You have a lot of choices when it comes to DIY website builders. Most tech-savvy people have heard of Squarespace and Wix, but the name Simvoly is probably not only unfamiliar, but also a bit hard to pronounce. Don’t let that deter you. Simvoly is a modern, capable, and user-friendly website builder that costs less than much of the competition. It offers a very friendly interface and good customization even within the strictures of responsive design.
Pricing and Starting Up
You can try Simvoly free without a credit card for 14 days, but there’s no permanent free account level like those offered by Duda, Weebly, and Wix. The entry-level pricing is for the Personal account level, which costs $9 per month, with a year prepaid. For that you get up to 20 pages, 5GB storage, 10GB bandwidth, two contributors, a free domain, analytics, support, and up to five store products. That compares with a $14 per month starting price for Squarespace and $10 per month for Wix.
Upgrading to the Business plan gets you unlimited storage, bandwidth, pages, and contributors, and up to 25 store products. The top E-Commerce level plan costs $22 per month and increases the store item limit to 100. Adding $10 more per month removes the item limit entirely. All plans boast zero-percent transaction fees. Squarespace and Wix don’t charge you either, but in all three cases you still have to pay a per-transaction fee to the payment-processing service. You can get started building a site using Simvoly without even creating an account until later in the process.
Building Your Site
You have two choices at the first step in your path to Simvoly site building: You can choose a template, as you would in nearly every other site builder, or you can choose Magic Website Wizard. I’ll discuss the non-magical tool first, then provide a section on Magic Website.
Simvoly’s Themes use responsive design for good presentation on mobile. They’re also modern and clean looking, and they’re categorized into nine groups, including Arts, Fashion, Personal Photography, Restaurant, Services, and Store. I’m sorry not to see a Music category, as that obviously has special needs, such as performance dates and audio streaming and downloads.
You can preview the responsively designed themes as they’d appear on PCs, tablets, and mobile devices. After you choose a theme, you next need to create an online Simvoly account. This only requires an email, username, and password. The builder page opens pre-populated with content you customize for your site’s needs. To help you do this, a wizard takes you through the basics of adding pages and widgets and modifying overall site settings.
Customization and Site Elements
Simvoly works just as I expect a modern site builder to work, letting you easily build and customize your pages with drag-and-drop functionality and mouse-over menus. As with Squarespace, you add content in blocks, which you access either from the left panel’s “+” menu or by clicking the on-hover Add Block “+” buttons. These include things like images, text areas, maps, web widgets, and even blank areas. Whenever your mouse hovers over a block, you see Edit, Move, and Delete buttons. If you click on text, you get all your text-formatting options. You can easily divide your site into up to five columns, each with adjustable width. You can undo your last action, but there isn’t a full multiple-undo capability like that in Duda. A Simvoly contact told me that a History feature is in the works, however.
The top big button on the left-side toolbar lets you manage and add site pages. When you add a page, you can see and set its URL, choose a template (Home, Contact, About, Blank), password-protect the page, and even specify a custom header. One limitation is that you can’t drag and drop page entries around to change the navigation. You can set any page as the home page, but there’s no nesting pages under others from the Pages menu. You can do this from the Website Settings panel, though adding subpages is less straightforward than in Wix and some other competing services.
Working With Images
Like the better site builders, Simvoly maintains an online repository of photos you’ve uploaded, so that you can reuse them elsewhere on your site. You can upload multiple images at once and create subfolders for organizing them. One missing feature is the ability to use images from online services such as Flickr. You can apply slick animations like slide in, fade in, and zoom to images. You can also resize images (relative to other columns alongside them) on the page by dragging their left or right edges.
One feature that many users will probably want is completely missing, however. There isn’t any kind of photo editing. You can’t even rotate an image. Most services I’ve reviewed include an integrated online image editor such as Aviary. It’s fine to expect people to use installed photo software, but simple stuff like cropping and rotating should be included.
Gallery options include grids with text or carousels. You can add them either via drag-and-drop from the toolbar or from the “+” content button that appears when you hover over a content block. The latter offers more preset layout options. With either, you can change image padding and the number of images per row. There’s also a light-box check box, to let your site viewers see a full-window slideshow. This is just about everything most site builders could want.
Video is only via hosted links: Simvoly only hosts still images. Also, aside from some template’s sample photos, you don’t get a selection of stock photography like that offered by Wix, Duda, and other competitors.
Simvoly’s Magic Website Wizard is a beta tool that takes you through a few questions to generate a site automatically. You first choose a type such as Business, Personal, Photography, or Portfolio. More types are in development. After the main category selection, you enter a more specific site purpose. I first chose Business, and then, when entering the more specific type, suggestions dropped down. For example, I typed “cloth” and Sport Clothing and Apparel, Women’s Clothing, and Clothing and Apparel dropped down as suggestions.
