It is with great delight that I choose Weebly for my second best free app. This is in a large part because if you are reading this on my personal blog (http://www.zoefcunningham.com/blog.html) it is being brought to you by Weebly!
(Similarly if you are subscribed to my blog, the you were delivered the last post about Mailchimp via Mailchimp!).
As a coder, I wrote and designed my first website myself, from scratch. Big mistake. I am a coder, not a designer. My website looked truly appalling and had that hint of "is this a hoax site? It's so badly designed" about it. It was so bad, I wish I had taken a screenshot of it to show you.
My second attempt involved using someone else's design but editing the HTML directly myself. This seemed like the perfect way to get maximum flexibility (WYSIWYG was a dirty word 10 years ago) with a sensible amount of effort. But was it a sensible amount of effort? Editing my website became a massive chore. I was using a simple file sharing site, and so to make an edit I had to download the HTML, make an edit, test locally, upload it and then fix the typos that inevitably occur. That's leaving aside the fact that "make an edit" involved typing out more characters in HTML tags than in text.
I have used a lot of Wordpress sites, and I find them too to be difficult and non-intuitive to use.
So I was absolutley delighted to discover Weebly.com, (found by typing into Google something similar to "website designer") which I now use for all of my websites (8, in total). Weebly solved all of my website problems.
- For each website I can select from a range of templates that are simple, clean and professional looking. Each site looks different and you would not guess that a site builder was behind them. I have even been complimented on the design!
- I can easily edit my site to add text, pictures and audio and video. Sometimes I cannot set the layout exactly as I would like, but I can always get something that looks reasonable.
- I can add custom HTML for when I want to add widgets from Mailchimp or Mixcloud.
- Whenever I try to find a way to do something I haven't done before (e.g. adding an extra author for a site), there is always a sensible way to achieve it.
In fact, despite starting with Weebly because it was free, I quickly upgraded to the professional version in order to use my own domain names (the biggest limiation of the free version is that you must use <your-site>.weebly.com). For me, that is the perfect example of how good these new free web applications are - you'd be prepared to pay for them if you had to.