What’s The Best Free Logo Maker For Your Project?

This post originally appeared at What’s The Best Free Logo Maker For Your Project? via ShivarWeb

Free Logo Maker

Choosing the best free logo maker for your project is a frustrating process fraught with email signups, bad ideas, and wasted time. It’s tough to make a simple comparison because there is no such thing as an absolute “best free logo maker.” There is only the logo maker that is right for you considering all the tradeoffs with your time, needs, and goals.

Based on my experience working with many themes, graphic designers, and design software, there are a few that are a good fit for most people.

Best Free Logo Makers – Summary

  • Quality Designs
  • Useful Product Bundles
  • Pay to Download High Res

Tailor Brands

Check it Out
  • AI Powered
  • Simple w/ Combinations
  • Free to Use & Download

NameCheap

Check it Out
  • Unique Designs
  • Simple Website Bundle
  • Free Account Required

Wix

Wix
Check it Out

Focused on specific options?

Adobe Spark Logo is integrates with Adobe’s paid graphic design tools – try the tool here.

Fiverr Logo Maker combines templates with accessible designers (pay to download high res) – try the tool here.

Shopify’s Hatch Logo Maker is focused on ecommerce logos based on templates – try the tool here.

Considerations for Comparing Free Logo Makers

A logo maker is online software built to generate a logo for download & customization. They either use a set of templates that the user narrows via a questionnaire or it creates a logo from scratch that is borrows style elements from what previous users liked (usually styled as an “AI logo”).

Free to Use vs. Free to Download

There are plenty of free to use & download logo makers. But usually they have some “cost” with them.

Free to use makers can help you generate ideas, but you won’t be able to download for free. Free to download generators usually have some sort of catch, but do allow you to get the file for free.

The other hybrid is free with an account generated. Note that you always get what you pay for.

Copyright & Commercial Use

For free logo makers that promise free to use and free to download options, be sure to note the license. If it does not allow for commercial use, carefully note what you are going to use it for.

Logo Maker Generation

Some logo makers push their “AI powered” angle. This just means that instead narrowing templates, they are creating from scratch based on how your preferences match other user preferences. Ironically, you might end up with an oddly similar logo to someone else in your industry vs. using a traditional template powered. AI powered approaches are broadly better, but it’s worth testing different inputs.

Integrations & File Types

Nobody likes messing around with a fuzzy logo image. There are fine but essential differences between filetypes and resolutions. How & where you use the image matters too. Consider your time & frustration when using a single logo file everywhere your brand appears. Consider using a logo maker with an automated tool to crop & resize your logo.

User-friendliness

Often there is a tradeoff between design and features. Do you want raw features or better design? How much do you value user-friendliness? Do clear buttons and a friendly tone matter to you – or do you just want solid functionality?

Related Resources

99designs Review

Essential Guide to Hiring a Web Designer

Tailor Brands Review

Stencil App Review

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SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases

This post originally appeared at SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases via ShivarWeb

SEMRush Review

SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.

See SEMRush’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’ve been and off & on user of SEMRush for more than 7 years. While I’m a current subscriber of Ahrefs, one of their semi-direct competitors, I’ve recently reactivated my subscription due to volatility and massive changes among marketing data vendors.

What is SEMRush?

SEMRush is a suite of tools for digital marketers, so it’s hard to say precisely what it is. It’s almost like a Swiss Army Knife – a general purpose data & analysis tool for digital marketing.

Background on SEMRush

Their tools revolve around their backlink index, their keyword index, and their domain database. Their tools mix, match & cross-reference all these datasets to help marketers make better decisions about building content, building links, running ads, and running social media campaigns.

For example, their Keyword Explorer takes keywords that people are searching for in Google and cross-references their backlink index & ads index to determine how difficult any given keyword will be to rank for.

Here’s their official overview of their products.

SEMRush has been around for a long time. They have seen their share of controversy and can generate some extreme opinions among the digital marketing community.

Their one thread of consistency (and the reason they are still around) is that they have a very good sense of their target market. They have always sought to be the best all-around, single toolset. This will be the general theme and tl;dr of the pros & cons below.

They are not the “best” for any single one of their tools, but their strength is that they are really strong across a bunch of different tools…and they bundle it all into one.

How SEMRush Works

SEMRush has three subscription tiers. The higher tiers are meant to almost exclusively appeal to agencies with more reporting options and sharing limits…which they helpfully explain right on their pricing page.

Once you sign up, SEMRush revolves around Projects. Your website would be a single project. All the tools revolve around auditing your current domain, finding domain competitors, understanding your current link profile, your current keyword targeting, and all your opportunities.

SEMRush works by pulling data and attempting to help you convert that data into actions that you can take to improve your marketing.

Their Dashboard is busy & cluttered – but does show all the tools that you have available. They show all the use cases & example tasks that you can do to prevent decision overload.

Like a Swiss Army Knife, their tools work best if you know exactly what you want to do. It helps to start small to solve a single marketing problem.

For example, I needed a way to audit and share local citation opportunities with a client. SEMRush not only has that dataset, but it also provides recommendations on what to do – and it will create an automated, white-label PDF report to send my client.

I’ll get into these examples in my pros / cons, but in general, SEMRush works by taking your problem request, pulling data, converting that data into potential actions, and letting you take those actions to improve your digital marketing.

Pros of Using SEMRush

The broad upside of SEMRush is that it’s a full toolset from dataset, to recommendation engine, to automation tool, to reporting tool.

They are consistently focused on being the *one* tool that any agency, freelancer, or in-house marketer can buy and dramatically speed up their marketing operations. Here’s how that general upside plays out.

Feature Breadth

SEMRush has an incredible breadth of features – much more than I can write out and summarize.

They really lean into the “but wait, there’s more!” vibe.

Usually, a customer (like myself) joins for a specific tool, but quickly finds out that they have much more to offer.

For in-house marketers, it’s useful to have SEO, PPC, Social, PR, and Content tools all in a single software suite.

You are likely running multi-channel campaigns, so to have PPC & SEO keyword metrics are useful…but also to have link building & prospecting tools.

For solo freelancers on a budget, it’s useful to have a variety of tools to solve whatever marketing issue that you’re dealing with at the moment.

It has all the tools from a social media scheduler to toxic backlink checker to site auditor so that you can solve & diagnose any marketing issue that a new client is having.

For growing agencies, it can be shared by your PPC and SEO team to cut costs. Additionally, the reporting tools are invaluable for saving time and money while increasing client value & transparency.

They even have a lead generation tool to help agencies recruit new clients.

Here’s what the SEMRush Dashboard looks like –

Here’s what their backlink tool looks like.

It’s interesting how they not only pull basic backlink metrics, but also categorize them for you. It provides a quick snapshot of whatever domain you’re looking at.

Their link building tool takes your existing backlink index and generates ideas for new link building campaigns.

Here’s what their CPC Map tool looks like to help you generate new CPC ideas.

Here’s their local SEO tool – which is truly a “but wait there’s more” tool for any agency or freelancer.

Local clients are very hard to work with & scale due to the limited (and usually expensive) tools on the market. The fact that this tool is bundled is huge. It competes with Moz Local, but I found it to be solid.

Here’s their Market Explorer tool to help gather a better picture of any given industry so that you know who to copy, who to avoid, and who to learn from.

Again, I could go on. SEMRush’s biggest strength is their breadth of tools. No single tool can compete with a direct competitor, but on whole, they are a solid fit for the people most likely to use / need their product.

Feature Depth & Accuracy

Now – SEMRush has a wide breadth of tools. But even on their own, their tools are solid and have industry-leading depth & accuracy to them.

With their SEO tools, their backlink and keyword indices are not necessarily the best, but they are industry-leading. Comparing backlink indices is notoriously difficult. I will leave the academic research to others.

But from a day to day keyword research and link building perspective, SEMRush is good enough to do almost any job.

They are at that point where the person using the tool matters more than the tool itself.

I use Ahrefs on a day to day basis. They consistently have a more useful, and more complete keyword and link database than SEMRush.

But I also know how to effectively use Ahrefs’ data. In fact, one reason that I pay for both Ahrefs’ and SEMRush is that I like to collate their data with my Search Console data. Having 3 indices is better than 1.

But either way – SEMRush is a solid #2 or #3 in keywords & link database world…and they have depth in their PPC, Social, and Content tools.

Their PPC tools have a universe of data that other SEO-focused tools like Moz and Ahrefs (or Majestic) simply do not have. It has data that only Google’s Keyword Planner has.

But again – it’s a top tier dataset & PPC tool that also comes with SEO and everything else.

Having a range of robust tools might not be the best fit for everyone, but it’s a good fit for many others. With a growing agency that cannot afford multiple subscriptions, SEMRush has everything all in an overall value bundle. And that’s a huge pro.

Consistency Over Time

SEMRush has been around since 2008. For a marketing SaaS company, that is positively ancient. And that’s a good thing. There are lots of marketing software companies with a good product, and a good culture…but don’t really make it.

They get distracted and overextended. They try to become more than they should. They take venture capital and try to go beyond what their core market wants.

SEMRush has always been focused on the same core market with the same core suite of products. I was using them as a freelancer in 2011. The agency where I worked at in 2013 used them for their PPC and SEO teams. A friend who runs an in-house marketing team uses them today.

Their software suite has gotten bigger and better through incremental improvement and customer feedback.

They have been a bit tone deaf in their product launch communications and their own marketing tactics, but it’s never been a distraction from their main product suite.

When I commit to a tool, I want it to be around for a while. The fact that SEMRush has been around is a solid advantage.

Reporting & Recommendations

Marketing data can be just undecipherable noise unless you’ve worked at an agency or spent some time learning from someone who does digital marketing for a living.

That’s a huge problem with a lot of tools. There are two responses to this. One is to provide all the education and training yourself. That’s what Ahrefs does. They have the best SEO & content blog on the Internet.

The other response is to build in recommendations and reporting. That’s the route that SEMRush takes. I’ll get to the downsides of this approach, but overall, it’s really helpful.

If you are an in-house marketer or freelancer who juggles lots of marketing responsibilities, it’s incredibly useful to have reminders, recommendations, and reporting built into your software.

It provides actions in addition to education so that you can make fast decisions and understand the value of the data.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using SEMRush

There are a *lot* of highly charged opinions about SEMRush online. They have certainly courted plenty of controversy in the SEO community with their own “gray-ish hat” marketing tactics.

But they do have some downside and negatives as a tool set. Most of these are simple tradeoffs that they’ve made to get the pros that they have. But it’s important to be aware of the downsides & tradeoffs to understand what you’re getting and whether they align with your own goals and needs.

Feature Excellence

Plenty of SEOs and PPCers have done analysis on who has the “best” backlink or keyword index. You can get really deep in the weeds here. If you want to go read about crawler analysis and behavior, go check out this post or this post.

But, in general, and in my experience, SEMRush’s tools are solidly great – but they are not the best in any single category.

Their backlink & keyword index is good enough to do all the SEO & link building you’ll need to do to be competitive. But I still don’t think it’s as high quality or as deep as Ahrefs’ links or keywords.

Their PPC tools are great, but they are nowhere as user-friendly as AdEspresso or WordStream. And with their PPC keyword research tool, well, they are competing directly with Google’s Keyword Planner.

Their social media tools are great, but again, they are not as useful or usable as HootSuite, Buffer, or Buzzsumo.

Their link building & outreach tools are great, but again, they are not as usable or as useful as Buzzstream or other outreach tools.

And their local SEO tools are also solid, but not as good as Places Scout or Whitespark.

Now – this is all just the flipside of Feature Breadth.

SEMRush is the jack of all trades and master of none.*

*but don’t forget the rest of the rhyme which is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

Jargon & Feature Overwhelm

SEMRush has a lot going on. They have so many different features that they have them bucketed into different toolkits…even though the tools in those toolkits usually overlap.

The tools themselves are busy and present a ton of information.

And all that information is usually presented with industry jargon instead of plain language.

It’s confusing and overwhelming for me – and I’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years.

I’m not sure they could solve the user experience issue, but it’s a pretty big disadvantage compared to their competitors.

Automated Recommendations & Alerts

As mentioned in the pros section, one of SEMRush’s solutions to data overwhelm is to provide automated recommendations and alerts about what you should actually do.

Mostly, it’s a good thing. But any recommendation engine, no matter how smart, will only provide recommendations based on its inputs and parameters rather than actual knowledge.

And when you are working with human language and human knowledge, it gets tricky. SEMRush’s recommendations are great as an onboarding tool…but they can provide a false sense of security and accuracy.

