Site123 Review 2018 – 10 Things You Need To Know

Last updated on February 19, 2018
Site123 review

Site123 Review Highlights

Fast, easy website builder – build a business website in under an hour

Responsive templates – lacking wow factor, but good built-in features including blogs, contact forms and ‘about us’ pages

Free 24/7 online chat – and great step-by-step support articles

Site123 review

Rating

Powering
740,502 websites

Starting from
$0/month

Free Trial
Yes

Review by
Last Updated on February 19, 2018

“If you want to build a website, you either use drag-and-drop tools or you write the code yourself – right? Well, Site123 has a third way. Its editor is quick, efficient, and even easier than drag and drop.”

Drag-and-drop controls are the hallmark of easy website builders, such as Wix and Weebly. But Site123 ditches this system in favor of a simple editing sidebar.

It makes sense. With drag and drop, you have to drop photos, menus and other items onto your pages, then drag them around to fit. It’s quick, but it’s not that quick. You’ll need to invest a few hours to get the best out of Wix or Weebly.

Site123 slashes that investment to minutes.

We love Wix (it’s our #1 rated website builder!) but we were amazed to discover Site123 is even more efficient.

And when you need to build a website for your small business, that really matters. You don’t want to spend all day playing with a template. You want a site that looks good and works great, right now.

Does that sound familiar? Then step this way, because Site123 may just the website builder you’ve been looking for. Read on for our in-depth review.

1SITE123 REVIEW IN BRIEF – WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 PROS AND CONS?

TOP 3 SITE123 PROS
#1 Fast, easy customization tools

Site123’s efficient editing sidebar will delight you if you’re fed up with website builders that overwhelm you with options and waste your valuable time.

Site123 doesn’t just remove the need to code your site, it removes the need to spend hours putting your pages together.

If you’re a busy person who needs to get a promo page or business site online fast, Site123 will save you time, stress and money.

We’ll take a closer look at Site123’s ease of use here and customization here.

#2 Modern responsive templates

All Site123’s templates are responsive. They automatically adjust to whatever screen your visitors are using, from smart TVs to smartphones.

Why does it matter? These days, more people browse the web on their mobiles than on their computers. Those people are your potential customers. So if your site doesn’t look good and work great on smartphones, you could lose more than half your customers!

We’ll have more on Site123’s mobile preview here.

#3 Site123 Support – a hidden gem

Site123 Support is a treasure trove of step-by-step articles that are easy to follow and illustrated with videos, GIFs and screenshots. They explain all you need to know, without taking up your time.

And if you get stuck and need help from a real person, Site123’s online chat tool is available free, 24/7. You’ll feel you’re in good hands, whatever your level of experience.

For more on Site123’s help resources, click here.

Join Site123 for free

TOP 3 SITE123 CONS
#1 Templates lack the wow factor

At a glance, Site123’s templates look like Squarespace templates. Big photos, modern fonts. But close-up, they lack pizzazz. And if you’re creating a website to promote your company or project, appearance does matter.

A Squarespace template would instantly give your business an upmarket web presence. A Site123 template doesn’t quite do that – at least not straight out of the box.

We’ll have more on Site123’s templates here.

#2 Limited creative control

Are you the kind of person who always edits your smartphone photos before posting them online? Then you may find Site123 frustrating. It’s fast, sure – but it doesn’t give you complete control over how things look.

If you want drag-and-drop flexibility, check out Wix and Weebly (here’s our website builders comparison chart).

#3 Not many free advanced features

Site123’s free plan is pretty limited. It does offer a decent batch of free tools for expanding your site and its functions, but most of its web apps and ecommerce features are for paying subscribers only.

Of course, all website builders make you pay for advanced features. But Site123 can’t match Wix or Weebly in terms of what you can get for free.

For more on Site123’s site features, click here.

2HOW QUICK AND EASY IS IT TO BUILD A WEBSITE USING SITE123?

“Site123 has all you need to create a promo page or small business site in under an hour. It never assumes that you want to spend your whole weekend dragging and dropping elements into place.”

Site123’s editing system is neat, simple – and a refreshing alternative to overly-versatile drag-and-drop editors such as Wix.

Wait… “overly-versatile”? It’s true. If you want to reach customers quickly and efficiently, Wix’s creative clutter is surplus to requirements.

