Despite being better known as an email marketing service, Constant Contact claims to have created the ‘industry’s best website building and ecommerce platform’.
Here at Website Builder Expert, we naturally take these claims with a pinch of salt. Using our own robust research method, we were keen to put the Constant Contact website builder through its paces, and find out how it compared to the 50+ other website builders we’ve tested.
In short, we weren’t blown away – but the builder does have some redeeming qualities, including good value for money. And while it’s certainly not top of our list, it could be the perfect option for some people – especially if you’re looking to carry out heavy email marketing, and want to integrate with the Constant Contact email marketing service.
We’ll be taking an in-depth look at features, pricing, ease of use, help and support, and more to bring you our ultimate review of this website builder. Let’s dive right in:
- ADI makes it easy to get a working site together, and you don’t feel overwhelmed with options
- Generous free plan
- Easy-to-understand analytics
- Backend is prone to glitches
- Features aren’t very advanced
- Underwhelming designs
Constant Contact, like many builders today, works by auto-generating a website for you using AI (Artificial Intelligence) which you can then edit afterwards.
Initial setup was fairly simple, opening with a very broad question: ‘What is your website about?’
After entering the letter ‘P’, we decided to go for ‘Pizza’, because… well, lunch was already on our mind.
Next, you pick a title for your website, then add a main image. You can also add a logo, if you have one – if not, you can build one later on. Next, pick a color scheme, a font pairing, and a navigation style, then add you contact details… and hey presto! A website built for you in minutes.
We really liked the progress bar that updated as we went through each step, and made it easy to see how far we had left to go. We didn’t feel overwhelmed with too many choices – something which can happen with a website builder like Wix – and the whole process had been pretty smooth sailing so far.
You’re then taken to the Constant Contact editor, where you can make design adjustments and add your own content. You have the option to ‘Take a quick tour’ at this point, which was helpful for pointing out where all the key elements were:
Where we did run into some difficulty was when trying to actually customize this site – something we’ll cover in more detail in the next section.
After going through the initial process above, you’ll be presented with a website that is, for all intents and purposes, ready to go. All you’d need to do is swap out the default content for your own – that means adding your own information and images, if you have them.
Customizing your design
If you want to alter the assigned design, Constant Contact has a pretty neat way to help you switch up each section:
You can choose from around 3–5 different formats for each ‘block’ on the page, as well as exclude elements you don’t need, like a CTA (Call to Action) button or a subtitle. This leaves you some choice regarding the layout, without the risk of straying away from design best practice.
As we so often say in our reviews, this might be one person’s dream, but another person’s nightmare; if you want full control over each element of your site, then Constant Contact simply isn’t the builder for you.
When you preview your Constant Contact site, you have the option to view it from the point of view of mobile and tablet, as well as desktop. This is an important step for making sure that your site is formatting correctly on different screen sizes, and offering the best user experience to everyone.
From what we tested, Constant Contact’s templates were generally mobile responsive, although there was the occasional niggle. For example, notice how in the mobile version below, the title of my site has ended up looking too bunched up along the top of the screen?
Ultimately, Constant Contact didn’t really impress us in the design department, scoring just 2.9/5 for design flexibility in our research. Suggested color palettes didn’t really match up with industry norms, and the designs themselves are just ‘okay’; they’re technically fine, but not always hugely visually appealing. Some pages looked impressive and modern, but some – like our auto-generated About Us page – looked a bit too ‘DIY’ for our liking:
If good design is top of your agenda, we’d definitely recommend checking out Duda or Squarespace, which scored 4.7/5 and 4.6/5 for design respectively. If you’re creative and would relish the opportunity to build something totally customizable, we’d recommend looking at Wix, which offers over 500 templates or the opportunity to start building from scratch.
There are some really sophisticated website builders out there today. To impress us in the features department, a website builder needs to not only nail the basics, but go above and beyond them. So how did Constant Contact stack up?
The first thing to know is that, unlike most builders today, Constant Contact doesn’t have its own app store packed with third-party plugins. This isn’t inherently a bad thing – Squarespace builds all its features in-house, and they’re all the better for it – but in this case, it was a bit of a mixed bag.
On the surface, Constant Contact offers a lot – especially given its low price point, which we’ll get into in more detail in the next section. But dig a little deeper, and features weren’t always as robust or advanced as we would have liked. In our research, the builder scored just 2.6/5 in this area.
Take blogging, for example. The Constant Contact blog is only available in an RSS feed format, meaning posts will always be displayed with the most recent item first. You can’t add posts to categories, you can’t archive them, and you can’t enable user comments. In short, if your blog was something you really wanted to make something of, Constant Contact wouldn’t have the tools to let you.
There’s also no real support around SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is essential if you want to be found in the search results. Again, this was a knowledge gap that more experienced builders spotted long ago, and they now have really great solutions – take the Wix SEO Wiz, for example. This is just another area where it feels like Constant Contact is playing catch up.