This false sense of security could lead misinformed customers to make poor marketing choices.

For example, take their SEO content template tool.

In some ways, it’s great. In other ways, it just perpetuates some of the same old spammy tropes that have brought SEO down for years.

It is good to know semantically related words to your topic and it’s good to know about your competitors’ backlinks. And it’s good to consider text length.

But nothing about SEO is “paint by the numbers.”

It’s a bad idea to take a word salad, make a page full of those words, and throw a bunch of links at it.

That’s not what any professional SEO would recommend…but it’s the kind of thing that SEMRush’s automated recommendations would lead you to believe if you didn’t have any background or education.

It would be ideal to integrate some training directly with their recommendations. Until then, it’s a bit of disadvantage.

Workflow & Organization

SEMRush is not set up for a fast, efficient workflow…unless you really commit to the platform.

This downside can vary person to person, but it’s worth understanding. Some tools, like Ahrefs, just give you the data. The real analysis & work is done in a spreadsheet.

That’s how I like it and how most marketing professionals work.

SEMRush’s tool organization is setup to do analysis & actions within SEMRush. That’s great and can be super-handy…but only if you commit to using their workflow.

If you are the type of person who likes to work within SEMRush, it can have lots of advantages. But if you are like me and like to get the data into a spreadsheet, it can be frustrating.

SEMRush Use Cases

SEMRush has excelled by not trying to chase different markets. Here are the types of people that they are built for.

Solo Marketing Freelancer

If you have a wide range of clients & frequent projects, SEMRush’s tool variety will allow you to just have a single subscription to handle all types of clients.

In-house Marketer

If you are an in-house marketer that wants to run or knowledgeably assist your agency with multichannel campaigns, a subscription to SEMRush will give you the tool variety to effectively do that. Their pricing & reports will also be easy to sell to your boss.

Growing Agencies

SEMRush’s white label reports and team sharing options can help you provide value to clients while also controlling your overhead. It will also help you standardize agency processes with a single tool so that you don’t have a jumble of tools as your teams grow.

Next Steps & Conclusion

SEMRush is a solid all-in-one marketing tool suite. They aren’t the best in any one area, but they excel at providing a bunch of tools for a single subscription.

If you do PPC, SEO, Social, and/or Local – they are the tool to buy. You can see how they diagnose your own site with this tool –

If you are solely into SEO / Content, you should also look at Ahrefs. With a head to head comparison, they are better. And if you have the budget and clients…you should just pay for both. More data gives you a competitive advantage.

SEMRush

SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.

Application Category: Marketing Software

Editor's Rating:
4

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Kinsta Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at Kinsta Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

Kinsta Hosting Review

Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing, independent hosting company founded in 2013. Kinsta is focused exclusively on managed WordPress hosting with reliable customer support and Google Cloud-driven performance.

See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing

What is Kinsta Hosting?

Kinsta is a non-traditional hosting company only offers one service – managed hosting for WordPress on cloud servers. They don’t offer email, reseller, or any other type of hosting. They do integrate some 3rd-party tools like DNS (from Amazon) and SSL (from LetsEncrypt) and CDN (configured on their Google Cloud network). Here’s their pricing chart.

Kinsta was founded in 2013 to meet the increased demand for managed WordPress hosting services (which I’ll touch on in the next section). They are a remote-first company with an emphasis on global service with support provided in 7 languages.

Their service is provided via Google’s Cloud Platform, and they have an exclusive focus on WordPress.

I’ve had a long-standing client who uses WP Engine (Kinsta’s direct competitor), and have had experience using the various managed WordPress hosting products across the hosting industry.

Background on Kinsta Hosting

To understand Kinsta’s product, you need to understand four concepts.

First, WordPress is the most popular content management system software on the Internet. People use it to run websites. It can run on any hosting setup with PHP, MySQL, and Linux. In other words, it can run on almost any web host.

Second, Web Hosting is space on a computer server that can run web applications and serve data to browsers (aka, it’s where a website lives). Web hosting can come in various setups, depending on the configuration. Shared hosting is the most common where a single server that can run PHP, MySQL, and Linux is “shared” among various hosting accounts. I explain more here.

Third, WordPress Hosting is space on a web hosting account that is specifically configured in some way to help WordPress software run better. I explain more here. The definition of “run better” can vary wildly depending on the hosting company since technically WordPress can run on almost any web hosting account. I wrote about the differences between Web and WordPress hosting here.

Fourth, Cloud Hosting is a large network of data centers configured so that customers can lease computing power & storage for web applications on demand, anywhere in the network instead of using space on a single web server. The largest cloud networks are run by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Digital Ocean, IBM, and Oracle. I explain more here.

With those four background concepts in place, I can explain Kinsta’s unique position in the hosting world.

Kinsta runs managed WordPress hosting on the Google Cloud Platform. They actively lease computing power & storage on Google’s Cloud, configure it to run WordPress quickly & efficiently, and manage & support each installation.

In other words, they offer a niche but also potentially powerful platform. Because of how they mix & match all these services, they don’t compete head to head with many providers. But they compete indirectly with *a lot*.

How Kinsta Hosting Works

In some ways, Kinsta works just like any other hosting company. You sign up and pay every month. In exchange, your WordPress website runs quickly and efficiently.

But behind the scenes, their setup is a bit more complicated.

First, you’ll technically lease your hosting from Google, so unless Google goes down…your site isn’t going to go down. There’s no “crashing” like there could be on a typical web server.

Second, Kinsta has its cloud access explicitly configured for WordPress with things like server-side caching, security rules, staging environments, and more so that your site is faster than it could be on a vanilla Linux web server.

Third, Kinsta blends several 3rd party services for DNS (connects your domain to the host), SSL (secures your connection), and CDN (content distribution network) to make everything your website needs to work together.

Since they only have one product with no upsells, the signup is straightforward.

1 Kinsta Signup

The entire setup operates from a single account dashboard where you control your WordPress installs.

2 Kinsta Account Dashboard

I’ve been considering Kinsta for a client’s site, and decided to give them a try with a small site that I’m looking to consolidate.

Here’s my Kinsta Hosting review structured with pros, cons, ideal use cases, and alternatives based on my experience as a customer.

Pros of Using Kinsta Hosting

There are a lot of Kinsta Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach.

Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Kinsta Hosting.

Cloud Hosting Benefits

Since Kinsta uses the Google Cloud Platform, you get many of the benefits of cloud hosting without many of the downsides.

Speed

A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.

In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

So here’s the thing – Kinsta uses the same servers that you use to access Google.com and YouTube.com. With Kinsta, as long as they are configured well, they are going to be fast.

Additionally, with server-side caching, your WordPress website will be ready to go. Now, there are still plenty of issues that can slow your site down, but they likely won’t be Kinsta’s fault.

Here’s my first test with my Kinsta website –

9 Kinsta Speed Test

Again, if your site is loading slowly – it’s not Kinsta’s fault. It’s something with your site.

Geography

With the Google Cloud Platform, Kinsta can also offer data centers around the world. They have more than 23 at the time of writing ranging from Iowa to Southeast Asia and everywhere in between.

Their CDN runs on a global CDN network (KeyCDN) as well, so website assets can be staged close to any website visitor in the world.

It’s rare and expensive to build & maintain data centers around the world, so using Google’s infrastructure provides an advantage that a traditional hosting company can’t match.

Uptime

Remember the last time Google went down? Yes, it happens. But it’s rare. And when it happens, it’s a newsworthy event. With Kinsta, that means that, outside of a bad configuration on their part, your site is not going to go down unless Google goes down.

Consistent performance and reliability are the main advantages of Kinsta since they can take Google Cloud and make it accessible and WordPress-friendly to regular customers.*

*Yes, you can go to Google and sign up for cloud hosting yourself. In fact, I have a non-WordPress site running there now. But to setup & run a database-driven CMS with integrated file storage takes some…patience and wherewithal. It’s not a simple one-click WordPress install. Also, Google does not provide support or configuration help. So, still a considerable advantage for Kinsta.

Configuration, Focus, & Usability

Kinsta built their Dashboard from scratch. Their signup is simple and straightforward. There are some hiccups that I’ll get to in the downsides, but overall, their configuration and usability is amazing.

Their focus on WordPress and simple plan structure also makes onboarding (i.e., going from a new signup to active customer) straightforward. The design is uncluttered, minimalist, and well-designed.

6 Kinsta Easy Install

Their setup had jargon and technical information present, but it isn’t overwhelming and daunting like other managed WordPress hosting companies.

User-friendly Add-on Tools

While Kinsta does not have all the tools that traditional hosts make available, they do bundle several tools that are critical to running a fast, effective website. And again, unlike other managed WordPress hosting providers, they bundle them seamlessly in their dashboard.

DNS

DNS is the roadmap of instructions that connects your registered domain to your hosting, where your website lives.

Kinsta includes Premium DNS with all their plan levels, which makes setting up your website much simpler. Plenty of managed hosting companies (and even some website builders) leave the DNS up to their customers to figure out – leaving plenty of customers fiddling with TXT records, CNAMEs and MX records in vain.

4 Kinsta Built-in DNS

Amazon provides Kinsta’s DNS. It’s reliable and integrated directly in their Dashboard.

CDN

A content distribution network (CDN) allows you to take the load off your main server by distributing media files and scripts around the world so that your website can load faster and with fewer resources on your server.

Again, not every hosting company includes this option, but Kinsta integrates it directly within their Dashboard.

SSL

An SSL allows your website to provide an encrypted connection between itself and your visitor’s browser. It’s an essential part of every website. Again, it’s something that Kinsta provides directly in their dashboard via LetsEncrypt. It’s not the best or name-brand SSL, but it does the job.

Migration

Kinsta provides website migration services to its platform. It can be confusing enough, moving an existing WordPress website from one shared hosting account to another. But moving it to a managed cloud platform can create all kinds of hiccups.

3 Kinsta Migration

It’s a free service that would typically cost hundreds of dollars with a WordPress consultant.

Developer & Agency Tools

Kinsta provides a range of developer and agency tools that all sound either too dull or technical until you need them & use them.

They have well-implemented basics like built-in staging and user management so that developers can build client sites and hand them over with no hiccups or maverick approval processes.

5 Kinsta User Management

Additionally, they have SSH access, WP-CLI, and allow different versions of PHP.

But the most interesting piece for me is the fact that they don’t lock customers into a single WordPress configuration AND they’ll support non-traditional setups like reverse-proxy configurations.

8 Kinsta Staging Environment

As an SEO consultant, having the flexibility of configurations is critical for working with large clients who want WordPress for their blog…but, not their main site. It makes a big content marketing sell much simpler since developer time can be outsourced to Kinsta.

Customer Support

Most customer support stories are either *really* bad or *really* good. It’s the one-star vs. five-star problem. Like I’ve said in most of my hosting reviews, I try to look and see if the company treats customer support as a cost center, a profit center, or an investment center.

Based on how they’ve integrated their knowledge base throughout their Dashboard (rather than stashing it somewhere), and the fact that they’ve grown their team mainly with support team around the world – it seems like they’ve deemed customer support as an investment center.

And that’s a good thing if you are a customer. You know they aren’t looking to make a buck off you, or push you off. Instead, they are trying to develop goodwill and increase word of mouth. Kinsta’s main “thing” is customer support, since it makes their whole product run.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Kinsta Hosting

Like any web host, Kinsta has disadvantages. There are plenty of Kinsta complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using Kinsta Hosting.

Pricing

Kinsta is expensive.

1-Kinsta-Pricing-Chart

No matter how you measure it – by WordPress installs, visits allowed, storage allocated, indirect competitor pricing, indirect competitor pricing – Kinsta is going to be competitive…but still the expensive option.

WP Engine is its most direct competitor. Kinsta does have more intermediate plans…but WP Engine has a pricing setup that can be a bit cheaper than Kinsta.

Competitors like InMotion Hosting and SiteGround offer comparable products for much cheaper (though they aren’t on Google’s Cloud). LiquidWeb does the same for managed WooCommerce websites.

And other indirect competitors like WPMU Dev do bundled cloud hosting with their plugin subscription that is competitive for agencies / developers.

There are two things pushing back on this disadvantage.

First, Kinsta is super-transparent about their pricing. There are no add-ons or excluded features like on WP Engine. There are no slight apples to oranges comparisons like you’d find with InMotion or SiteGround or LiquidWeb.