You can build a really gorgeous, sophisticated site using Wix, but for pure efficiency you’re better off with Site123.

Getting started: a breeze

You don’t even have to create an account to get started with Site123. Like Weebly, Site123 lets you log in securely via Google or Facebook. One click and you’re in.

You can then create as many sites as you want, completely free – no payment details required. Just like Wix and Weebly.

Site123 presents all your admin info (settings, plan, URLs and so on) on a private dashboard. It’s much easier to understand than the intimidating flight deck you get with 1&1 MyWebsite.

Like Site123, 1&1’s website builder focuses on customer-targeted sites that you can publish fast. But 1&1 MyWebsite’s dashboard is intimidating – even if you’re not a beginner.

At no stage does Site123 leave you in any doubt about what to do next.

site123 dashboard website editor review

All your important Site123 admin info and tasks are presented on an easy dashboard

Site-building: easier than drag and drop

Site123’s drag-and-drop-free template editor feels odd at first. When you click a photo or other element in the template, nothing happens. You don’t even get pop-up tooltips.

It left me feeling like a small child trying to tap and swipe the pages of a magazine. How are you meant to select the element?

Simple. You click buttons in the sidebar to select and edit elements.

For example, click a Fonts button in the sidebar, then choose style, size and color for the corresponding text. Your template then updates in real time.

It’s like when you select product colors on Amazon, and the main picture changes to fit.

site123 review website editor

You can’t select text in Site123’s template editor – you edit it using a control panel instead

You could also compare Site123’s editing system with driving a car. You don’t drive by dragging your finger around your windshield. (Not yet, anyway.) You do it by controlling steering wheels and pedals inside the car.

Side123’s control panel is no Mercedes. This tool is built for nimble simplicity, not power. It’s like a safe little Mazda. Great for beginners, and looks OK – as we’ll see in the section on templates.

Getting online: publish in minutes

Site123 pre-fills your template with photos, text, menus and more. The content is yours to keep, so you can publish instantly if you want.

Unlike 1&1 MyWebsite, Site123 doesn’t put a five-photo cap on the number of stock images you can use. And unlike Squarespace, its dummy content doesn’t turn into ‘error 404’ pages if you try to publish it.

Does that mean you’ve got a business website straight out of the box? Almost – but not quite.

The pre-filled content isn’t as finished as 1&1 MyWebsite. Much of the text is deliberate nonsense, and you will need to change it to reflect your business.

Here’s my instant Site123 site (screenshot below). I’ve done nothing to it other than choose a site name and template (photo blog). Check out the small text…

site123 website editor review blog publish

Site123 pre-fills its templates with content, but you wouldn’t want to publish it all

The nonsense text looks like a mistake – and that’s not a great way to kick off your online presence!

If you need to get something online in a couple of minutes, use Site123’s Under Construction option.

With one click, you can publish this page to let your visitors know you’re hard (well, easy) at work on your website.

Site123’s template editor is one of the least stressful website-building tools I’ve ever used. No admin tasks or content databases, just straight down to business. It fills you with confidence – even if you’re a complete beginner.

Build a website in minutes with Site123

3HOW GOOD ARE SITE123’S TEMPLATES?

“Site123’s templates are clean and modern-looking, but basic. They’re all very similar, so don’t get too hung up choosing the perfect template at the start.”

Template quantity: high but misleading

Site 123 offers hundreds of templates, all free. None are reserved for paying customers, as many of the best Wix templates are.

However they’re all very similar. You can start with any one of them and end up with the same website after a few tweaks.

Site123’s attempt to divide templates by industry is misleading, too. There are no significant difference between, say, event templates, wedding templates and musician templates. Just minor variation in text and photos – which you’d end up changing anyway.

In fact, some of the categories are all name and no content. Click plumber templates and you’ll find a set of generic promo layouts. Not a faucet in sight.

These designs are not truly business-specific, like 1&1 MyWebsite’s templates are.

site123 website editor review templates

Site123’s templates cover a great range of categories – but the designs are almost identical

Template quality: clean and basic

I wish Site123 had the confidence to present just a few distinct designs instead of pretending there’s loads of choice. Because the designs are actually pretty good.

