Review: Zoho Sites – a website builder for newbies that is truly free

Seriously.

When I purchased my first domain name, I was happy (yay, personalized email) and then I was shocked and sad (wait, what? I have to purchase a domain and a web hosting for a website?!). Then after heading to The Googles (yes, the almighty search engine) it directed me to Zoho.

Zoho is a company based in India. They specialize in websites for business. They also specialize in freemium products it looks like. Don’t get me wrong, they sell you add-ons for your business (CRM support, price for added webforms and web space) as well as domain names if you need one, but it all starts off free and with no real catch. A company after my own heart.

Because I learned that nothing in life is often free, because it always contain catches/strings, I still gave it a shot because hey– they had me at free.

Continuing on, so at that moment all I had, was a domain name (thank you hellodotnyc) and no clue where exactly to proceed after that. Reading up a little, I saw that I had to get email support (which was another separate charge) and web hosting if I chose to have a website.

Zoho seemed to have everything I needed. Following their instructions, I effortlessly set up my domain with their email and now I had email support. I also linked my domain with their site builder and now I had a website– all for free.

Caveat— while free, the themes for the websites from Zoho really (I kid you not) look like they came out of the early 90s. They look like the sites that spammers purchase and spoof real legitimate websites to fool the elderly and novice users into visiting. However on the other hand– it’s free– and the workaround is that it allows customization– if you know how to do CSS or HTML (but there’s a limit to the customization that you can do, as you still have to retain some parts of the themes that you may not really care for). Another thing I didn’t really care for was that some of their website add-ons (Twitter button to fetch your feed) doesn’t display correctly when you add it onto your site. It also happens to a lot of their other third party add-ons as well. Until they fix that, if that is a big deal to some, you may want to just spend money to have hosting that truly support it. The developers had posted that they are working on it, but that was a year ago and still it looks unresolved.

So in conclusion? While it has its limitations, Zoho really is a good starting point for a newbie looking out to create their own first website. If you’re inclined, you can check mine out: Just Lok’s Little Website.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Website support
  • Email support
  • Features online tutorials to help you build
  • Custom themes that support customization

Cons:

  • Limited 90s themes
  • Website builder GUI is laggy at times
  • Third party add-ons do not display correctly (8/12/15 Edit: Third party add-ons do work, just make sure your adblocker/any other privacy add-ons are disabled)
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