Two, expensive is a relative concept to value. Depending on the value that your website is generating, a few hundred dollars may or may not matter. If a few hours of downtime or a support misstep can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars, then “expensive” is the wrong metric to look at.

On the flip side, hosting is a business cost. Any dollar that you save goes right to your bottom line. If you are on the fence about some of Kinsta’s features or have other website needs (see Feature bundles below), then Kinsta’s price is going to be a disadvantage.

Feature Caps

Kinsta has some pretty low caps, especially compared to non-cloud competitors. Since they are working with leased infrastructure, they have to pass along any and all of their hosting costs.

If you’ve run a rapidly growing website, you’ll know just how quickly visits, storage, and bandwidth needs can escalate. If you are on Kinsta, you’ll never have to worry about needs taking your website offline. But you may have to worry about those needs hitting your bottom-line.

I have one client who built a silly side-project on his website (hosted on WP Engine with similar caps to Kinsta). The silly side-project took off – in a big way.

In some ways, the project brought in indirect revenue with backlinks, brand awareness, etc. But in concrete terms, it single-handedly tripled his monthly hosting costs because it blew past every visitor cap…and then the bots & spammers showed up. He’s on an enterprise plan with the same amount of “real” traffic that should put him on a basic plan.

Now, that’s a good problem to have. But it’s created decisions that honestly would not need to be made if he were using a Kinsta competitor with a managed VPS or managed WordPress hosting product like InMotion or SiteGround.

In fact, some of Kinsta’s features are capped at lower levels than you’d expect with their marketing. For example, think about WooCommerce and membership sites. They recommend PHP Workers that can handle excess queries. Here’s an explainer on how they work. But basically they help with the shopping cart / user roles while the server cache loads the rest of the page.

For their Starter and Pro plans, Kinsta only provides 2 PHP Workers…which is not recommended for ecommerce websites. In comparison, InMotion’s cheapest managed WordPress plan comes with a limit of 4 PHP Workers.

And again – many of these limitations come not from Kinsta (they are transparent about all this) but from their product structure…which is the next disadvantage.

Size & Company Structure

In a lot of ways, Kinsta is my kind of company. They are founder owned & operated. They are boot-strapped with zero investor funding. They are product-focused with a smart, thoughtful marketing strategy.

They are small enough to have direct contact with customers and processes. They are remote-first, global, and diverse. I’m glad to spend money with them.

But the hosting industry is structured the way it’s structured for a reason. And Kinsta is moving in the opposite direction of the rest of the industry.

Web hosting business is built based on the depreciation of fixed assets and high customer retention. It’s similar in many ways to the physical real estate industry. Almost every hosting company is away from pure-play hosting to becoming a hosting “platform” with lots of amenities.

Since Kinsta leases its infrastructure from Google, they use an entirely different business model. They have to have low overhead costs (ie, remote-first is a must), low acquisition costs (ie, their inbound marketing strategy), low labor costs and high pricing. Additionally, they are completely dependent on Google staying competitive & in the Cloud hosting business.

In other words, Kinsta is kind of like the WeWork of the hosting world (in a good way). Kinsta has avoided most of WeWork’s mistakes. But the core business model of sub-leasing servers while adding value via convenience, accessibility, and support is tricky.

WP Engine made it by using investor money to acquire market share and big amenities while building a hybrid data center. But others have failed or have been bought out – like FlyWheel and Nexcess.

Right now, Kinsta is committed to organic, long-term growth. But if you are looking for a 5+ year host, I’d pause and look around the industry before committing.

Feature Bundles & Add-Ons

Most direct and indirect competitors are moving to a “hosting platform” model with bundled plugins, themes, and other amenities. Almost all of Kinsta’s direct and indirect competitors bundle some sort of WordPress amenity with their managed WordPress hosting product.

  • WP Engine bundles StudioPress themes & products.
  • LiquidWeb bundles iThemes plugins & themes.
  • InMotion bundles JetPack and the BoldGrid website builder.
  • WPMU Dev bundles its premium plugins.
  • SiteGround bundles custom amenities like developer toolkits and email.
  • Pressable bundles JetPack and WP101 Training.

The flipside of this disadvantage is that Kinsta is truly focused on WordPress and hosting – they aren’t trying to compete with amenities and bonuses. They are just doing what they promise to do.

That’s great – and certainly a strength. But it’s also a downside for some customers.

Kinsta Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases

Just like cars, houses, appliances, etc – there is no such thing as a “best” host. There are just better & worse hosts for different customers with different needs. Here are some ideal use cases for Kinsta, along with some direct alternatives.

Growing Ecommerce or Membership Site

A growing ecommerce or membership website built with WordPress can create resource strains and technical demands. Kinsta’s architecture and support experience are really made for both types of sites (especially at higher pricing tiers).

Kinsta is a solid, straightforward, but still affordable option for ecommerce / membership websites that can pay a premium to have things “just work” with no troubleshooting. View Kinsta’s plans here.

Developer or Agency w/ Premium Clients

Kinsta is a great option for developers or agencies that build high-quality websites for premium clients with ongoing maintenance budgets.

Kinsta has the social proof, technical specs, pricing, and management tools that will assure brand name clients while still sticking with their budget expectations. View Kinsta’s plans here.

Premium Support & All-in-One Needs

Kinsta is ideal for DIY customers who run a high-margin website that needs premium support and/or all-in-one hosting needs. Kinsta’s monthly costs are high, but nothing considering the costs of hiring a WordPress developer to solve intermediate issues for a day (i.e., installing a new SSL certificate or repointing a subdomain). View Kinsta’s plans here.

Out of all the hosting companies that I’ve used myself or via a client, here’s how Kinsta compares directly with a few select ones.

Kinsta Hosting vs. WP Engine

WP Engine was the first company to offer a managed WordPress hosting product, and they’ve been the market leader ever since. They focus on the same customers as Kinsta. I’ve reviewed WP Engine here.

They have some advantages over Kinsta, including more features & amenities. But they are also more technically oriented with a more confusing backend. Kinsta is cleaner and simpler.

If you are a solo DIYer, developer, or small agency, you’ll likely gravitate towards Kinsta. If you are a corporate-type, you’ll likely gravitate towards WP Engine.

Kinsta Hosting vs. LiquidWeb

LiquidWeb moved into the managed WordPress space with their Nexcess acquisition. LiquidWeb is one of the largest independent hosting companies and has a specific focus on agencies and developers. They run their own data centers and have been around for a long time. They really excel with ecommerce websites.

Since they operate their own data centers, they have major price & feature advantages over Kinsta. But Kinsta’s setup runs on the Google Cloud and has better focus & usability since they *only* do WordPress.

If you are looking at cost but still want a lot of the developer features of Kinsta, you’ll likely go for LiquidWeb. If you like Kinsta’s focus & cloud setup, you’ll likely go for them instead.

Kinsta Hosting vs. SiteGround

SiteGround has been a rapidly growing host in the WordPress space. They have a big appeal among developers. They also have a global reach with data centers in the US, Europe, and Asia.

Since they operate their own data centers, they have a big cost advantage over Kinsta with managed WordPress hosting. They also bundle a lot of the same features as Kinsta including CDN, SSL, DNS, migration service, and user management. But again, Kinsta will likely still have some advantage with speed & performance since they run on Google’s Cloud.

If you are looking to save money but still have a developer-oriented company, SiteGround will likely be a better choice. If you prize speed & performance and have budget for Kinsta, you’ll likely go for Kinsta’s plans.

Kinsta Hosting vs. InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting is one of the most consistently growing hosting companies on the Internet. They are independent and have grown organically over the course of 20+ years. They offer a wide range of hosting products, including managed WordPress hosting, with a focus on small businesses.

Since they run their own data centers, they have a big advantage over Kinsta with pricing. They are able to offer much higher caps on features compared to Kinsta. For example, remember the PHP Workers mentioned earlier? Kinsta provides 2 PHP Workers compared to InMotion’s 4 Workers on their cheapest $8.99/mo plan. They also bundle a lot of business-friendly amenities with their plans (like JetPack for security).

If you are looking at the overall value of features & support for the price, InMotion Hosting would be a better fit. If you like Kinsta’s exclusive focus on cloud & WordPress, then they would be a better fit.

Kinsta Hosting Review Next Steps

Kinsta Hosting is an amazing option to have in the world of WordPress hosting. They have a fast, simple, solid product in a competitive field. If you have budget for a managed host and like the appeal of using the cloud, then Kinsta is likely an excellent fit for you.

See Kinsta’s Current Plans & Pricing

If you are looking for other options, check out the ones listed above, or explore my WordPress Hosting page.

Kinsta Hosting

Kinsta Hosting is a rapidly growing managed WordPress hosting service built on the Google Cloud.

Application Category: Managed WordPress Hosing

Editor's Rating:
4

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GreenGeeks Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at GreenGeeks Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

GreenGeeks Hosting Review

GreenGeeks is an independent, rapidly growing hosting company based in California, but with data centers across the US and Europe. GreenGeeks positions itself as a more environmentally friendly host with a focus on customer support.

See GreenGeeks’ Current Plans & Pricing

What is GreenGeeks Hosting?

GreenGeeks is a traditional web hosting company that offers a range of hosting services, including Shared, VPS, and Reseller products, along with complementary products such as domain registration, website builder, and (nominal) WordPress hosting. Here is their pricing chart.

GreenGeeks Pricing

GreenGeeks was founded in 2008 by a veteran of the hosting industry with a then-novel promise of environmental friendliness in an increasingly dirty industry.

GreenGeeks also has a unique focus on simplicity in an increasingly complex industry. Along with InMotion, HostPapa, A2, and SiteGround, GreenGeeks is one of the fewer remaining large hosts that is not owned by Endurance International, the GoDaddy Group, or the Web.com Group.

I recently had a couple of small websites that needed their own hosting accounts. Since I’ve had readers ask about GreenGeeks, I decided to give them a try.

Here’s my GreenGeeks Hosting review structured with pros, cons, and alternatives based on my experience as a customer.

Pros of Using GreenGeeks

There are a lot of GreenGeeks Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering GreenGeeks Hosting.

Speed & Performance

A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.

In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

GreenGeeks Hosting makes a lot of claims about their speed.

Some of those claims are just marketing claims that are true across all hosting providers (we’ll cover in the downsides).

But overall, GreenGeeks Hosting does live up to their promises.

One of the main factors of site speed is Time To First Byte (TTFB) – ie, how quickly the server sends the first byte of the first file in response to a request. Here’s how my GreenGeeks Hosting website tested out with a standardized install

GreenGeeks Speed

Their TTFB was much better than some of their big brand competitors like Bluehost or GoDaddy and competitive with other companies that focus on speed. For example, here’s my TTFB report from tests that I did on my SiteGround website.

SiteGround Speed

A bit faster – but in the same ballpark – especially given the variance that can happen with TTFB tests. And of course, if you have a good server setup, you can do even more (with GreenGeeks Hosting or any other fast hosting company). For example, here’s my TTFB test with an optimized InMotion server.

Overall, GreenGeeks Hosting excels in one of their main claims to fame – speed & performance. If that’s your priority, then they are certainly in the running with other direct competitors.

Company Structure & Mission

First off, I don’t think that a company is “good” or “bad” simply due to its size or customer focus. It’s all about tradeoffs.

There are a lot of major advantages to using a big company. They usually have the resources to provide big comprehensive solutions. They typically have lower unit costs that can be passed to the customer. They are also usually more stable than small, upstart companies.

That said, small companies are usually able to be more agile, closer & more responsive to the customer, and less likely to view customers solely through the lens of a Net Promoter Score.

In the world of hosting – it really depends on your goals & preferences. There is no right answer.

That said, GreenGeeks does have two things going for it.

First, it’s a big advantage that GreenGeeks Hosting is a founder-owned, independent company – simply because that is so rare now. Most hosting companies are brands of Endurance International, GoDaddy or the Web.com group.

And not only is GreenGeeks Hosting independent, but they are also stable and growing and really use their independence to promote transparency and accessibility that a big brand simply can’t match.

If you are someone looking for a hosting company rather than a hosting brand – GreenGeeks Hosting will tick that box. If not, you can ignore this section and keep focusing on your priorities.

Second, is GreenGeeks’ sustainability mission that is built into their business & corporate mission. Web hosting is a pretty carbon-intensive industry. It is responsible for an increasing amount of carbon emissions at a time when our carbon use needs to go down.

GreenGeeks purchases 3x the electricity that they consume in the form of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation – in addition to conservation measures at data centers.