Site123’s style is a kind of Squarespace-lite. Each template has a big photo across the top (‘Background design’). You can turn it into a slideshow, video or parallax scrolling animation (a floaty 3D effect). It’s easy to do, and gives your site a contemporary feel.

And like Squarespace, Site123 only offers responsive templates. They adjust automatically to fit whatever size screen they’re viewed on.

On closer inspection, Site123’s templates can’t match the expensive look of Squarespace’s designs. They look good, but they don’t look “wow”. Bear that in mind if your business relies on making a really powerful first impression.

Site123’s templates look cooler than the businessy designs you get from 1&1 MyWebsite. They can’t match the versatility of Wix or the wow factor of Squarespace, but they look modern and they’re ready to publish.

Find your ideal Site123 template

4HOW CUSTOMIZABLE ARE SITE123’S TEMPLATES?

“Site123’s editing system is like painting walls with a huge roller. It gets clean, colorful results – fast. But it doesn’t deliver much creative freedom, or allow fine control over details.”

Quick initial customization: excellent

Site123’s sidebar means all your most important editing tasks are just a click away. Click a button to select an element, then click buttons to edit that element.

It’s less creative than Wix, but it’s a lot more tidy – and I think it’s easier to pick up.

And when you’re trying to fit building a website into the day-to-day running of your business, creativity may not be your top priority!

You can also fill your site with free photos, backgrounds and logos from Site123’s stock library to help you get the look you want, fast.

Unlike 1&1 MyWebsite, Site123 places no limit on the number of stock images you can use. They’re all free, whatever plan you’re on.

However Site123 doesn’t let you edit its stock photos – unlike 1&1. “The client may use the images and template files only as received,” Site123 says in its Terms. “(You are) not allowed to edit photos and/or those files.”

site123 website editor review photos image library free

Find your perfect photo and logo in Site123’s free, searchable image library

Template transformation: limited

If you do want to get a little creative, Site123 is OK at mid-range customizations.

For example as well as animating photos, you can set them to display at various different sizes, apply filters and, in some cases, crop them.

However there’s no fully-featured photo editor. 1&1 MyWebsite is well ahead of Site123 on that score.

Site123 doesn’t let you switch templates. However you can switch ‘layouts’ (see screenshot below). And I reckon Site123’s layouts differ more than its templates!

If you’re struggling to get your business message across using the template you chose, a one-click layout change may be all you need.

site123 website editor review layout

Change your site’s layout with one click, at any time – without losing your content

But once you start adding extra elements and wanting to edit them, Site123’s customizing options become more limited.

For example you can’t move elements to the position you want – or drag the edges of a box to tidy it up. You can’t even group elements on pages on the free plan.

Site123 trades fine control for ease of use. If you need to get a site up and running now, it’s ideal. But if you want give your business a stunning shop window that meets your creative vision, you’ll prefer Wix.

Site123’s editing sidebar offers all the customizing options you need for a quick, good-looking site – and it’ll never make you feel overwhelmed. But if you want the option to move items to exactly where you want them, stick with Wix or Weebly.

5HOW GOOD ARE SITE123’S EXTRA WEBSITE FEATURES?

“You can fill your site with dozens of additional features. Blogs, shopping carts, price lists, FAQs, contact forms and many more – all a click away, and most are free.”

Adding site features: very easy

Adding a blog, ‘about us’ page or price list to your website may seem like an enormous hassle. It’s effectively a whole separate site, right? But Site123 makes it easy.

All it takes to add a feature to your site is one click. Configuring them takes barely any more clicks. And they’re nearly all free.

The range of features is good (much better than the range of templates), and their quality is sometimes excellent. I love the interactive photo galleries, which really make your photos shine.

site123 website editor review page

Add forms, booking tools, timelines and more to your Site123 site with one click

There’s also a good selection of third-party ‘Plugins’ (web apps). These include analytics trackers and live chat tools that let you interact with your visitors.

Most of the plugins are locked behind an Upgrade button, so you’ll want to jump onto a paid subscription to access them.

Same goes for a new Site123 feature, Multilingual Website. This automatically translates all your site’s headings and subheadings to up to five languages of your choice.

Multilingual Website could really help your site grab a global audience – but you’ll need to be on the Advanced premium plan to use it.

