I heard about Wix.com, on the radio, advertising free websites with beautiful designs. So my alter ego and I registered for an account and started a free website. I would like to share with you what I found out.
First, they are not entirely clear about what they are selling up front - aside from a free website of course. But as we know - there is no such thing as a free lunch. The user experience is very controlled in a funnel-type arrangement. Everything is there to get me to start a new website.
Step One: Start Now
This is very easy to do. I just supply an email address and create a password. They send an email to confirm my registration. I click the link and begin.
Step Two: Pick a Template
There's lots of nice designs to choose from. Designs are categorized by industry and/or main focus. Everything is in HTML 5, which is good.
Step Three: Edit Your Site
With a little exploring, it was pretty easy to edit the template. You can even upload photos into a photo gallery - there are royalty free images available to use. The gallery is very nice to see in action. This is not as robust as a full content management system, though. Technically one can add pages, but not to the extent as if one had a database driven website.
To illustrate, the Wix.com design I chose came with an "Events" page. I can go to the page and edit the existing text to list events. I can even copy and paste to add new events to the list. In Drupal, I could create a new page for every event and it would automatically appear on the "Events" page. I would also have the option to have a mini-list of upcoming events in a side column, and choose to have the event appear in a calendar. To each event page, I could also add a photo gallery, a document to download, a YouTube video or audio clip, and more. Visitors could sign-up for events, comment, rate, bookmark, etc.
Step Four: Publish
Then I save my progress and click a button to publish my website. At this point, they ask you to choose a name for your website that will append to the Wix.com URL. So I end up with:
Yuck. Then I view my new website. Surprise! (Not Really.) There are ads! I don't like this so I proceed to Step Five.
Step Five: Pay to Have a Normal Website
Aha! This is where the plot thickens. In order to get rid of the all Wix.com advertising and get a real domain name (for free?), you have to pony up for a "premium plan" at a monthly fee. The fees range from $5.95 per month to $21.95 per month. You can save some money by paying for a year in advance. They also offer free pay-per-click advertising coupons for things such as Google AdWords.
- $5.95 will get you a domain, but you still have the ads. Considering a domain is $10.99 per year at GoDaddy, I don't see any benefit here.
- $11.95 will get rid of the ads, but you are limited to 1Gb of storage and 1Gb of traffic. Hosting with InMotion Hosting or BlueHost is cheaper than that and you get unlimited storage and traffic. No big deal here.
- $17.95 will get you 2.5 Gb of storage and unlimited traffic. 2.5 Gb is not really that much especially if you're storing photos.
- $21.95 will get you a shopping cart (I haven't tried it), you will still have the 2.5 Gb limit on storage, and they reduce (???) the traffic to 5 Gb.
They do not offer email. From Wix.com website, "No. At Wix we like to commit to providing excellent products. We feel that companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo offer great email solutions we can't compete with. And we believe that simple email solutions are not enough anymore." I don't expect Wix.com to offer email services, but if you have your own website, hosting and domain services, you can have a professional looking email eg. firstname.lastname@example.org. You could get email with your domain through Google (Wix.com is apparently incompatible with Network Solutions and Yahoo email services), but that may take some doing to setup the DNS settings. They do provide step by step instructions for this.
What happens if you want to cancel the service?
They don't specify. I assume you go back to the ads covered website you had before. There is a two week money back guarantee. More importantly, you can not take the website with you. This statement from the support forum is of concern, "Please note that once you purchase a WIX domain, unfortunately you cannot cancel, edit or delete the domain name." It seems like you'd be stuck with nothing if you cancel.
The Final Verdict
I would never suggest that anyone get themselves stuck like this. You spend your time and money creating something nice, but you don't actually own a website. A Drupal-powered, content management system website is a larger initial investment, but worth the extra money to have a more robust website and more control over this important asset.
At $11.95 per month, to have an ads free website with your own domain, technically Wix.com is a savings over several years (assuming that prices don't go up), but are you really getting the same value if you don't even own your website at the end of the day?
This fee is also for a small fraction of the features that come stadard with a Drupal website such as blogging, user management, comments, site search, and much more. You also have control of your domain, free integrated email through your hosting provider, the same AdWords coupons and other perks.