Now – carbon accounting is outside of the scope of this review. However, RECs are pretty legit from a climate perspective compared to the iffy accounting of the more common “carbon offsets”. Here’s the difference if you’re interested. But the short version is that even though GreenGeeks’ data centers are powered in states with pretty dirty grid power, they purchase 300% of the equivalent electricity consumed from clean grid sources. The end result is that they are putting more clean energy back into the grid than the dirty energy that they are consuming.

The short version – GreenGeeks is an indie company that is more environmentally friendly than other hosting companies. They aren’t merely greenwashing for sales.

Product Simplicity & Transparency

GreenGeeks is simple. They have a few different plans. They have few, if any, upsells. The WordPress auto-install creates a blank, default install with no additional plugins or anything.

GreenGeeks Simple Install

GreenGeeks is as transparent as they can be about what equipment you are receiving and why you are getting what you are getting.

GreenGeeks has some elements of marketing-speak that I’ll cover in the downsides (e.g., WordPress hosting vs. Web hosting), but by in large, they run a simple, straightforward operation. As a customer, it’s refreshing and…nice. Big upside for GreenGeeks.

Support Access & Options

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, reviewing customer support is tricky. Just like your local restaurant on Yelp, the most positive and most negative reviews are generally worthless.

You never know when issues are customer-caused or when someone simply encountered that one amazing/horrible employee.

I’ve had a good experience with GreenGeeks Hosting. But that’s very anecdotal. So, I also like to look at “proxies” for customer support. In other words, things that indicate something about the culture & processes of customer support.

First – GreenGeeks Hosting provides a lot of different channels for customer support.

GreenGeeks Support

They have a phone number front and center. They have an extensive knowledgebase, and live chat. They do well triaging requests via social media.

Second, GreenGeeks’s reps are pretty hands-on – they’ll log into your account and attempt real fixes before having to escalate the issue. While some customers may or may not like that option, it does signal that they see customer support as an investment rather than a cost. That’s the type of general conclusion that I look for – and the one that I think matters in the long-term over a one-off experience.

Like their independent competitors in InMotion and SiteGround, GreenGeek’s customer support is a major pro to choosing them over a big brand hosting company (like GoDaddy) that may or may not prioritize support in the same way. This point segues into another big advantage for GreenGeeks Hosting.

Data Centers & Industry Contrasts

On a related but different note than speed & performance, GreenGeeks scores well as a globally oriented host that can efficiently serve websites around the world.

While there are lots of factors in website speed (like TTFB), the physical location of your server matters a lot. Requests for information travel over physical wires to a physical server. Even at lightspeed, distance matters, especially if you own/maintain a site or if your visitors need to load up many different files.

If you and your audience are on one side of the globe, it’s good to host your files near both you and your audience.

*Note – if you are in one country, but your audience is spread out, most sites solve this problem with a CDN.

Until recently, most cutting edge hosting companies were based & focused on the US market. If you were in Asia or Europe -then you might be stuck with lackluster local hosting and/or slow connection times.

GreenGeeks Data Centers

GreenGeeks allows you to select your datacenter among the four that they operate in the US, Canada, and Europe. As long as you aren’t in Austral-Asia, you’ll be set with GreenGeeks.

But second, GreenGeeks is incredibly transparent and normal compared to industry peers. Part of this relates to the simplicity that I already mentioned. But, they are refreshingly straightforward. You can see in the screenshot above that they tell what their data centers’ IP addresses are. They tell you what they can and cannot do.

They provide an ad and upsell-free WordPress auto-install.

GreenGeeks Simple Install

Their account management is so simple that it’s boring.

GreenGeeks Account Management

And it’s not really about the simplicity that is attractive per se – it can also have downsides – but it’s about what it says about the company.

GreenGeeks seems to be the type of company that sells a good product. They are proud of it. And that is all. For a product like web hosting, that type of company is usually good to work with.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using GreenGeeks

Like any web host, GreenGeeks has disadvantages. There are plenty of GreenGeeks complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using GreenGeeks Hosting.

Price Point

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, comparing pricing across hosting companies can be maddening. It’s very difficult to compare apples to oranges because plans generally come with various caps.

That said, I try to look at compare pricing based on the 3 “D’s” of core hosting features –

  • Domains – how many websites you can run on your account
  • Databases – how many software installs you can run
  • Disk Space – how many files you can upload to your account

After looking at “core” hosting features, I like to factor all the possible “bonus” features. Bonus features are features that you should only factor in if they pertain to your goals.  For example, if you plan on running Google Ads, then a credit there might be worthwhile, but if not, then it’s something to ignore completely.

Either way, GreenGeeks Hosting has 3 main tiers for shared Linux hosting – the Lite ($9.95/mo at renewal), Pro ($14.95/mo at renewal), and Premium ($24.95/mo at renewal).

GreenGeeks Pricing

With heavy discounting, their plans are not too bad compared to both competitors and discount brands.

That said – they are definitely pricier than most hosting companies that I’ve looked at for a few reasons.

First, their promotional pricing is only valid for 3-year plans. If you only want to pay annually – their renewal pricing is much higher.

GreenGeeks Monthly Pricing

Second, their Lite plan is pretty heavily capped. It’s really suitable for literally one website with no additional use cases.

Third, while they do provide some bonuses, they all have some strings attached and may or may not be worth the price jump between tiers.

Now – to be clear, that’s not a bad thing. Price is not a particularly good metric. Every customer should look at overall value for their needs. But either way, GreenGeeks Hosting works at a higher price point than other hosts, and I’m not sure their raw features meet the price point….which segues into the next section.

Product Selection & Feature Set

GreenGeeks keeps their product line-up simple. Even their “WordPress Hosting” is just plain Shared hosting with dedicated support reps.

They don’t have cloud hosting or managed WordPress hosting, or multiple flavors of shared or VPS hosting.

Among their features, they don’t have NGINX, built-in staging, or their own CDN network. They don’t bundle plugins or brand-name SSLs. They use a standard off-the-shelf cPanel and Softaculous installer.

GreenGeeks cPanel
GreenGeeks Web Apps

And they set pretty low default memory limits on new WordPress installs.

GreenGeeks Memory Limits

The ironic thing is that this lack of product features is simply the flip-side of their simplicity and straightforward approach. Most of these features can be changed (like the low default memory allocation) or can be solved in other ways.

However, for customers who are expecting all the things to be pre-bundled and convenient – it’s a downside compared to other competitors.

Think about your local grocery store. Costco is able to keep stuff in stock and to keep low prices low because they have a shockingly low number of SKUs. You won’t find 26 brands of hot sauce in Costco. That would drive me nuts. I love going to my local Super Kroger with dozens of national and local brands…that might sometimes be out of stock or more expensive.

In the analogy, GreenGeeks is Costco. They have what you need, just don’t expect dozens of add-ons and bells and whistles. For example, they don’t have Bluehost’s super easy and custom cPanel and they don’t have InMotion’s custom WordPress plans. But that’s also not GreenGeeks’ thing.

Onboarding & Product Setup

In a similar fashion to feature simplicity, GreenGeeks has a pretty plain, vanilla process of onboarding and product setup.

Sure, they don’t have lots of upsells and clutter, but it’s also more old-school than other hosting brands. Here are their account setup emails.

GreenGeeks New Account
GreenGeeks New Account Info

As you can see, it’s solidly fine. They give you what you need. But there’s also no hand-holding. That’s great…unless you find hosting to be daunting and need some help / pointers.

Bundles & Bonuses

Lastly, and on a very similar note, is their lack of bundles and bonuses. Most hosting companies are racing to become “platforms”. And part of that is a push to bundle products to keep your customers around.

WP Engine bundles high-quality themes. InMotion bundles high-quality JetPack plugins and caching plugins. Bluehost has an entire theme / app marketplace. HostGator has a top-notch drag and drop builder.

And even among other hosting companies that aren’t bundling, they are providing more bonuses or carving out a unique position. SiteGround has a suite of developer tools. HostPapa has a range of international support options, etc.

GreenGeeks’ “thing” seems to just be their sustainability pitch. That’s great – and I certainly applaud that. But as a customer, it’s important to be aware of what you need & don’t need before you make that tradeoff. Individual action on climate is a must, but society-level action is still the most critical piece. I bought a used Nissan Leaf even though it has less range and less space than a petroleum powered car. But also…I don’t need lots of range or a lot of hauling space for my day to day use. The consideration should be the same with GreenGeeks.

GreenGeeks Alternatives & Comparisons

Out of all the hosting companies that I’ve used myself or via a client, here’s how GreenGeeks compares with a few select ones.

GreenGeeks vs. SiteGround

SiteGround is one of GreenGeek’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitors. They both have a focus on speed with reputations for solid support. SiteGround shares many of GreenGeek’s positives (including speed, support, and data centers) with some of the same downsides. You can read my full SiteGround Hosting review here. If you are in Asia or Africa are looking for more hosting bonuses, then I’d use SiteGround. If you are in the US or Europe and want a straightforward host (or like GreenGeeks’ mission), then I’d go with GreenGeeks.

GreenGeeks vs. Bluehost

Bluehost is one of Endurance International’s most well-known brands. They beat GreenGeeks on pricing and onboarding. However, GreenGeeks does somewhat better with performance and core hosting features whereas Bluehost has better “bonuses” and onboarding. If GreenGeeks’ mission or independence matters more to you – then pay a bit extra for GreenGeeks Hosting. If you’re just running a project on a budget or need better Getting Started guidance, then go sign up for Bluehost.

GreenGeeks vs. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the giant of the web hosting world. In fact, they have tried to go beyond hosting to become more of a platform. Their actual hosting products are sort of buried among all their other offerings. But in general, they’ll have better short-term pricing and better complementary products than GreenGeeks. But they’ll lag on customer support, core hosting features, performance, and long-term pricing. They also have a history of brand controversies that directly contrasts with GreenGeeks’ brand and transparency. Unless you have a specific reason to use GoDaddy, you should sign up for GreenGeeks.

GreenGeeks vs. A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting is one of GreenGeek’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitors. They both have a focus on speed with reputations for solid support. A2 Hosting shares many of GreenGeek’s positives (including speed, support, and data centers) with some of the same downsides. You can read my full A2 Hosting review here. A2 Hosting has some additional upsides like Windows hosting, but also many more downsides like upsells and complexity. If you are in the US or Europe and want a straightforward host (or like GreenGeeks’ mission), then I’d go with GreenGeeks. If you have a reason to use A2 Hosting (ie, sale pricing or Windows hosting), then A2 Hosting would be fine.

GreenGeeks vs. InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting is one of GreenGeeks’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitors. GreenGeeks offers global data centers and a simplicity in plan structure that InMotion does not. Beyond that, I’ve found that InMotion provides all of GreenGeeks’s benefits (even some of their environmental commitments & a cleaner grid source) without the downsides. InMotion has very involved support and a solid pricing structure. You can read my full review of InMotion Hosting here, but unless you need European data centers or GreenGeeks’ structure, I would recommend signing up for InMotion Hosting.

Next Steps & Conclusion

There’s a reason GreenGeeks is one of the fastest growing independent hosting companies. They have a solid product and a great support.

If you are looking for a full service hosting company with solid support, good performance, and a green mission, then – See GreenGeek’s Current Plans & Pricing

If you are looking for a hosting company with all the benefits of GreenGeeks Hosting – but with better pricing and product bonuses, I’d go with InMotion Hosting. See InMotion’s plans & pricing here.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

GreenGeeks Reader FAQs

What is GreenGeeks?

GreenGeeks is an independent web hosting service based in Los Angeles. They offer products ranging from Shared to Dedicated servers in addition to complementary products such as domain registration and website builders.

Is GreenGeeks Good?

GreenGeeks has strengths in product performance, customer support, simplicity, and their environmental commitment. They are a bit pricier and lack advanced hosting plans of some competitors.

How do I install WordPress on GreenGeeks?

After purchasing a plan (shared, VPS, or WordPress) on GreenGeeks, access your cPanel (server software) via your account dashboard. Browse to web apps, select WordPress QuickInstall. Fill out the fields, and wait while WordPress is auto-installed on your account. Explore screenshots at this WordPress set up guide.

Who owns GreenGeeks?

GreenGeeks was founded by and privately held by Trey Gardner since 2006.

GreenGeeks Hosting

GreenGeeks is a solid, independent hosting company with a focus on product performance, customer support, and environmental sustainability.