Customizing site features: hit and miss

Site123’s features may be easy to set up, but they’re less flexible when it comes to tweaking their appearance.

Some, such as the Donate feature and the FAQ, are fairly versatile. You can’t transform them, as you would be able to in Wix, but you can add photos, edit the text, change the font and tweak the layout.

You get a little more personalization power with the photo galleries. They give you full reign to show off your business through images, videos and GIFs, by choosing from numerous preset styles.

But other site features are very inflexible, at least in terms of how they look and fit on your site.

site123 website editor review customize layout

You can customize features by choosing between layouts – but there’s not much variety

Blog posts and Events come with a really static layout that you can’t do much to change. You can’t resize them, recolor them, or edit their names.

Your Site123 blog is called ‘BLOG’. If you want to change it to incorporate the name of your company or project, you’re out of luck.

Customizing my site’s music player proved similarly tricky. I could upload songs, but I couldn’t do much more to it. Site123 offered me a couple of layouts to choose from, but they’re almost identical!

Organizing site features: limited on the free plan

On the free plan, you have to have one feature per page (‘Multipage’), or every single feature on one page (‘Single page’).

site123 website editor review

Site123’s free plan lets you give features a page each – or group them onto one page

So if you add several features, organizing them may become a problem unless you upgrade. On a paid plan, Site123 lets you group features into ‘categories’ that each have a separate page URL.

This is an important consideration if you’re launching a business site. By using Site123’s categories option, you could share a page URL that contains all your contact features. For example a map, ‘about us’, and contact form.

If you like Site123 and decide to use it for your business website, you may decide the option to group features on separate pages is worth the upgrade alone.

Site123’s optional features meet a wide variety of needs, and they’re super-easy to add and configure. But don’t add too many on the free plan – because your site may become tricky to explore.

Upgrade for creative control with Site123

6WILL YOUR SITE123 SITE LOOK GREAT ON PHONE AND TABLET SCREENS?

“All Site123’s templates are responsive, so your site will look great on whatever device your visitors use. Its responsiveness isn’t as powerful as Squarespace’s, though.”

Site123’s responsive technology: handy but not perfect

All Site123’s templates are responsive, so you don’t have to worry about creating a separate mobile version of your site. Your pages will adapt automatically – whatever device they’re viewed on.

You don’t have to worry about how your site will look, either. Site123’s interactive preview button reveals how your pages will look and behave once they’re adapted.

With one click, you can get a preview of your pages on desktop, tablet or smartphone.

site123 website editor review mobile preview

Check your site in Site123’s mobile preview mode to ensure it looks great on all screens

The mobile preview is handy, but it gives away another of Site123’s weaknesses: it’s responsive technology is not as smart and powerful as some of its rivals.

For example, Site123 can’t always work out how best to display landscape-format photos on a portrait-format phone. Squarespace is much better at this.

But if your responsive Site123 site isn’t quite what you hoped for, all is not lost. Here’s why…

Edit your mobile site without a mobile editor

Site123 lets you edit your site in mobile preview mode. This allows you to re-crop photos and tweak text for full cross-platform compatibility.

Compare that with Squarespace, which doesn’t let you tweak your site in mobile preview.

Note that if you want to create an entirely separate mobile version of your site, then Wix may be a better choice of website builder for you. All Wix templates can be customized in separate desktop and mobile editors.

Site123’s responsiveness is less smart than some competitors. But it helps to make up for that by letting you edit your site in mobile preview mode – so you can ensure none of your visitors feel short-changed, whatever device they’re using.

We love mobile-responsive templates! To find out why, read our in-depth article on the best responsive website builders for 2018.

7WHAT SEO (SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION) TOOLS DOES SITE123 OFFER?

“Site123 makes it easy to tell Google what your site is and what it’s about. Best of all, it creates a sitemap to help search engines rank your pages and reach more visitors.”

Site123 does a pretty good job of simplifying SEO (‘search engine optimization’ – or, in plain English, getting to the top of Google).

It lets you set metadata tags for each page of your site, plus a homepage description. The more data you offer, the more search traffic you’ll get.

