Yola Site Builder: Simple Builder, Comprehensive Support
Founded in 2007 in South Africa, Yola site builder and hosting has amassed 12 million customers in that time. After reviewing what Yola offers and testing out the platform, we’ve determined this tool is the best fit for basic users.
In other words, if you are looking to build a small website (maybe only a handful of pages) and aren’t too concerned with having the most modern of designs available so long as you can get a site quickly up and live, then Yola may be right for you.
Read on for an in-depth review all the features Yola has to offer.
First Impressions of Yola
First impressions are important for any company — especially when you’re trying to market your product as a web design solution. Upon first glance of the Yola website, however, it’s clear that they haven’t spent much time updating it in many years.
The same is true for most of the templates they offer customers. Perhaps that’s because they save the professional and polished ones for users willing to pay for premium designs, but it doesn’t bode well for them if their own site doesn’t look all that modern.
So, what exactly does Yola have going for them?
- Their builder uses drag-and-drop and a visual composer interface.
- The WYSIWYG is easy to use.
- There is actually a lot regarding what can be customized. This isn’t typical for site builders.
- Tooltips are available everywhere, so even if a label doesn’t make sense or if you get confused, there is an ever-present guide.
- Widgets cover the basics well enough: text, images, maps, YouTube embeds, etc.
- Can switch between templates right within the builder. No need to navigate out to a separate repository.
- Publication of a site seems simple enough.
- Support is really comprehensive. They offer premium 24/7 support for paying customers, but, even so, the basic support is pretty impressive with tutorials, FAQs, email support, and live chat.
Here’s the problem though: no matter how simple of a site builder solution Yola may seem to be, the tool will pose some serious problems for a web design newbie. And forget about professional web designers. Yola will drive them crazy.
Let’s take a look at what exactly the experience of using Yola entails, and see if we can get a sense for where its true strengths and weaknesses lie.
The Drag-and-Drop Site Builder
As far as the drag-and-drop builder of this tool is concerned, it’s somewhat confusing. For example, unless the user knows that this is indeed a drag-and-drop tool, they likely would have no idea how to use it. The layout of the builder isn’t particularly intuitive so there could be some confusion when someone clicks one of the tabs that run along the top of the page and nothing happens.
There’s also the matter of those tabs. There are:
- Widgets: this is where the actual drag-and-drop elements appear and not all are shown, so you have to sort through the different types to figure out what your options are. Most of these do make sense. However, there are some like panel and pretty much all of the social media ones that don’t really lend any value to a professional site.
- Style: this takes you to something called “Designer” and onto a left-aligned sidebar. More on that down below.
- Page: this pretty much only enables you to create new pages and add metadata to them. All the other tabs that appear are Style/Designer options (which seems redundant).
- Settings: there are a few site-wide settings you can apply here, like adding a favicon to the site, setting up password protection, and changing the name and language.
- Contacts: if the site is for a brick and mortar shop, this is where you can enter those details.
- Tracking: this is if you want to connect Google Analytics to your site.
- Publishing: this is just another page of settings pertaining to the site’s published status and domain settings.
- SEO: unless you’ve paid for the premium SEO service, all this does is open a popup asking you to pay for the service and then the popup won’t go away. You have to close out the site builder to get back into the site.
- Navigation: this doesn’t really let you do anything but see which pages you have on your site, create hierarchies, and rename them.
- Mobile: this tab allows you to see the responsiveness of your site within a smartphone frame. However, this is really more of a spot for Yola to entice you to upgrade to Mobile Plus where your site gets an overlay that offers Tap to Call, a business map, and hours of operation.
And aside from the various settings, there’s the actual creation and editing of the content. Outside of the website header (which you can’t edit unless you use the Designer tool), everything is actually really easy to work with. You click the Edit button and then make your changes. It’s just all the clutter at the top of the site that makes the drag-and-drop builder a bit wonky.
This Designer tool (which can be found under “Style” or when you click on the header of your site) is where all the customization of your content takes place.
There are two options offered to customize the page you’re working on: Basic or Advanced. Realistically, these shouldn’t have been separated. What Yola should’ve done was provide options based on the type of customizations you can make (which they kind of did in the site builder bar at the top of the tool, but the labels are too confusing to really work with).
The nice thing about the Designer tool is you have more flexibility in customizing elements of your site than you tend to find on other site builders. Things like:
- CTA styling
Do be wary of overusing this option. For instance, you can change the font for every single type of text, which is generally a bad practice.
Also be aware that their labels don’t align with what they actually do. For example, there’s a section called “Colors,” but this is where you have to go to add a logo, update the banner, and change background images. It’s not entirely intuitive and could increase the amount of time it takes to create your site.
Hosting Plans and Features
What Yola suggests is this: users should start for free. Then, as their business grows, they can pay for premium features. The problem with that is their features are pretty expensive for what they’re offering. They also don’t have enough high-quality, premium features for businesses that might need to scale up considerably.
Here is what they do offer.
In terms of their hosting, it seems like a good enough deal. All of it is cloud-based, so they can offer a guarantee of 99.9% uptime without hesitation. They also partner with a company called Prolexic for security.
There are four packages available. Free gets you three pages, a Yola subdomain, and extremely limited bandwidth and storage. Bronze, Silver, and Gold give users a custom domain (which they have to pay for), additional bandwidth and storage, unlimited pages, and incrementally more features (like premium template designs, SEO, support, etc.)
The online store doesn’t seem like too bad of an offer, though it is kind of expensive since there are no hosting packages that include it. But the store itself seems to come with the basics any online business owner might need, like:
- PayPal and credit card payment gateways with no transaction fees
- Integration with shipping providers like UPS and FedEx
- Inventory and order trackers
- Customization of products and categories
- Over 160 currencies supported
In addition to traditional web hosting and e-commerce upgrade, Yola also upsells customers on custom domains, personalized email domains, private domain registration, and business tools for marketing, search, and mobile. Those costs may seem insignificant when you view them as $10 a year for each, but they will add up quickly if you don’t pay attention — especially for a site that’s not really equipped to generate a great deal of revenue.
Is Yola Site Builder Right for You?
Yola customers can manage their domains, web hosting, email, and even online store all from one tool, however, it isn’t the most user-friendly tool. The support is solid for what they offer, however with limited and often confusing options to work with, Yola site builder is an ideal tool for smaller businesses who need a simple website.
Artists and bloggers would be well served to use Yola to show off their portfolios, but those looking for a more robust tool may be better served elsewhere.