Application Category: Web Hosting

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Stencil App Review: Pros & Cons of Using Stencil

This post originally appeared at Stencil App Review: Pros & Cons of Using Stencil via ShivarWeb

Stencil App Design

Stencil is a web-based graphic design tool built for anyone trying to quickly create digital design assets (aka social media & website images) with few to no graphic design skills.

See Stencil’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’ve been a Stencil customer for years – back from when they first launched as Share As Image. I got a lifetime plan from a re-brand promotion years ago.

Every “featured image” that you see on this website was made with Stencil. I’m a big fan…but I’ve also been a user for a long enough time to see & get frustrated with a few built-in limitations.

Stencil App Backend

Here’s an overview of Stencil along with some pros, cons, ideal use cases, and direct alternative tools.

What is Stencil App?

Stencil is a graphic design tool focused on creating digital images for sharing. Unlike direct competitors, they are focused exclusively on image sharing rather than ad creation, offline images, etc. Here’s a brief overview.

The core function of the tool is an editable image with clickable layers where you can quickly edit background, layout, text, color, typography, and visual qualities of an image, all while resizing it quickly for image sharing.

Stencil maintains a library of stock images, illustrations, icons, and fonts for free commercial use. They also have built-in storage for settings, uploaded images, and custom templates.

Background on Stencil App

Stencil started life years ago as Share As Image. It began in a super-crowded multi-purpose design tool market. There were hundreds of image editors in addition to desktop image editors.

But the web, and social media especially, were becoming much more visual. And every DIY tool out there focused on the image editing part rather than the *sharing* part. So resizing and resampling was a huge problem that was made much worse by every social network changing their image specs every month.*

*again, the emphasis is on DIYer. Adobe users had this functionality already, but even then you really needed some basic graphic design skills and an Adobe subscription.

Share As Image focused exclusively on creating images for social media and websites. I found them after spending way too much time on Pixlr, Mac Preview, and many others creating, deleting, and getting frustrated with basic website images.

After a surge in popularity, Share As Image re-branded as Stencil with an expanded stock image and font library along with a better pricing plan.

How Stencil App Works

Stencil is super-simple and intuitive to use. They offer a free plan with limited features for anyone to try.

After signing up, you can either use their web editor or use their browser extensions or use their WordPress plugin.

All three use locations use the same tool; it just depends where the tool is loaded. I prefer the Firefox / Chrome extension. It allows me to work quickly without closing out my window. The WordPress plugin is useful, though I would rather use my browser’s memory than my website’s memory with all things equal.

The tool shows a clickable image with layers. You click and edit on each layer. The layers all together make up your image.

You can save as a template (for images that will be used over and over) and/or download the image for use and/or share the image directly to a social media account.

Pros of Using Stencil App

There are a lot of Stencil reviews online. These are all based on my use over the past 5+ years.

Also, before getting to the things I like about Stencil – the biggest pro of Stencil is their free plan. You can sign up and test it out yourself. Everyone has slightly different workflows, so it’s great to get to use a tool with zero obligation. And they have a 7 day free trial of premium features.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

Stencil is super-easy for non-designers to use. Stencil uses an intuitive editing setup and avoids graphic designer language for plain language (“size” vs. “dimension” or “element” vs. “layer”).

Every feature has a little question mark that provides a pop-up help box so that you are never guessing, even with obvious features like the save button.

Stencil Download

When you sign up, there’s a useful tour and onboarding sequence. Each section of the tool has use cases, suggestions, and examples built-in. There is very little that is buried or a user bottleneck.

Stencil Settings

Versatile Features

Every editing feature is versatile with multiple uses. You have the ability to save an image as a template for future images. You can download it in different formats and share directly to a social network.

The editing tool syncs well with the stock image library so that you can quickly test different design ideas without committing to a single direction.

There are helpful suggestions throughout the editor such as element lines to keep the image centered & aligned. You can also upload and use your images and design assets.

Stencil Watermark

There has never been a time when I was trying to make a particular design edit and couldn’t because the tool was missing. So far, Stencil’s features are versatile enough to meet all the sharing image design needs that I have.

Pricing Value

Stencil has a free plan, a pro plan, and an unlimited plan. All three are a solid value, especially when you factor your time value into the equation.

Stencil Pricing

The free plan allows a surprising amount of use to be, well, free – especially since you can upload so many of your images.

The pro plan is a bit limited compared to the unlimited plan. However, it’s well crafted for users who have a predictable schedule of images that they need to create (50 social media images per month is a decent amount).

The unlimited plan is the best value…assuming you are actually going to use the tool. If you look at how much your time is worth or how much you’d have to pay for this type of design work, Stencil is an absolute no-brainer productivity tool.

And if you make social media or website images for a living, Stencil can dramatically increase your productivity – even if you do some design work in Adobe – simply with the resizing and direct sharing tools.

Included Graphic Assets

Stencil has a *huge* library of graphic assets. When I created the image for this post, it was up to 2.2 million images and illustrations.

Stencil Templates

I used to comb through the Internet to find Creative Commons images…but now I just hand that work over to Stencil and use their search engine to find commercial use, non-royalty images. It’s amazing.

Stencil Icons

Ditto with their icon and quote libraries. It saves a lot of time and makes for great images.

Product Focus

One of Stencil’s biggest pros is its product focus. They aren’t building an all-in-one do everything design tool to compete with Adobe. Instead, they focus on rolling out new features that make their existing product focus better.

They focus exclusively on helping DIYers make images for sharing on social media and websites. That’s it.

The newest features have all revolved around adding new stock images, increasing resolution, and tightening up the direct sharing tool.

Stencil Image Share

They deliberately disown any feature that would be out of scope (like links in image).

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Stencil App

Now, Stencil has a lot of pros, but I’ve also found a few downsides over the years. All of these downsides aren’t really negatives about the product. Instead, they are more downsides with a mismatch between the tool and the person using it.

In other words, Stencil isn’t made for everyone. And some people will be frustrated by some of the limitations.

Pricing & Caps

Stencil may be a good value, but their unlimited plan still costs more than $144/year, and their free and pro plans still have pretty hard limits.

Stencil Pricing

Stencil’s unlimited plans are a bit more expensive than some graphic design tools like Canva (see the alternatives section) that have even more features – and it’s not that much cheaper than an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Now, some of these pricing comparisons are apples to oranges since Stencil is unique with its product focus. However, if you need something broader than Stencil, buying them plus another premium tool will add up.

And if you are using Stencil’s free or pro plan, you will likely hit the caps much sooner than expected due to how they count images.

Design & Branding Tools

On the same note as pricing, Stencil simply does not have an extensive feature set that includes things like palette makers, gradient editors, logo generators, and offline graphic designs.

I think that this product focus is a huge advantage, but for some users, it can be frustrating. There are tools out there (see Alternatives section) that include many of Stencil’s features plus some. They might be harder to use and/or have a steeper learning curve…but at least they have those design features.

Team Sharing

A Stencil subscription is for a single user (though technically a single login). While you can share a login with an assistant, there’s no real ability to share among teammates or collaborators.

You can’t login from different IP’s at once, and you can’t share work on one account with another account.

If you are on a team – or even in a situation where you are collaborating a lot, this limitation is pretty significant.

Again, this downside comes from Stencil’s product focus. It’s simple and straightforward, but if you need something that has these features, they won’t be a good fit.

Stencil App Alternatives & Use Cases

There are a lot of graphic design tools on the Internet. Here are a few alternatives to Stencil, along with a few use cases that I think are *perfect* for Stencil.

Solo Blogger / Website Operator

If you are a solo website / social media account operator, then Stencil is an perfect fit. It saves time, saves money, saves frustration, increases productivity, and creates a more professional image. There’s no need to balance work between assistants or multiple tools. It’s easy to add to your browser and quickly handle design work yourself. Check out Stencil’s plans here.

Sole Team-member

Even if you are part of an organization, Stencil would be a good fit if you are basically a solo team member (or the person responsible for social media images). Similar to a solo operator, the simplicity and product focus of Stencil makes it worthwhile. Check out Stencil’s plans here.

Social Media Manager

If you are a social media manager with a team, Stencil might still be a fit if only for a couple of specific features like its resizing features.

Here are a few direct competitors with Stencil and how they compare.

Stencil vs. Canva

Stencil and Canva are both excellent web-based graphic design tools. They both have a different focus & different business model, though. Stencil is focused on social media and website images. Canva is focused on graphic design in general – it’s meant to compete with Adobe, but online. Canva has more features for a cheaper price…but also prices a lot of their images / assets at a $1/use. Stencil is unlimited and all inclusive. Canva is also more team friendly, but also has a steeper learning curve due to all the additional features. Use Canva if you prefer features & price. Use Stencil if you prefer speed & simplicity.

Stencil vs. DIY Tools

There are enough free design tools on the Internet & for download that you can easily get all of Stencil’s features for free. The catch is that you will likely be unable to get them all bundled together in a seamless experience. You will also need to search out royalty-free images & assets to use yourself. Use Stencil if you are looking to save time. Go DIY if you are looking to save money.

Stencil vs. Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is part of a wave of logo design tools that automatically integrate your brand & look across all your graphic design assets. In many ways, Stencil and Tailor Brands complement each other. But Tailor Brands’ tool suite is made to create assets that align with your brand & logo. Stencil is made to create good looking images for social & websites. While Tailor Brands can do what Stencil does, they don’t have the library of graphic design assets that Stencil does. If you are more concerned about keeping your branding consistent across your social media & websites, look at Tailor Brands. If you just need to create images quickly, then go with Stencil (or both if you have the budget).

Next Steps & Conclusion

Stencil is not for everyone, but for a solo operator like myself, it has been a no-brainer not only in terms of time saved, but also in the presentation of a consistent, professional look.

  • If you fit any or some of the use cases above, be sure to sign up for Stencil.
  • And if you aren’t sure, then be sure to get a free plan anyway and see how it works.
  • Otherwise, check out my post on commercial images or my review of Tailor Brands or Canva.
Stencil App Review

Stencil is a web-based graphic design tool to help create images for social media & websites.

Application Category: Graphic Design

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WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

WPMU Dev Hosting Review

WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordPress hosting product.

See WPMU Dev’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’m currently a WPMU Dev member and had free access to the new hosting product. The WordPress & web hosting world is constantly evolving with new & interesting products.

Given that I use & love some of their plugins, I tried out the hosting product as well. Here are the pros, cons, use cases & alternatives for WPMU Dev hosting.

What is WPMU Dev & WPMU Dev Hosting?

WPMU Dev launched their first major plugin years ago. They became best-known for their multisite & network plugins.

A couple of years ago, they open-sourced most of their smaller, outdated plugins and doubled-down on a suite of premium plugins focused on agencies, web consultants, designers & developers.

The suite includes security, backup, SEO, and form plugins. They all work well and integrate together. I personally use the Video Tutorials plugin and their Forminator Pro plugin.

Their hosting product is just another part of that product suite. In the flight to platforms, hosting is WPMU Dev’s flight to be the platform of choice for premium WordPress developers and site owners.

Background on WPMU Dev Hosting

Like most WordPress plugins & theme makers, WPMU Dev has been constantly reworking their business model to keep up not only with the Internet but also with software and open-source trends.

Years ago, they sold premium plugins a la carte for a support subscription.

Then they moved to a library subscription model. Then they made all their small plugins free and switched to a subscription for plugin services model.

As hosting companies moved in on plugin & theme makers’ territory, WPMU has moved into hosting companies’ territory by bundling hosting with their plugins.

Whatever the business model, WPMU Dev has always focused on super-high quality code & support. They have always focused exclusively on the WordPress world. I use their plugins for critical parts of my website, and lean on their support for especially tricky code questions.

How WPMU Dev Hosting Works

WPMU Dev hosting, though, is a bit of a hosting hybrid. It’s hard to compare the product to anything else on the market.

When you sign up for WPMU Dev, you get 3 hosting accounts bundled with unlimited access to their plugins. A WPMU Dev subscription is $49/mo.

Their hosting product is neither true cloud hosting, nor true WordPress hosting, nor true web hosting. I’ll get into all these in the pros & cons, but here’s the short version.

They use Digital Ocean’s cloud to actually run your website. But it’s not true cloud hosting….because, well, it’s a flat rate and you don’t run the containers.

They have it pre-configured for WordPress. But it’s not true WordPress hosting…because, well, there’s no real definition for WordPress hosting. It’s one way to host some WordPress websites for sure…but the point of WordPress is that it can run fine in a variety of environments depending on your needs & resources.