SEO jargon-buster: Metadata is like a set of ID tags for your website. Keywords, location data and so on. Your visitors can’t see it, but Google and other search engines can. They use it to rank your site – and help you reach more people who are searching for the services you offer.
site123 website editor review sitemap seo

Site123 offers basic ways to get to the top of Google, including an automatic sitemap

Unlike 1&1 MyWebsite, Site123 doesn’t let you customize page URLs (web addresses). There’s also no 1&1-style option to edit metadata for individual elements.

However Site123 does generate an automatic sitemap for your pages. Wix does this too, but many other website builders don’t.

Site123’s SEO tools are easy rather than powerful, especially on the free plan. They help you conquer an important subject without confusing you – and without taking much time out of your busy day.

For more ways to win at Google, read our free Website Builder SEO Guide.

8HOW GOOD IS SITE123 HELP AND SUPPORT?

“Site123 seems keen to push you towards its online chat tool instead of its support articles. Shame, because the articles are well worth finding!”

Site123 Support: brief, buried – and very good

There’s no link to Site123 Support on the homepage or template editor, or even on your Site123 dashboard. No idea why – because it’s a great resource, and perfectly pitched for busy people.

Site123’s articles are really easy to follow. They’re short, step-by-step, and accompanied by GIFs – plus links to related articles.

The articles are shorter than the detailed guides offered by Squarespace. But who’s got time to read long user guides?

Site123’s quick how-to articles cover everything you need to know, in a friendly, no-nonsense style.

site123 website editor review help support

Site123’s Support articles are clear, fully-illustrated, and well-organized

The articles are searchable and nicely organized. They’re divided into categories (such as The Editor Tools and SEO) then sub-categories (such as Add New Page and Publish Your Website). Well worth exploring.

One-on-one help: Site123 online chat

Site123’s online chat tool is available free, 24/7… and don’t you know it! The window leaps into life regularly, and you may find it annoying if you’re trying to concentrate on building your site.

site123 website editor review help support chat

Get instant one-on-one help from Site123’s online chat experts

But you can minimize it when you don’t need it, and it works well when you do need it. You can even post files, GIFs and emoji to explain your problem and express your gratitude (or frustration!)

I found Site123’s experts to be friendly, knowledgeable, and patient. Unlike 1&1, Site123 signed off with an invitation to return (“Great, if you need more assistance I’ll be here Jane”). I never felt rushed.

Site123’s online chat is good, but it’s not for everyone. You may even find it stressful – and that’s the last thing you need when building a site, especially if you’re in a hurry. Site123’s step-by-step articles are a welcome antidote, and cover all you need to know.

9SITE123 PRICING – IS A PREMIUM PLAN WORTH THE INVESTMENT?

“You can build as many sites as you want on Site123’s free plan. But free features are limited – and most of its premium plans offer good value for money compared with other website builders.”

What do you get for free?

  • Unlimited websites – build and publish as many sites as you want
  • No time limit – Site123’s free plan is free forever
  • 500MB storage space – too small for videos
  • 1GB bandwidth – limits your traffic and content
  • Site123-branded subdomain – ‘site123’ in your web address
  • Site123-branded footer on all your pages – less obvious than some rivals

What don’t you get for free?

  • Free domain name for one year – but only if you sign up for 12 months or more
  • Option to connect your existing domain name
  • No Site123 branding on your site – Advanced plan and up
  • Multilingual Website tool – Advanced plan and up
  • Ecommerce features – limited on the cheaper plans
  • Categorize your site features – group them together for easier navigation
  • Premium site features – such as custom form-builders
  • Premium plugins/web apps – such as Google AdWords and live chat tools

How much do Site123’s premium plans cost?

Site123 offers more subscription period options than its rivals. You can pay for three months, 12 months, two years or three years in one go:

Site123 plan Pay 3-monthly ($/mo) Pay annually ($/mo) Pay 2-yearly ($/mo) Pay 3-yearly ($/mo) You save (%)
Basic $14 $9.80 $5.46 $4.76 66%
Advanced $22 $15.80 $9.66 $8.26 62.5%
Professional $30 $21.80 $12.46 $10.36 65.5%
Gold $38 $27.80 $15.96 $13.86 63.5%

As you can see, you can slash your monthly outlay by signing up for two or three years up front.

There’s no free trial with any of Site123’s premium plans. However the plans all come with a 14-day money-back guarantee.

