders like Wix, WordPress, Duda have an fantastic mobile editor.
You can edit, remove, or hide some elements from the desktop version of the website, and do some good mobile editing. If they are serious about the product, then there is no reason Webnode cannot add it.
Integrations and Plugins
Plugins and integration are now becoming an important part of the website builder nowadays. This is due to the fact that most website builders do not want to make their site editor bulkier and requires more loading time.
Most of them integrate some external features like a separate E-commerce provider, online reservation, hotel bookings, etc. However, the more the external plugins and integration the editor directs to, the more price it will incur than having them into the builder itself. This can affect the pricing structure and be a little costly. Some site builders charge extra for each integration they add to your package and eventually get more profit.
Webnode includes some of the simplistic integrations like Google Maps, Vimeo, YouTube, etc.
For online bookings, they have included Reservio. This button can be added to your webpage after you register the business. It can accept the reservations 24/7 and displays a detailed report of the business provider.
For live chat, Smartsupp is used. This can be integrated by the live chat widget from the editor. It can notify the owners whenever a chat request is sent.
Survio is the tool that can let you add, modify, delete and track the surveys on your site. You can create some questionnaires, checkbox or radio button surveys, etc. using the editor. The responses collected can be seen from the Survio application. Other minor plugins like Facebook widget, share button, comments can be added too.
The payment integration currently is limited to PayPal, PagSeguro, cash on delivery, and wire transfer. Both PayPal and PagSeguro can be set up from the payment settings. They can try to add more payment options like Stripe, Payeezy, Sage Exchange, PayUbiz, etc. like other site builders.
Other miscellaneous integrations are Google Ads, Facebook Pixels, Google Analytics, etc.
As you can see, Webnode clearly lacks many useful plugins and integrations in its baggage. Since they are in renovation mode, we are hoping that they add more plugins, useful e-store integrations like SiteWit, EcWid, separate analytics panel and more payment gateways in future updates.
Webnode has two different versions running in their site builder. The current one is latest and accessible by most users. The outdated version includes the E-store section of the site.
As we have discussed before, the version of the site currently is still under overhaul, and so you will not see many features in the site builder.
The site editor had an old school vibe. The customization provided are meager and do not offer any out of the box functionality. Most of the top products like Wix, Duda, Site123, etc. provide many ways to change the appearance of the widgets and other formatting on the page. Webnode developers can take some inspiration from them and implement a highly personalized editor.
The fonts and image editing options were ordinary. The stock of widgets needs to be increased tenfold judging from the current version. Also, the ability to make them more personalized like changing their size, colors, fonts, borders can be added too.
As we have seen before, the widgets need a separate section for them in the editor. Clicking on every page break in the editor and looking for the desired widget is quite bothersome from a user interface point of view.
The E-store section is outdated, and if you are looking for a dedicated E-commerce site, we would suggest them to look for better products than this. The store may also be getting an overhaul as we talk, and we hope they improve it and give us an impressive E-commerce functionality with a new update.
SEO and analytics were not so good and lacked many things. The store analytics was ordinary and needed better visual and detailed data. The google analytics was also a premium only feature and was not viable for testing on trial accounts.
In this phase of smartphones, not having a responsive site builder can be quite frustrating. Webnode had this mobile editor version in the previous update, but it is not available in the current version. They need to add the responsive editor as soon as possible.
Security features still got better scores than other sites, and the HTTPS tag on their default domain is definitely a plus. They could add a website analyzer that can add suggestions to reduce the page size and improve the usability of the page space.
When we searched for external integrations and plugins, Webnode disappointed here us a bit. Many essential features were missing in the builder which could have been added to it via some external integrations. Since the site builder is getting a revamp, we hope that the developer pays attention to the missing features and either make them inbuilt in the editor or use some plugins.
It's quite difficult to come to a full deduction here since the site builder is going through a complete rework. Webnode is slowly adding the missing features, and some of the features like online store are in an outdated version (which we don't recommend buying).
If you are making a simple website or a blog, you can try Webnode and its functionalities. However, if you are serious for a business website like an E-store or something similar, we would recommend other products like Wix, site123, Duda, WordPress, etc. The site currently does not offer a good return for the e-commerce subscription.
Concluding this review, we would want developers to work on the site builder with their hearts and keeping in mind the customer requirements. Let us hope in the future that we will have to rewrite this review and explain the impressive features that it will pack.