And they have it marketed as web hosting. But it’s not true web hosting…because, well, it’s managed cloud hosting with all the limitations that come with it.

But it does have some upsides & use cases, especially in a world of platforms. So let’s look at the pros.

Pros of Using WPMU Dev Hosting

WPMU Dev hosting has a lot going for it. They are a bit of a hidden gem. They aren’t the biggest brand on the Internet, and not even a big brand in the WordPress world. But their size & focus creates a lot of advantages.

Platform Quality & Performance

WPMU Dev is already known for their high-quality plugins. They are also known for their high-quality WordPress support.

Their hosting product actually lives on Digital Ocean’s cloud infrastructure. Digital Ocean is one of the “name-brands” of cloud hosting along with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Between WPMU’s WordPress expertise and Digital Ocean’s performance, you really don’t have to worry about your website install. Here’s a speed test from the first, unoptimized install.

Here’s a screenshot of the backend. It’s clean and fast.

WPMU-Dev-Hosting

Overall, the quality & performance of the product itself is right on.

Total Platform Pricing & Value

WPMU Dev structures their pricing with hosting credits. To be a WPMU Dev member, you pay $49/mo. You get access to full-versions of all their plugins, plus support, plus 3 credits per month for hosting.

WPMU Dev Hosting Price

Now, $49/month for just a single managed hosting account is super-expensive. $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts is super-expensive. In fact, I’ll get to this part in the disadvantages. But WPMU Dev isn’t selling hosting. They are selling hosting as part of a platform.

So, looking at the whole platform, $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts plus full versions of all their premium plugins plus support plus all the built-in services that come with their premium plugins brings the total value well past $49/mo.

For example, a subscription to a security plugin, backup plugin, and form plugin can all run ~$20/month. Competitive managed WordPress hosting can run ~$20/month – even more for 3+ sites. Add in a CDN, backup storage, etc – and you’ll likely end up well over $49/month.

Now, you might see where I’m going with this, and I will address the pricing assumptions in the disadvantages. But, for now, the hosting product makes WPMU Dev’s platform an excellent value.

Integrations & Simplicity

WPMU Dev has all the must-have plugins for WordPress taken care of. One of the biggest obstacles for running a self-hosted WordPress website is simply making everything work well together.

If you buy into WPMU Dev’s platform, all the plugins work together, which all work well on their hosting configuration.

You won’t have to worry about your SEO plugin conflicting with your backup plugin and both of them burning through your server limits.

Data Centers & Features

WPMU Dev has a whole suite of “sweet” hosting features. By using Digital Ocean, you get a choice of data center location for each website. That’s a huge appeal for anyone & everyone ex-US or with a global readership.

They have plenty of advanced developer-friendly features like staging. migration tools, free SSLs, etc.

If you build WordPress websites for clients, they are a very appealing option. All their features are a value-add for the client but don’t add to your workload at all.

Customer Support

Even though they do not have phone support…and their knowledgebase is still getting built out. They do have stellar chat & forum support.

Every interaction that I’ve had over the years has resulted in above & beyond support. All the support agents specialize in WordPress and have the actual developers who build the plugins on call.

Like I’ve said in other hosting reviews, support is a bit anecdotal. Usually, I try to look for a “proxy” for good customer support. Here though, I’ve been a customer of WPMU’s plugins for so long that I feel like I can say that their support is solidly top notch.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using WPMU Dev Hosting

Every product is going to have complaints online. Every product will have tradeoffs. Sometimes complaints & tradeoffs come from a poorly designed or executed product. But often it’s because the product does not fit the customers’ needs, goals & resources.

That’s especially true with WPMU Dev’s hosting product. The product is well-designed & well-executed. But…it has quite a few disadvantages when it comes to customer fit. Let’s dive in.

Use Cases & Pricing

Like I said in the pros section, WPMU Dev’s pricing is expensive for hosting. But their pitch is that they are more than hosting. They make plugins, have add-on services, and amazing general WordPress support.

But all of that assumes that you’ll actually be using their plugins and add-on services.

I’m a long-time customer, but I don’t use many of their plugins & services…because I don’t like some of them.

Their SEO plugin is solidly fine….but anyone serious about SEO will be using RankMath or Yoast at the very least.

Their Hummingbird / CDN plugin is solidly fine…but I find it to be clunky and not comprehensive. I pair WP Fastest Cache with MaxCDN / Stackpath.

I use JetPack for security & backups instead of WPMU Dev…because I use it anyway because they have a WordPress Android app in addition to Related Posts and more.

And I still don’t use their hosting, even though it’s technically “free” for me, because I just don’t like the limits or workflows…and I don’t want to get locked into a platform anyway.

Platforms are great…but the big reason I use self-hosted WordPress instead of a website builder or even WordPress.com is because I don’t want to be locked into a platform.

Once you start to add up WPMU Dev’s pricing with other services…it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And even for stand-alone pricing, it’s expensive. Hosts like InMotion have true, managed WordPress hosting with staging, developer features and everything else (including a JetPack subscription) for half the price of WPMU Dev’s member price.

There’s only one use case where WPMU Dev’s pricing makes sense – and that’s for a consultant, agency, designer (or solo site operator) who has several sites (ie, for clients) and wants to dramatically simplify site management.

In fact, if I was still doing pure-play WordPress web design for clients, I would likely just run the whole thing on WPMU Dev. They would allow me to white-label and bill out everything under my name, and it would reduce my workload.

That use case makes a lot of sense…but I don’t think that use case is too common.

But outside of that use case, the whole single price for a single membership to get bundled hosting is just not a good value.

Upgrades & Pricing

All that said, their hosting upgrades & pricing are still expensive regardless of use case.

WPMU Dev Hosting Price

You can get fully-featured managed WordPress hosting elsewhere for a much better price…or at least more flexible.

The sites that fit their hosting specs are pretty specific. For example, If you run a media-heavy blog, you’ll have to pay extra attention to your WordPress settings to keep your install in line….which leads to the next disadvantage.

Jargon & User-friendliness

To be “easy” and common website software, WordPress has a lot of jargon. Most hosts lean into removing that jargon and making it user-friendly.

WPMU Dev’s hosting product is clean and well-thought-out…but it still puts a lot of trust in their average user’s knowledge. I even had to look up terms when working with my install.

Additionally, since it’s hosted with Digital Ocean…and they don’t operate their own DNS…there’s an extra layer of setup to connect the domain to the DNS to the actual website.

Many of the features that could make operating a site for a non-developer or non-advanced WordPress use (like site staging) still come with prompts that assume knowledge or direct to a concise, but not quite comprehensive knowledgebase.

Like the value pricing, the product is user-friendly….for a certain type of user. For a broad market appeal, it has a bit too much jargon to truly be user-friendly.

Versatility & Usefulness

Since WPMU Dev’s hosting product is part of their platform and not a stand-alone product…it does not have the versatility or usefulness that a Linux web hosting account or even a stand-alone WordPress hosting account would have.

Since the entire product is built around the primary use case that I mentioned earlier, they prioritize the non-sharing of resources as the main priority. That’s fine and all, but it leads to tradeoffs that not everyone may realize. For example, here’s what they say in regards to the low storage limits.

It’s also important to understand that the speed, security and stability of WPMU DEV hosting relies heavily on a highly-structured server environment in which each member’s files exist in a dedicated virtual private server. When we refer to “your files” we’re not talking simply about your content, but also your WordPress core files, backups, staging sites, plugins, integrations and themes—all of which are protected in their own virtual world with zero shared resources.

Again, that’s fine. And it’s a pretty typical setup for cloud & VPS plans. But their plans are very low considering the price point that they are operating at ($49/mo)…that it’s hard to decide how much it’s truly worth paying.

Stand-alone hosting products have known limits that you can cross-compare. You can factor in offloading email to Google or running local scripts elsewhere…but since WPMU’s product is so focused and so specific, it’s hard to really judge versatility and usefulness with costs.

Product Novelty & Company Structure

While WPMU Dev has been around as a plugin and theme maker for years, their hosting product is very new. They launched it in 2019, and still seem to be making changes to the product based on customer feedback.

In fact, their system of hosting credits is even more recent than the product itself. Since the company is originally a plugin maker, not a hosting company, I would expect a continued learning curve as they understand the market better.

Additionally, WPMU Dev as a company has been continually moving upmarket and up the pricing ladder in the past few years. My pricing has been grandfathered in thanks to a Black Friday deal several years ago (I pay $19/mo for my plugins). Hosting seems to have been paired with a push to the $49/month pricing tier.

Again, I think the value is still there for many use cases but I am curious just how much further they will try to push the membership fee. Price increases and constant business model changes are part of any Internet business. But for a product like hosting where I just want it to work – and work for a long-time, it’s a bit disconcerting.

WPMU Dev Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases

Here’s who I think WPMU Dev is a good fit for.

WPMU Dev Fans & Multisite Owners

WPMU Dev makes some super-useful and high-quality plugins. I use & love the Forminator Pro plugin on multiple websites. If you are already planning on using (and paying) for their plugins, their hosting product makes sense – if only because it’s already bundled.

Just be aware of the limitations and tradeoffs.

WordPress Website Designers

If you run a WordPress shop and want a fast, standard, quality all-in-one package to present to clients, WPMU Dev’s hosting makes a ton of sense.

You can pay the single membership fee for your shop, but then sell a recurring all-in-one website hosting / maintenance / security package to your clients.

If you stick with WPMU Dev’s plugins, you could easily have a single client “pay” for the membership fee every month, while pocketing additional client retainers. You could manage all the sites from a single dashboard with auto-updates.

Now, for everyone else, I think there are a few other options that would give you all the benefits of WPMU Dev without the downsides.

Managed WordPress Hosting w/ Bundled Plugins

If WPMU Dev is a plugin maker that offers hosting, this alternative is to find a hosting company that offers bundled plugins. This setup is actually quite common, especially among hosting companies that offer “true” WordPress hosting, rather than just web hosting with WordPress trained support.

The upside is that you get all the managed parts of hosting, high-quality plugins, all bundled into a better price point.

The best alternatives here are –

InMotion Hosting – They offer managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more – just like WPMU Dev. They also bundle the JetPack suite of plugins (what I use for security & more). Their interface also offers a WebPro linking feature so that agencies & designers can resell white label hosting options. All this ends up at a much better price point than WPMU Dev. See InMotion Hosting’s WordPress plans here.

WP Engine – They offer highly managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more. They also specialize in highly technical support. While they don’t bundle any plugins, they do bundle the super-high quality StudioPress themes (which I use on this site). They also have unique tools for designers and white-label options. All this ends up being right around WPMU Dev’s price point but with arguably more value and less lock-in. See WP Engine’s plans here.

WordPress.com – Technically, this isn’t a hosting company. WordPress.com is a website builder platform that uses self-hosted WordPress software. This means that they have all the benefits of a full-platform with much of the versatility of WordPress software. Their Business Plan allows 3rd party plugins but also comes with a huge range of built-in functionality. They operate at a lower price point that WPMU Dev. See WordPress.com’s plans here – though do note that this option is not “apples to oranges”.

Bundled Plugin Maker w/ choice of hosting

This option is what WPMU Dev used to be (and technically still is). Here, you’d commit to a maker of a suite of plugins such as WPMU Dev, iThemes, OptinMonster, JetPack, Elegant, etc to keep you costs consistent and then pair it with a WordPress host that fits your budget.

Your costs will be your costs – they might be higher than WPMU Dev with hosting, but they will likely be lower and you’ll have the versatility to move & switch as needed.

A la Carte Everything based on Needs / Budget

If reading this has made you budget-conscious and worried about the costs of running your website, don’t worry. The beauty of WordPress is that the software is free. All you need is a good host that fits your budget, a domain name, and the wherewithal to build your site and purchase premium products as needed. There are more than enough free themes & plugins out there to run a solid website.

And if you are a budding developer or designer, note that you can give Digital Ocean a run on their own – or through a cloud hosting manager like Cloudways.

Next Steps & Conclusion

WPMU Dev hosting is an interesting & welcome addition to the web hosting world. If you fit in the right use cases, it’s an incredible product. But if you aren’t in their target market, you will likely find more affordable and more versatile options elsewhere.

Explore their product line here.

Check out other WordPress hosting options here and other premium plugin makers here.

WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordP

Application Category: Web Hosting

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Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

Tailor Brands Review

Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users.

They allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to create an entire “brand identity” with logos, typography, color patterns, and other elements across the web & print.