That said, we were pleasantly surprised by Constant Contact’s ecommerce features, not least because you can actually sell three items with the free plan (again, more on this in just a sec).
Constant Contact takes on tricky tasks, such as auto tax calculations, integrated shipping, and tracking. There’s also a really cool, easy-to-use analytics dashboard that provides a snapshot of year-on-year performance across several areas:
The Free plan, as we mentioned earlier, is fairly generous in terms of features. In fact, everything we’ve discussed so far is included for free, which is definitely impressive. However, here are some things that you won’t get with the free plan:
- You can’t connect a custom domain name – instead, I’d have to use the autogenerated ‘www.hannah-s-pizza.constantcontact.com for this site, with no option to edit
- Your site won’t be ad-free – your website will display the (not-so-subtle) Constant Contact blue banner and sign up CTA at the foot of your site
- You won’t get paid ad credit – to the value of $100 of Google ads and $100 of Bing ads. If you’re planning to run paid ads, a premium plan will quickly pay for itself
- You can only sell 3 products* – you can sell up to 10 products with the Starter plan, and an unlimited number with the Business Plus plan
- You won’t get phone support – help and support will be via email or live chat (if it’s available in your country)
* It’s worth noting that you’ll have to pay a 3% transaction fee on anything you sell through the Free and Starter plans.
The lack of custom domain name and inclusion of the website builder’s own ads are typical free plan drawbacks.
For a professional-looking site, you should definitely upgrade to the Starter plan. It’s hard to take a business seriously when its website looks ‘cheap’. If you’re absolutely set on getting a free website, check out our roundup of the best free website builders to find one with more subtle advertising.
If selling is going to be the main focus of your site, go for the Business Plus plan. You’ll be able to sell unlimited products, unlock more powerful analytics, and – crucially – get rid of the 3% transaction fee imposed on everything you sell through the Free and Starter plans.
When it comes to Help and Support, does Constant Contact really lives up to its name?
Constant Contact offers help and support via phone and email, and also provides a knowledge center. Live chat is also available in some countries, including the UK, but unfortunately it’s not an option in the US just yet.
Constant Contact has its own ‘knowledge base’, which contains guides to carrying out different tasks through the website builder.
We’d say the content of these articles is fairly useful – there are annotated screenshots and videos – but the formatting isn’t particularly friendly. Images are quite small and hard to see, and the articles aren’t grouped in an especially logical way, which makes finding what you need a bit tricky. There’s also no forum – something you’d find on more established builders. In short, it’s a good start, but it pales in comparison to the knowledge centers offered by builders like Wix and Squarespace.
Phone and email
Constant Contact will reply to emails in 24–48 hours. Calls to both its US-specific and worldwide numbers should be toll-free. Phone support is not available to users on the free plan.
If you have a free account, you’ll also have access to these support options. However, Constant Contact does specify:
‘Our advisors are here to provide technical support and account advice to all users. However, priority is given to patrons with upgraded accounts who require technical assistance.’
One thing we did find unusual was the amount we were expected to do before actually getting in contact. According to the Constant Contact website, users should do all of the following before getting in touch by phone or email:
- Allow 24–48 hours after publishing for propagation.
- Clear your browser Cache & Cookies.
- Test a different computer from a different network if possible.
- Reset your internet router (unplug for 30 seconds).
This could definitely be indicative of a slightly glitchy setup, and seems like a tall order for those who aren’t so tech confident. It’s certainly not something we see other builders asking for.
Live chat (non-US)
When we ran into trouble with our own frustrating editing glitch, we hit the ‘?’ button in the top right hand corner, and then selected the option ‘Chat with a Web Advisor’. It’s worth noting at this point that the live chat support isn’t yet available in the US, but as we were trailing it from London, we thought we might as well give it a shot.
We briefly summarized the issue and waited to be connected to an agent, which ended up being pretty much instantaneous. By sending over a verification code via email, the web advisor was able to log in to our account and take a look at the problem.
Unhelpfully, the element in question was working fine for them, which made the conversation a little tricky. Still, we definitely had the feeling that a real person was on hand for support – something that’s certainly not a given in the website building industry.
So that’s the lowdown on Constant Contact – a website builder that’s certainly on the up, but not quite challenging the top performers just yet.
Here’s a recap of those sections once again:
|Area tested||Score (/5)||At-a-glance|
|Ease of use||3.8||Your website is initially built using ADI, which is a really simple and seamless process.|
|Design and customization||2.9||Designs are technically sound, but underwhelming; specific customization is awkward. Site can be quite glitchy.|
|Features||2.6||Decent array of features, but they don’t offer the same quality as other builders.|
|Value for money||4.0||Very generous free plan (including ability to sell up to 3 products); paid plans are reasonably-priced, too.|
|Help and support||3.5||Better the more you pay, but responsive in our experience.|
|Overall||3.6||A decent, simple website builder – but not yet a great one.|
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Constant Contact to see how it improves and develops. In the meantime, if you’ve had any experience building a website with Constant Contact, do let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.