Free Website Builders

Remember the days of Geocities and Angelfire? Maybe, you don’t. But I have nostalgic memories of using Geocities to create a website to share with friends. That was a looong time ago. So, when I got a chance to review a new free website builder called Ucoz, I took the opportunity to assess the current market.

Kids today are all about Facebook and their “walls”. Compared to the days of Geocities – when we actually had to learn a few html codes -the social networking scene today is much more dumbed down. Socializing on the net used to educational! [/rant] Due to Facebook’s popularity, I thought all the website builders disappeared. I was wrong.

Whereas Geocities and Angelfire back in the day targeted youths, the website builders today target small businesses, realtors, and bloggers. The target market obviously had to change given the explosion of the social networking sites.

Ucoz.com

UcozI spent a few hours signing up and looking around Ucoz.com. At first, it was very confusing. It took a while to figure out what’s what. And after a few hours? I’m still confused. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I know a thing or two about website making, and I was lost.

I understood what each page did once I got there, but the main problem was the control panel interface. It is not intuitive at all. Ucoz is based on different modules that you can install and uninstall. It’s got everything in there from blogging system to forum to photo album. As a user, you just need to take a long time to familiarize yourself with the UI. It feels like a powerful system, but things are all over the place.

I don’t recommend it to novice web masters. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to incorporate various contents into your site. For example, you can easily add in a Twitter feed or Youtube or Picasa photos. Shopping mall and Google map integrations are also possible.

Overall, Ucoz is a powerful free website builder that needs to be streamlined.

Other Services

It seems Angelfire is still alive at angelfire.com. It had the same core business continuing for all these years.  Check it out if you’re interested. There are other ones, too. I hadn’t heard about these, but a brief glance through their sites indicates there are some good free services to be had. Wix.com, for example, looks like a good place to build yourself a flash website. Also try weebly.com, webs.com, jimdo.com if you’re looking to make a website for your small business or just a personal website.

How do these companies make money? Some have paid add-ons (ex. PHP) and others have tiered service plans that allow you to use more bandwith/storage etc.

If you’re looking for an e-commerce solution, have a look at my comparison table.

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One Comment

  1. StygianAgenda says:

    [fyi]
    I can’t recommend ucoz.com to anyone. Maybe they aren’t directly responsible, but we’ve seen a huge surge in scam/spam/exploit mail that links back to ucoz.com sites and subdomains. This leads me to believe that either one or more of their SQL servers has been compromised. Now, if privacy is of no importance to you, or you don’t mind your sites running on infected web servers that will likely infect 97 out of every 100 visitors to your site, then by all means, host with ucoz. Personally, I’ll continue to host my own sites on my own servers, and integrate with APIs from Facebook & Google to broaden the content and userbase.

    Simple HTML is all but dead. While there are a ton of sites that still use that sort of structure, most of those have been abandoned (no longer actively developed) because like you said, this new gen of users tend to like their “twitbook” (my own term there, since it doesn’t take anything more than an IQ of 85 to use those sites). However, while I’m not too keen on the uniformity of FB, I do like their APIs, and the ability to tie your own hosted sites and web-applications into their authentication and feed services. Its much more convenient to a site’s users if they don’t have to remember ‘yet another userID & password’. Also, its much easier to keep users returning when FB will publish updates via the API connectors to FB-groups, fan-pages, and Application Walls.

    Personally, I use a windows 2003 server, loaded with WAMP (Win+Apache+MySQL+PHP5) and several dev-language addons. I’ve configured that server for vhosting, and host 4 DNS servers in-house, and 3 more out on the web. The Vhosting configuration is extended to use mod-proxy for back-end sites that lie on other servers behind my firewall, so it becomes a simple task to deploy new websites and services, but I do not allow public signup, nor do I host sites for free, at least not any more. $20 per year isn’t much to ask for a robust hosting solution that is privately owned and operated, with tools and access to allow the site-owner to create whatever they like (we have SSH/FTP/SFTP/FTPES, + direct dev access via Samba from our Shell account hosting server, which is also behind the firewall, but accessible via VNC or RDP, both of which are configured to use XDMCP-authentication, which in turn is tied into Active Directory on the back-end. The upshot of this is that my users can either dev their sites locally and upload them, or they can create the content directly, using a fully loaded Ubuntu 10.04 dev server, or they can just contact me, and I’ll deploy whatever type of Content Management Engine & database they need.

    I pulled the plug on all the abandoned, old style (HTML only) sites that were hosted on my domain, recently. Around that time is also when I posted our hosting rates on my main site (search Google for “StormNineNet”). The way I looked at it, each site is an attack surface, and any abandoned site is a security hole just waiting to be exploited. By charging for hosting, even a very small annual fee, this forces the users to take their sites more seriously, since if they don’t pay, their site will be archived and removed from Apache & DNS. They are always welcome to move their site somewhere else, but for what I’m offering service-wise, they’ll pay 10 times as much anywhere else for the same level of service, if not more so.

    Free sites… well… you get what you pay for.

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