Review: Yola

Website Builder: Yola
Pros: straight-forward editing tools; provides some additional services, like domain registration
Cons: relies on other services for more complicated tasks, some of which against additional fees; no custom domain included in basic package; many of the better designs come at an addition fee
Price: Basic service is free; a paid service, called Yola Silver is available for $49.95 a year; Yola Premier offers custom design by a professional designer for $349; Yola Bronze offers several additional features at a pay-per-feature basis, including custom domains
Ideal for: personal websites, small businesses or not for profit organisations just starting out on the web

Yola is a fairly recent product on the website builder market. The company started in 2007 under the name SynthaSite, but was renamed to Yola 2 years later.

Yola’s slogan “Watch your business grow,” puts it in competition with Homestead (see our review), SiteKreator (see our review), Microsoft Office Live Small Business (see our review) and Adobe Business Catalyst.

The first thing Yola asks us to do when we sign up, is to select a business category. Based on our selection Yola gives us a list of pages it thinks we should have on our site. In our case the list includes About Us, Menu, Picture Gallery, Reviews and Directions pages. Handy if you want to start a site and don’t really have an idea of what you should put on it.

Following that, Yola asks us a series of questions about our business, its location and so on. Our answers to these question will be used on the pages of our newly created site. Again a handy feature if you’re not sure what you should put on your site.

In the next step we are asked to pick a design. This is a bit of a disappointment as any design that is slightly more than just a block of text on a page comes at an extra charge. Prices vary, but start at about $20 for a single template.

Editing our website’s pages is straight-forward enough; in most cases either single or double-clicking the content to be edited opens an appropriate editing window. When editing text, however, this can be a bit annoying as double or triple clicking is generally used for selecting entire words or sentences, respectively.

Double-clicking any text in Yola, opens an editor that lets us change only the margin around our text block. All other text properties, including font, size, colour, etc, are all set by selecting the text (don’t double click to select!) and making the necessary changes through the Word-like text editing interface at the top of the screen. It is not possible to change, for example, the text properties for all headlines on our site at once.

Adding new content to a page is as simple as dragging and dropping a Widget onto the place where we want the content to appear. Widgets range from basic Text and Image widgets to more complex widgets that let us embed Google Gadgets and Slide.com applications and games.

In general, for more complex features Yola depends on other services. As an example, Yola boasts that it lets you embed a “book now” button on your website. For this feature, however, Yola works with Genbook, which only works if you are based in the U.S.

While Genbook is a free service, other Yola widgets require additional registrations and potentially additional costs. The Appointment widget works with Appointment Plus, a service that costs between $39 and $79 a month.

Final words
Yola offers a straight-forward, easy to use, basic sitebuilder, with no-frills customisation options. It has to be said that Yola’s interface feels comfortable and responsive.

The set of introductory questions will help those who have decided they want a website, but are uncertain about what should be on it and where that information should go on their website, to get started.

Yola’s selection of templates is a bit disappointing because we have to pay extra for many of the designs, or resort to Photoshop or a designer to get a slightly more professional look for our site.

For more complicated services and options Yola largely relies on third-party service suppliers. These services are just as easy to implement in any of Yola’s competitors through HTML snippets or similar options.

The lack of a Photo Gallery Widget makes Yola a poor choice for a portfolio or photo gallery style website.

If you are looking to build a website quickly, but still have a lot to figure out about what and how your site should be, Yola could be a good starting point for you. Be prepared, however, to add features from other service providers as your site grows.

To sign up for your free Yola trial, click here.

If you use or have used Yola, we would like to hear your experience in the comments below.

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