Weebly offers a powerful drag-and-drop platform for quickly developing websites.
The idea of drag-and-drop Web design is not a new one. Microsoft FrontPage used to take up a major part of this niche, but that was years ago (Microsoft stopped bundling it with Office in 2003). With the growing transition to Web-based applications, it would only make sense that this sort of work would also be done in a browser, and that where you’ll find Weebly.
Weebly is similar to visual website creator Moonfruit. Like Moonfruit, it is Web-based; and much like some desktop applications, Weebly uses a tall, ribbon-like toolbar at the top of the window, divided into five tabs. The first tab, called Elements, lets you populate your page with paragraphs, titles, and pictures, as well as more advanced elements like a two-column layout, a custom HTML block (in which you can use any markup you like), or a Google AdSense ad display unit for monetizing your website.
These elements are all in a category Weebly calls Basic. There are additional elements filed under Multimedia (slideshow, Flash elements, YouTube videos), Revenue, and a catch-all category called More, with miscellanea such as an online poll widget, a built-in feed reader, and so on. Though most elements are available in the free version of Weebly, a few are Pro-only (the video element, for example). A Pro license costs $3 to $5 per month, and is good for ten websites on the same account.
The next tab, Design, lets you pick an overall theme for your website. You can switch between dozens of color and background schemes with a single click, and specify the fonts used on the site (including Web fonts such as the free Yanone Kaffeesatz). If you know a bit of HTML and CSS, you can create your own custom theme and code it using the built-in code editor, which supports syntax highlighting.
The next tab, Pages, lets you expand the site by creating additional pages. You can hide a page from the menu, and even password-protect it. You’re not limited to static pages, either: A single click of the Blog button adds a blog to your site. Users can subscribe to your blog using an RSS feed, as with any other blog on the Web.
Creating a website is often a collaborative endeavor, which is where Weebly’s next tab comes into play: The Editors tab lets you invite others to work with you on the website. The free version allows you to make them into Administrators only (users of equal rights to your own, able to change anything and everything). The Pro version adds the option to specify “Author” access (for editing selected pages), and “Dashboard Only” access (for viewing stats or managing comments).
Since there are so many different elements and themes, websites built with Weebly can achieve truly unique looks. While other platforms (such as WordPress) allow for customization, a WordPress website still often ends up feeling like WordPress. By contrast, websites made with Weebly can end up looking unique enough so they don’t feel like they were created using the same tool. You can see some examples in the Weebly Site Showcase. If you’re looking to get a website up and running quickly and don’t want it to look too off-the-shelf, you may want to take Weebly for a spin.