See Tailor Brands’ Current Plans & Pricing

In other words, Tailor Brands a toolset that makes your project “look good” everywhere from your Facebook page to business cards to website.

There are plenty of Tailor Brands reviews on the Internet – some good, some bad. This Tailor Brands review will look at how the software works, the upsides, downsides, and ideal use cases for the product based on my experience as a digital marketing consultant.

What is Tailor Brands?

Tailor Brands is a suite of tools to help you create & manage your business designs everywhere that your brand appears. They were founded in 2014.

They use software & artificial intelligence to not only create your business’ look and feel but also maintain that look and feel everywhere that you want.

Their main tool is their logo maker. Rather than use templates or quiz questions like traditional automated logo makers, they have you answer whether you like or dislike styles. Their AI does a version of NetFlix’s recommendation algorithm but with design styles.

Once you approve a certain design style, their software creates an entire brand identity and uses rules to apply it to applications ranging from a stand-alone logo to Instagram profiles to website headers to presentation headers.

Background on Tailor Brands

There has always been a plethora of DIY design tools on the Internet. I use Stencil for my Featured Images. I’ve used Canva for social images. I’ve used native tools with Buffer & social networks to customize my logos & images. I had a guy from Fiverr help edit my website CSS to match with my logo colors. I had a professional graphic designer on UpWork create a custom blog image for me. I’ve run contests for clients on 99designs.

In other words, the world of DIY design has been here for a while. You don’t need a Mad Men-esque setup of paying $$$ for graphic designers to create a pitch deck.

But the world of DIY design is also a bit of a frustratingly hot mess. It’s a world that’s good enough to be dangerous.

In other words, it’s accessible enough to let non-designers think they are designing a nice brand…when it’s a jumble of mismatched fonts, misaligned layouts, and conflicting colors.

It’s the difference between “Yeah, that’s nice” and “Damn, that is right on! How’d you do that?”.

Tailor Brands is an interesting product that is trying to use software, AI, and automation to take those details away from humans and just automatically apply it wherever you need it – to create a “brand identity with a stylebook” as it were.

How Tailor Brands Works

Tailor Brands works by moving you through its logo maker, which doubles as a brand identity developer. You are given options…and you can run the software as many times as you want.

Once you’ve approved your design, you’re taken to a studio with mockups & style guidelines. You then have a choice of 3 pricing plans*.

First, the $3.99/mo plan provides access to your logo, social media tools, and graphic design library. You can also connect your domain to a basic landing page builder.

Second, the $11.98/mo plans provide access to EPS vectors (for outdoor and print use) in addition to a full website builder and advanced design tools.

Third, the $25.98/mo plan provides access to social media schedulers and analytics so that you can bring your social media management under a single platform. You can also accept payments and run an online store.

*Note – you can cancel and keep all your design assets. So technically, if you just need a logo – you can get that for less than $50 (the $3.99 is billed for 12 months).

The plans all provide ongoing access to tools to manage your brand designs. You retain full ownership of all brand designs & assets even after you cancel.

Pros of Using Tailor Brands

For a relatively new product, Tailor Brands’ actual product is well-executed. There are few bugs or real complaints that I found with the actual core product.

Their real advantage (and disadvantage) is their unique positioning as a tool suite. Here are some of the main pros of using Tailor Brands not only for logos but as a design management tool suite.

Product Focus on Branding over Assets

As mentioned in the introduction, one big issue with the DIY design tool world is the focus on design assets. It’s easy to create a Facebook post on Canva or bulk generate Google Ads with Display Ad Planner. Those tools are easy and usually free. But they are inherently separate. *You* have to manage your images across different tools.

A huge pro for Tailor Brands is that they have an entire tool suite that focuses on unifying your entire brand everywhere. They focus on keeping that brand identity right on, rather than focusing on giving you the best kerning tool or biggest font library or the most intuitive CSS editor.

If you look at some of their design tools one on one with direct tool competitors, they may or may not be “the best”. But Tailor Brands can keep everything looking good everywhere, which is their main pitch to customers who would benefit from their product.

In my experience especially with small and local businesses, it’s a consistent brand identity (paired with a good product / service) that allows them to compete with established big name brands.

If you can just remove the infamous pixelated cover photo, you’ll probably beat your competition. And if you can ensure that your new assistant can quickly handle good looking Instagram posts…all the better.

That outcome is Tailor Brands’ main focus, and it comes off well in the product.

Pricing Structure & Cross-Sells

Every software as a service (SaaS) struggles with business models and pricing. You want your service to be accessible, but also profitable.

This balance is especially hard to strike with design assets where it’s usually a one-and-done proposition.

Tailor Brands runs on a subscription business model. But the subscriptions focus on the design tools rather than the design assets.

Tailor-Brands-Pricing

This structure creates a couple of of useful incentives.

First, it means that there’s no question of ownership of design assets. You own your brand, period.

In fact, it means that you can get a really cheap logo if that’s all you want. You can pay for one month, download your assets, and cancel. You’ve got a high-quality logo in a range of file types for less than $50.

Second, it means that while Tailor Brands has to keep optimizing their logo maker to bring in more customers, they also have to keep developing better design tools to keep customers around. There’s no disincentive to extort customers over their design assets or to drag their feet over product development.

Third, the subscription encourages use from customers rather than a one and done download. The real productivity boost for businesses is having a go-to design tool with everything in one place where you (or a new team member) can quickly create new designs & assets on an ongoing basis. And usually, the more you use a tool, the better you can get.*

*also you’ve got software that will adapt to frequent social media image requirements.

Ideally, there’s a virtuous cycle for everyone involved. Tailor Brands is one of the few companies where I think the cross-sells and upsells are not annoying, and generally useful.**

**also, small quibble, but do note that the prices are billed annually – so you are purchasing a full 12 months of access, even if you only pay monthly.

Turnaround Speed & Feature Versatility

Since Tailor Brands is fully automated, there are no constraints on time, speed, revisions, requests, or redos.

If you want to try graphic design a 2 AM Eastern, you can. If you want to completely redo your design, you can. If you need a mockup right now, you can get it. There’s no delay in turnaround or schedule to meet.

There’s no back and forth or waiting for your designer or virtual assistant. There’s just the software that is working 24/7/365. That’s a huge advantage for Tailor Brands. It works on your timeline.

And if you are trying to actually run a business, working on design any time means that it will get done. If you are running your business full-time, you likely don’t have time during business hours. And if you are working on a side project…you have to work on it outside business hours.

Additionally, since Tailor Brands has a whole suite of design tools, there’s no downloading or cropping or exporting or importing. Everything is just there to use.

Convenience generally beats everything. And when it comes to branding, Tailor Brands makes brand design convenient above all else.

Backend Quality & Usability

Even though Tailor Brands focuses on the branding aspect of design across their suite of tools, the tools themselves are high-quality and rock-solid.

They’ve built some tools in-house, but others they’ve high-quality 3rd party tools and customized them. For example, their website builder is built on top of the Duda website builder, which is one of the best website builders that I’ve used.

Same with their social media tools. It looks like they’ve white-labeled a 3rd party tool. But whatever it is, it’s legit and high-quality. Same with the design editor and others.

Each tool is solid & highly-usable on its own. But when they are all bundled within Tailor Brands’ suite, it makes each tool even more useful than it would be on its own.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Tailor Brands

Every product has disadvantages, but especially a relatively new product like Tailor Brands.

Here are a few tradeoffs & complaints that I found with Tailor Brands. Some are simply the flip side of an advantage, but some are inherent to their approach.

Branding Process & Revisions

Tailor Brands’ fully automated, AI-powered design process leaves humans out of the process deliberately. That choice cuts costs, increases efficiency, increases choice, and makes the platform what it is.

But the tradeoff with this choice is that…it leaves out humans.

And humans are still critical to produce truly unique or truly outstanding brands. Brands are built on stories, and stories are what makes us human.

Humans can also ask pertinent questions, push-back on scope, implement creative deadlines, and invent completely new concepts.

Tailor Brands’s software can create a brand design and a brand style guide, but it cannot assign meaning or purpose of symbolism or even provide a reason why a certain design works over another – it only knows what “works” based on other user data.

The story / meaning part of branding is either your job or a job for another human. If you assign it to another human, that’s going to cost time & money.

And if you take on the job yourself, it’s something to be aware of and learn about.

Either way, it’s something to keep in mind when using Tailor Brands. There’s no process of “brand discovery” or mapping your customer’s psychographic persona. There are no revisions based on client feedback.

All that is for better and for worse. Before online design tools, agencies gave away the process and sold the assets. Now, you can get the assets affordably, but you still have to understand a bit about branding.

And that leads to the next tradeoff.

Customer Education & Brand Identity

Even though Tailor Brands does a lot of the branding & design work for the customer, they still leave a lot of creative work up to the customer.

The tradeoff of any service that claims to do “everything” for you is that the customer’s expectations are not set correctly. When it turns out that there is *some* work to be done, it’s easy to bail instead of figuring the work out.

A Tailor Brands customer still needs to be prepared to think through where, when, how they’ll need to use designs. The logo maker sequence is great, but after creating the logo, there’s very little guidance for a new customer.

Tailor-Brands-Dashboard

There’s a ton of options with no real onboarding guidance or customer examples. Their welcome email series is limited to deals & coupons rather than “here are common next steps” or “here are some common use cases”.

I can imagine that customers who don’t have a strong sense of direction would churn quickly after getting a logo idea.

If you do end up using Tailor Brands, do note that you should have an idea of what *you* need to get out of it, rather than just using it for using a new tool’s sake.

Platform Product Lock-in

Tailor Brands is a hosted platform that focuses on convenience. And there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control on the Web.

The more convenient a product is…the less control you have. And the more control you have…the less convenient the product is. Think about RSS vs. Twitter. Think about hosted website builders vs. self-hosted CMS’. Think about an Amazon Seller listing vs. your own ecommerce store.

Tailor Brands makes everything downloadable. And they ensure that you truly own all your intellectual property.

However, like a hosted website builder, your work is inherently tied to their platform in many ways. The longer you commit to their platform, the harder it becomes to leave.

That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a disadvantage that’s the flip side of their big advantage.

But it’s an important tradeoff to understand. If you use the Tailor Brands’ platform over your own copy of Adobe Illustrator, email or Paint, do ensure that you are downloading and backing up *all* of your brand assets on your own computer for the sake of preserving your own intellectual property.

Company Structure, Age & Competition

Tailor Brands has been around since 2014. They are still considered an “early-stage venture-funded” startup. In other words, they are privately held and using investor money to focus on the product rather than profit or market share.

Like the platform lock-in tradeoff, this disadvantage is more of a consideration. Right now they are still at a stage where pricing & product can change rapidly. They also probably have a small team with limited resources. They also will have copycat competition from publicly held competitors like Wix, Fiverr, Squarespace, Vistaprint, and others.

The upside to being a customer at a young venture-funded company is that you can count on more resources going into a better product. The downside is that there’s still a risk that they could get bought or “pivot” in the future.

Tailor Brand Alternatives & Use Cases

A product / service is only as good as its customer fit. Tailor Brands is not for everyone. But for some, it would be amazing.

Here’s 3 use cases where I think they’d be a really good it.

New Business or Organization w/ No Brand Assets

If you have a new business or organization with no brand assets and no large budget for a human-led design process, Tailor Brands would be a perfect fit.

Now, I would think through which features & tools that you’ll need from them. If you need a more robust website presence and/or email with lots of features, you might want to look at a dedicated website builder, ecommerce platform, or even shared hosting. You could use Tailor Brands strictly for design tools and social media. Either way, a new small business is their bread & butter. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.

Personal but Online Project w/ No Brand Assets

If you have a small personal project that you want to look just right – think resume site, hobby site, non-profit idea, family project, etc – Tailor Brands would be a solid fit. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.

Existing Business or Organization w/ Redesign

If you have an existing business or organization and you want to refresh your look without committing to a design firm or outsourcing to several providers, Tailor Brands would be a good fit. You can use what tools you need. You can also download & use the EPS file to get any signage or custom assets made offline.

Now, Tailor Brands is not for everyone. If you feel comfortable coordinating designs and brand assets across different platforms or if you have the budget to pay a human for graphic design, then something else might be a better fit.

Here are a few direct competitors to Tailor Brands and how they compare.

Tailor Brands vs. 99designs

99designs is a contest-led marketplace for graphic design. You set a budget and run a “contest” among human designers based on your design briefing. I wrote a 99designs review here. But in short, 99designs is sort of the halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. 99designs is much more expensive than Tailor Brands, but you do get human ideas based on a design brief. 99designs also has a huge range of design contest options…but not the design management tools of Tailor Brands. Technically, you could (and should) check out both. See Tailor Brands here and 99designs here.

