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Technology should make our lives easier
• Very easy to use web-building tool
• Free trial
• Drag-and-drop editing
• Library of images
• Only one five-page site with cheapest Starter Plan
• Low storage capabilities on cheapest plan
Homestead bills itself as a super-easy, super-quick website builder and we thought the system was easy to use and understand. Without all the extra features included in some other packages, however, you get less for your money on the cheapest plan.
If you have absolutely no time to design a website and you want a simple, functional site suited to your business you can add your business name and contact info and publish your site complete with ready-built text and appropriate logos in a matter of minutes. Good for the time pressed and the technologically challenged, but does Homestead offer more? We looked at this online website creation tool to see where it scores points.
Homestead offers three packages for online website creation. The first, and the cheapest, is the Starter Plan. This package comes in at $4.99 a month and gives you a website with 25MB storage, 5GB bandwidth a month, and five pages – not an awful lot of space or pages but OK for the price. The Business Plan is $19.99 a month and includes blog capabilities, 5GB storage, 100GB bandwidth a month, 100 pages and three sites, one personalised domain and five email addresses. Ecommerce is available as an add-on. The Business Plus plan is $59.99 a month for website, domain and design consultation. You also get a blog and logo design. Storage is 10GB, bandwidth 500GB a month, and you have unlimited pages and unlimited sites. Also included are three domain names and 50 email addresses. You can accept credit cards on this package.
The option of a free trial period of 30 days exists, but you need to input your credit card details. After your trial period is up you will automatically be charged for the Starter plan.
Choose your own ready-designed template from a wide selection, grouped by industry and use (home, professional, hobby etc.) The Homestead templates include text ready-filled which is specific to the purpose of the template, but you may need to check it first to make sure it is really suitable for your purposes. Then add your own graphics, logo, and text and edit the fonts and colours. The design process is completed by drag and drop – position different elements on the page and click on an element to edit it.
You can also start from scratch and design your website yourself. One of the benefits of Homestead is the large library of stock photos you can use to decorate your website.
Extra widgets and features are easily inserted into your Homestead site, however not all are available with the Starter Plan. A blog, for example, is available with the Business plans. You can also add YouTube video, photo albums, a Facebook “Like” or a Twitter “Follow” button, maps, guest books, forms and polls. The forms feature is particularly good with Homestead, and you can add a number of customized options.
Ecommerce –Add a PayPal shopping cart to your site so you can accept payments through credit card, and if you buy an add-on you get further ecommerce features. Homestead offers separate packages for ecommerce sites so you are perhaps better off going with one of those if you are serious about selling online.
Reporting –The only stats you get from your website are the ones you collect from your forms and guest books on the site. This relies on your customers inputting their details so you can then send them emails or updates.
Hosting & domains
If you’re on the Starter Plan your domain will be a Homestead domain and not personal. To get your own personal website address you need to be on the Business plans. The same goes for email addresses, which are available as an upgrade. The price of the package includes hosting with storage and bandwidth depending on the plan you choose.
Ease of use
Homestead is generally very easy to use and if you want to set up a site in the minimum amount of time possible you will find the process simple and stress-free. The interface you use for designing and maintaining your website is clean and clear. One thing we didn’t like is that you lose all your content if you switch templates after beginning work on your site – you can’t preview how your site would look with another template in the background. However, you can preview your site before you publish which helps prevent embarrassing mistakes being made public.
Help & support
If you run into problems you can call a US-based operator or input your problem online for a solution. We think the support offered is of a good standard, although you probably won’t ever have to use it.
With a clean and clear interface and a super-quick way of getting a site published, Homestead is a good choice for a time-pressed small business or individual wanting a personal website. The storage space and number of pages is not high, however, and you will need to pay more if you want anything above a very simple site.
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