Thursday, February 20, 2014
Why I Broke Up With Weebly on Valentine's Day
Before I begin, let me preface this by saying I had been using Google Sites for a few years before attempting Weebly. My decision to give Weebly a try is because it was so well-reviewed, and some of my colleagues were requesting help in designing a Weebly site. I had never used Weebly before and so decided to make a site in the hopes of teaching myself how to use this new web creation tool. Following are my observations.
No Footer Control
For those who don't know, a footer in web design is exactly the same as it is in word processing. The footer is a piece of text or images that always show up at the bottom of every page. In Weebly, unless you upgrade to a pro membership, you have no ability to customize your footer. This may be a minor point to most, but to a lover of design like me, that grated my creative sensibilities.
Editing is More Complicated
In a Google Site, if I want to edit a page, I just click on the pencil icon at the top of the screen. As long as I'm logged in to the Google account that created the site - or that person shared that ability with me - I can edit the site. With Weebly, it is necessary to first visit www.weebly.com and log in. Being on your Weebly-made website isn't enough. You need to enter via the "back-end" to make changes to your site. While this hearkens back to more traditional web design where you needed to visit an FTP client, or your content management system of choice (like Dreamweaver), I think that Google has come up with a much more efficient system. I love that, with Google Sites, if I see an error, it will be corrected in a click, without having to leave that tab or window.
While web design is often a solitary endeavor, it is sometimes a team effort. The Weebly site I created was for our school newspaper, The Lawrencian. Click here if you'd like to see that old Weebly version. However, my editor-in-chief would often email me with changes she'd like to make that I couldn't always get to right away. If she had been able to access the site herself, the changes could have been made immediately. I wasn't comfortable giving her my Weebly login and password, so we were just stuck with an awkward system where she would make requests and then have to wait for me to make the changes. With Google Sites, that is no longer a problem. The new google site is shared with her, so she can make necessary updates whenever she likes. Click here if you'd like to see the new Google Site version.
Harder to Access HTML Editing
I've designed websites professionally and so I do know how to code sites from scratch. I haven't done so in a while because, with the new WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces, there's no need. Why kill yourself staring at hundreds of lines of code, when you can use easy point-and-click website builders for free? However, my knowledge of code has allowed me some extra trouble-shooting powers when my sites haven't done what I was hoping they would do. It also means that I know how to do things that Weebly won't necessarily allow. A quick example is anchor links. Anchor links are an "old school" web design trick that allows you to click on text which then allows the user to jump down to a lower section on the page. It's great for organizing a lot of information without having to necessarily create additional pages. Click here for an example of anchor links in a Google Site. I <3 anchor links, even though they're probably a little old fashioned these days. While anchor links are technically possible in Weebly, you cannot directly insert them in to already-existing content. You need to know, in advance, that you will be using anchor links, and then do so in their HTML box. In Google Sites, if I want to insert anchor links I can do so at any time by directly accessing the HTML of any part of any page, and going directly to the code. You absolutely DO NOT need to know how to use HTML when designing a site these days, but if you do, Google Sites gives you that little extra bit of control and creativity.
So, in short, if you're new to web design and want a really pretty site with little learning curve, go with Weebly. If you want something with more functionality and growth potential, but has a slightly steeper learning curve, go with Google Sites. I'm relatively comfortable using both tools, so if you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask. In the end, it's all about picking the best tool FOR YOU!