Tailor Brands vs. Fiverr

Fiverr is a huge marketplace for humans working on “gigs”. You think of a task that you need to be done, find a person to hire, and quickly get it done for you within Fiverr’s platform. Fiverr is also a halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. The price ranges depending on skills and reputation. While you can great design assets from Fiverr, you are also in charge of managing all your design assets. You also have to expect to pay for several logos / designs before coming away with a good one. Tailor Brands would be a simpler, more affordable, and versatile fit.

Tailor Brands vs. Wix Logo Maker

Wix is the big brand name in the website builder world. I wrote a Wix review here. Technically Wix competes directly with Tailor Brands, even if they have a different focus. Tailor Brands focuses on how your brand designs are presented *everywhere*. Wix has similar tools, but really focuses their tool on website applications. In other words, Tailor Brands is a design tool with a website builder and Wix is a website builder with a design tool. Check out Tailor Brands here and check out Wix’s logo maker here.

Tailor Brands vs. DIY Tools

Between Canva, Stencil, and every other random logo generator on the Internet, Tailor Brands has plenty of competition for DIYers. If you have the time and wherewithal, you could get everything that Tailor Brands offers for free. The issue would be that all your designs would be dispersed among a bunch of tools…and you would be relying on your own design taste rather than a professionally built tool. In the end, I think that Tailor Brands is worth the money for the convenience and the designs. But for a quick sketch up of something you have in your head, Stencil is the simplest.

Next Steps & Conclusion

Tailor Brands is a unique and useful addition to the design world. In fact, for many businesses, it could do a full end around the traditional “upload your logo to a website builder” model.

By bundling design management tools, including a social media editor and quality website builder with an automated logo & brand designer, Tailor Brands has figured out something new & different.

If you are a non-designer trying to build a consistent brand identity across the Web & offline, Tailor Brands is worth a try.

See Tailor Brand’s Current Plans & Pricing

You might also be interested in my review of 99designs, my post on layouts, and my post on color palettes, and my post on hiring a web designer.

Good luck with your project!

Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users. They allow businesses, organizations, and indi

Price: 3.99

Price Currency: USD

Application Category: Logo Design

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Mailchimp Website Builder: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

This post originally appeared at Mailchimp Website Builder: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives via ShivarWeb

MailChimp Website Builder

MailChimp has been one of the fastest growing email marketing providers for years now. They’ve built an huge base of customers ranging from tiny personal accounts to some of the most prestigious enterprise brands in the world.

In 2019, they added a ton of functionality, including postcards & remarketing as they grow their positioning into a marketing platform. And as part of their growth, they’ve introduced a free website builder.

See MailChimp’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’ve been using Mailchimp for years, and was super curious when they announced the beta version of their website builder (FYI, beta just means it’s their first, trial run version. They’re looking for feedback from users to improve the product).

So I gave Mailchimp’s beta builder a try for a full Mailchimp Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Mailchimp Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Mailchimp’s website builder lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Mailchimp is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Mailchimp, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Mailchimp competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com  (and Shopify for online stores).

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and their platform providing everything you need to market online — from their opt-in pages to their email software to their website builder.

Pros of Using Mailchimp Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Mailchimp’s website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

If you already have a Mailchimp account, using their free website builder is just a matter of navigating to it in the main menu and getting started. If you don’t have a Mailchimp account, it’s still incredibly easy to sign up. All you have to do is create an account with your business information + pick your payment plan to get started.

mailchimp sign up process

This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without an extensive sign up process.

Ease of Use

Another pro of Mailchimp’s website builder is that it’s incredible easy to use. When you first get started with the platform, Mailchimp actually creates a homepage for you to use as a starting point.

Mailchimp Homepage

Once you get into the platform, you can “drag” and “drop” additional elements onto the page, remove elements from the premade page, add new pages to your site with the click of a button.

The whole setup is like painting by numbers. You just add in your content, add additional elements if you want them / need them, add your branding colors and fonts, and click publish.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having an easy and quick way to get your site up and making sure it still looks decent.

It makes Mailchimp a great option for entrepreneurs / DIY-ers who want a website that gets the job done, looks clean, and doesn’t require hiring a professional to put it all together (and don’t want to worry about “messing it up”).

Completely Free

Another benefit Mailchimp’s website builder is that it’s completely free.

There’s no upsells, no limited access based on your payment plan, no restrictions. You can use the website builder with your free Mailchimp plan if you have under 2000 subscribers and don’t need additional email functionality, or you can use it with your paid plan for no additional charge.

While there are some limitations with the platform (more on that in a minute), it’s a great option for test projects or those who need a simple, functional website and don’t want to spend money on a platform.

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. And for Mailchimp, there’s two big cons that stand out: limited design and functionality features.

Limited Feature Set – Design

With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS).

And you can really see this trade-off with the Mailchimp website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward and fast, and puts your focus on getting your content into a premade template. You can add pages and a few elements based on your specific needs, but for the most part, it’s got everything you need.

However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with the builder.

You can’t add anything aside from the few drag and drop elements available to you, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited (AKA essentially just font and color).

If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Mailchimp website builder website.

Limited Feature Set – Technical

The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

In their beta from, Mailchimp has extremely limited integrations (social sharing, social following, file downloads, etc.), but there are a ton of technical features that Mailchimp currently doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

There also aren’t add-ons or additional integrations to use with the platform, which makes it even more difficult to do anything besides the very basics on your site.

Ultimately, Mailchimp leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better use and market your website.

Mailchimp Review Conclusion

Mailchimp makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, which makes it a great choice for DIYers who want a quick and easy way to build a website without the hassle of getting into the code or having something custom made.

Get started with Mailchimp here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control. Mailchimp leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to design customization and functionality. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Mailchimp fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

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WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store

WooCommerce Pros Cons Alternatives for Online Store

WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.

Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set

Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide

WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.

Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).

1 WooCommerce Install

In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.

Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.

So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What is WooCommerce?

To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.

Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.

And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.

It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.

WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).

And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –

  • domain (your address on the Internet)
  • hosting (where your website files live)
  • software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)

In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.

Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.

Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.

But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.

That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.

But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.

Pros of WooCommerce

Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.

Long-term Cost & Value

WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.

Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.

WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.

That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.

For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.

But it gets even better for WooCommerce.

Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.

If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.

To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.

For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.

All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.

But it gets even better for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.

Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.

WooCommerce Extensions

And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.

For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.

If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.

And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.

If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.

Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.

Integration with WordPress

WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.

And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.

This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.

For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.

There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.

The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.

Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.

Themes for WooCommerce

f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).

Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.

Support from Automattic

Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.

WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.

They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.

Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.

But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.

There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).

But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.

Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.

WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.

Versatility & Compatibility

A few fun facts about WooCommerce –

  • You can use it to sell memberships
  • You can use it to sell recurring licenses
  • You can use it to sell digital goods
  • You can use it to sell apppointments
  • You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
  • You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine

The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.

WooCommerce Extensions

The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc

It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.

In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.

3rd Party Integrations

WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.

If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.

If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.

But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.

Woocommerce Wizard

When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.

You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).

Control & Customizations

Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.

You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.

WooCommerce Permalinks

You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.

There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.

Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.

Cons of WooCommerce

Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.

Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.

There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.

But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.

For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).

WooCommerce Menu Settings

For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.

But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.

Technical Maintenance

Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?

Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.

In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.

Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.

But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.

Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.

This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.

Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.

But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*

Shopify Backend

*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.

Speed & Security

With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.

Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.

WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.

Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.

But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.

For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.

In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.

Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.

It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.

Growth & Scaling

Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.

And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.

This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.

And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.

Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.

But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.

Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.

That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.

Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.

Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.

All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.

If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.

But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.

Potential Long-term Costs

WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.

However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.

One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.

She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.

Shopify Pricing

Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).

Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.

Future of Ecommerce

Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.

Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.

In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.

In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.

Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.

And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.

All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.

However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.

It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.

All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.

WooCommerce Alternatives

There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.

WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins

There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –

  • Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
  • WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
  • WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
  • NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.

WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify

I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.

WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce

I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.

WooCommerce vs. Wix

Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.

WooCommerce vs. Magento

Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.

WooCommerce vs. OpenCart

OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.

WooCommerce vs. Ecwid

Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.

WooCommerce vs. Prestashop

PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.

WooCommerce Review Conclusion

WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –

  • Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
  • Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
  • Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.

If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.

If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.

Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.

The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Zoho Website Builder

Zoho is a software company that has a suite of products designed to help business owners get their businesses up and running online. Their website builder, Zoho Sites, is an all-inclusive website builder, which means it includes everything you need to create your site (from the builder itself to the hosting).

See Zoho’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Zoho’s website builder a try for a full Zoho Sites Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Zoho Sites?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Zoho Sites lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Zoho is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Zoho, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Zoho Sites competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, Strikingly, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and integration with their plethora of Zoho products. Zoho offers several website templates you can customize with no coding or design experience required, and also gives you the opportunity to integrate with their marketing and optimization tools.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Zoho Sites Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using the Zoho Sites website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Easy Sign Up Process, Onboarding, + Free Trial

One of the biggest pros of using Zoho Sites is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s a few basic steps of entering your information, picking a theme, and then you’re in.

Zoho also makes it incredibly easy once you’re inside the platform. Their onboarding process (AKA the information they give you to get you up and running and actually using the software) is very straightforward.

They walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to customize your website as soon as you choose a theme.

The entire process makes it easy to get your website up and customized in a matter of minutes, even if you have no online experience.

Zoho also offers a 15-day free trial when you sign up, and they don’t require a credit card to use it. Most software providers offer a “test run” of their products, but it comes with caveats. You either have to choose a plan upfront and enter your card info to be automatically charged when the trail is over, or have limitations on your features, or both. 

Zoho allows you to truly test out their platform for 15 days before you make a decision — no strings attached.*

*Note – so technically, you’d have to sign up for some of their product integrations if you want to implement them in the free plan. I still consider it no strings attached, because you get all of the basic functionality / inclusions in the free trial.

Template Design / Functionality

When I’m looking at all inclusive website builders, I want to be sure I look at both the templates’ design and functionality to get an accurate picture of what the builder can do.

Zoho also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). They have a lot of variable designs that you can use as the foundation of your website.

Once you choose a template, you can customize it to your brand. Zoho is what’s known as a “drag and drop” editor, where you can “drag” premade sections and “drop” them on your page. It makes customizing your site simple, straightforward, and fast.

With Zoho, can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), as well as the individual sections, and you can add new elements to a section layout. However, you can’t create a new section from scratch using the drag and drop editor.

You can, however, customize your template using the CSS and HTML editor, which is a big benefit if you have coding experience but want to use a template as a starting point.

All in all, Zoho’s Website Builder has a great balance of convenience and control in terms of template design, which is a big plus for an all-inclusive website builder.

Some Product Integration

Another thing that makes Zoho’s Website Builder unique is their product integrations. Zoho has their own CRM, Marketing, and Analytics products, and these integrations are easily accessible in the site builder.

Zoho-Integration-CRM

One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are all part of paid plans (more on that in a bit).

This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders (particularly if you went the self-hosted WordPress route).

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Zoho Sites as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Zoho is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and business owners, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with some sort of limitation, whether it be pages, storage, or even the number of forms you can have on a site.

zoho pricing and limits

It’s also worth noting that Zoho doesn’t offer a free plan. There’s a free trial, which lasts for 15 days, but if you want to continue on with their service, you have to choose from one of the paid plans.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a “con”, but if you’re looking for a website builder for a short-term project, you can probably find a builder with similar features who offers a standard free plan (ie, Wix or Weebly).

Limited Feature Set – Technical

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

Now, as I mentioned above, Zoho does include some product integration that’s built-in (like their CRM) or can be added on (like their MarketingHub). But when it comes to outside integrations, Zoho is fairly limited.

For example, let’s take a look at their apps:

There isn’t much to built-in from an integration perspective outside of what Zoho offers in their product suite, and even then, there’s not a ton of clarity around what these features actually are or do.

Now, you could add your own integrations through code snippets. However, if you want something that you can easily “plug in” to your site and have it just work without you messing with code, then Zoho leaves a lot to be desired.

Zoho Review Conclusion

Zoho makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, and they also offer substantial customization options for more experienced website builders through their HTML and CSS editing.

See Zoho’s current pricing plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Zoho’s pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Zoho fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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