As safety nets go, that’s not as good as Squarespace’s free two-week trial. But at least you can see your cash again if you decide Site123’s premium service isn’t for you.

Be aware that Site123 doesn’t let you export your site, whatever plan you’re on.

In other words, if you decide to switch to a different website builder, you can’t download your site’s code and take it with you.

Why does that matter?

Site123 has its limitations, as we’ve seen. Your website may outgrow it. You may even decide to hire a designer someday. Being able to download its code would suddenly be very handy.

Among Site123’s biggest competitors, only 1&1 MyWebsite lets you export your site for editing anywhere. Weebly only lets you export to WordPress, which is a complex tool. Wix doesn’t let you export at all.

Which Site123 plan should you choose?

Here’s a quick overview of Site123’s four premium plans:

site123 website builder review pricing plans

Site123’s premium plans offer good value across the board

Site123 is several bucks cheaper than Squarespace. But then, you’d hope so. Their ecommerce offerings and wow-factor design justify their higher cost.

It’s fairer to compare Site123 with Wix.

Unlike Wix, Site123 doesn’t waste your time with a pointless super-budget plan. (Here’s our full review of Wix pricing.)

You also get more bandwidth for your buck with Site123 than with Wix. Its 10-buck Basic plans gives you 5GB bandwidth, while Wix’s 10-buck Combo plan only gives you 2GB.

On the downside, Site123’s Basic plan slaps an ad across the bottom of your pages – and Wix Combo does not.

Further up the scale, Wix is better value than Site123. Site123’s 22-buck Professional plan includes ‘advanced’ online store tools, but they’re less powerful than the tools you get on Wix’s $17 eCommerce plan.

Site123’s plans compare well with Wix, especially at the lower end. None of the premium plans come with a free trial, but Site123 offers a 14-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind.

10REVIEW SUMMARY – IS SITE123 THE RIGHT WEBSITE BUILDER FOR YOU?

“Site123 is perfectly named. It really does make website-building as easy as 1, 2, 3.”

When you’re running a small business, you don’t have time to create a sophisticated website from scratch.

Even drag-and-drop website builders can devour your valuable time.

So Site123 has come along to help you establish a professional web presence, fast. You can do it in your lunchbreak.

The trade-off is a lack of sophistication.

Site123’s templates are clean and modern, but they can’t match Squarespace for sheer “wow”, and they’re not as versatile as Wix’s. Site123’s mobile responsiveness lacks the power of Squarespace, too.

So if your business depends on making a killer first impression, Site123’s templates may not pack the punch you need.

Also bear in mind that Site123 is run by a small team, a fraction of the size of Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or 1&1. Site123 can’t possibly compete with those guys in terms of trailblazing innovations.

But this likeable website builder punches above its weight. Not just on speed and ease, but also with free site features that’ll help you reach customers and promote your business.

Its premium plans offer great value for money, too, especially at the lower end of the scale.

Site123 lacks the creative power of Wix and Weebly, and can’t match Squarespace for design impact. But it wins on efficiency. And when you’re a busy freelancer or business owner, that really matters.

Build a website for free with Site123

Did you find our review helpful?

Have we helped choose the right website builder? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Get in touch by leaving a comment below.

Do you know anyone who can benefit from this guide? Send them this page, or click the share buttons on the left.

You won’t just be helping them choose a tool for building their website, you’ll be helping us by spreading the word about our site!

 

Jane Hoskyn

About Jane Hoskyn

I'm a non-techie tech journalist, and I've spent 20 years getting away with it. In all that time I never created a proper website of my own, partly because social feeds did all the work for me, but also because the process seemed like a pointless hassle. But is it? I'm now on a mission to test every site-building tool I can lay my hands on, and share my every step, tip and pratfall here on WBE. Stay tuned to see how I get on - and please do get in touch to share your own experiences.

Subscribe

Jane Hoskyn

About Jane Hoskyn

I'm a non-techie tech journalist, and I've spent 20 years getting away with it. In all that time I never created a proper website of my own, partly because social feeds did all the work for me, but also because the process seemed like a pointless hassle. But is it? I'm now on a mission to test every site-building tool I can lay my hands on, and share my every step, tip and pratfall here on WBE. Stay tuned to see how I get on - and please do get in touch to share your own experiences.

, , , ,

Leave a Reply

No comments yet.