Next you choose how you want the main navigation to look—with the menu across the top or along a side. The wizard proposes a design template, and then it’s time to log in. After this, you’re taken to the site builder interface described in the rest of this article. Magic Website can be a nice little timesaver, but it pales in comparison to Wix’s impressive AI-powered ADI system. With Wix, you simply input your business or personal info, and presto, you get a surprisingly well-designed site.
Site Settings and Options
On the Website Settings tab, you can choose whether you want your site to fill the full width of the browser or stay contained in a fixed box, for which you can choose a background color or image. You can also change the header site navigation menu, and upload a custom favicon, that tiny icon that appears in the browser tab.
Awkwardly, getting a custom domain, which is included with a subscription, requires contacting the Simvoly staff, rather than simply applying online. I also prefer builders to have me fill out a short form of the site or business details, such as name, address, phone number, and contact email. Not doing this is not a deal breaker, but it speeds up the building process. You can also hook up your Simvoly site to a domain you’ve previously registered with another website hosting service.
Selling on Your Site
Selling on Simvoly is easy and powerful. I’m impressed that the site builder lets you sell digital downloads without an account upgrade like some other services require. As with the blog, your Simvoly site by default includes a Store page, but you can delete it if you’re not selling anything. I did run into a couple script errors when editing product description text, but this was an isolated incident that I didn’t see again in later testing.
You can add product variations, enter sale prices, and keep track of inventory with Simvoly’s store engine. And, of course, you can upload an image for every product—multiple images if you like. Product pages come with basic sections that make sense, but you can add any kind of content block you want. You get a few choices of layout and styling. In addition to the full-page shopping cart, there’s a mini cart that can appear in the top right corner of the browser window.
The two best payment services—PayPal and Stripe—are integrated into the store. You can enter a bank account routing number so the lucre flows directly into your coffers. It’s also easy to set up shipping costs based on weight or price, but there’s no integration with Fedex, UPS, or USPS. Tax setup could use a little more work, too. As it is, you can add a tax based on the country, but that doesn’t help for the US, where each state has its own sales tax. Fortunately, you only have to collect tax on web sales in states where you have a physical presence, so small proprietors would normally just have to fill in one state’s sales tax rate.
My clothing-site template came with a Blog page. You can only have one blog page per site, but you can add a blog block to any of your pages, using a content block. You get some attractive layout choices. Each post can have a large image to the left, and you can stack posts vertically, or use a trendy “masonry” layout that is offset like bricks in a wall, with or without a sidebar.
Posts should have a photo, quote, or video to bring the reader in, but text-only posts are allowed. The interface gently encourages you to spice up your post with media. You can save a post as a draft for later publishing, but you can’t schedule a time and date for automatic publication.
Posts must have tags, must fall into categories, and can have comments, which you can approve. Readers can enter their email address in a box on any of your blog pages to get email notifications about new posts.
Before publishing your site, you can preview it by pressing a big button with an eye for an icon in the left rail. But the builder is so WYSIWYG that you may not even need to do this. When you do preview, you can see how the site looks on tablet and mobile screen sizes as well as desktop, however. One thing that Simvoly does that I’m not a fan of is to publish your site live as soon as you start working on it. I prefer the ability to preview and fine-tune before the site goes live. Even the ability to create an Under Construction page would be preferable.
Mobile Site Design
As with most site builders that use responsive page designs, Simvoly automatically spits out websites that look great in mobile browsers. My test site looked great on an iPhone, and it even included a hamburger menu for handheld operation, so it’s not just a simple site-squeezing, as Virb’s mobile sites are. Still, Simvoly doesn’t offer any customization of your mobile presentation, as Duda, , and Wix do. Sometimes you want to remove content that doesn’t work well on mobile screens.
Stats and SEO
Unlike many site builders that leave setting up traffic monitoring to you, Simvoly includes a decent set of site-visit stats on your Dashboard. You can see overall traffic by date range, top pages, and even what devices and browsers are being used to view your site. One thing you don’t get is a breakdown of user stats such as geographic location or repeat visits. You can hook up a Google Analytics account if you want that level of detail. There isn’t much at all in the way of SEO help, though. You can, however, set the meta title and meta description for each page in its Settings dialog.
Easy, Attractive DIY Websites
Simvoly is far from being a household name in the website-building arena, but it deserves your attention if you’re a non-technical person looking to establish an easy, attractive web presence. It offers responsive-design themes that look good on both desktop and mobile browsers, offers decent selling tools, and has built in site stats. As a fairly new offering, it still lacks a few niceties like photo editing, onsite domain registration, shipping integrations, and a gallery of third-party widgets, but there’s still a lot to like here. Simvoly is highly recommended, but for more mature, fully fledged options in the site-building space, check out Editors’ Choice web builders Duda and Wix.
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