Even if you’re talented in your chosen profession, it can be intimidating to create an online presence — especially if you don’t have web development skills.
It could be that you aren’t sure how to get started or you don’t want to hassle with learning how to code HTML, CSS, and all the other web tech acronyms. As a self-employed professional, you haven’t got time to decipher a long list of technical specifications. If any of these situations apply to you, Yola Website Builder is worth checking out.
Find What You’re Looking For
Unlike many web hosts, Yola wants to make websites easier and faster to create. It doesn’t try to be everything to everybody. It does one thing really well: putting together quick and easy websites for anyone, regardless of technical background. They don’t offer a huge, complicated list of plans, but they do provide a website builder that anyone can learn to use — and try it for free.
Yola, headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa, has more than 12 million customers worldwide. The company, started in 2007, has always prided itself on having an international outlook and supports multiple European languages with its website builder.
Yola has about 60 employees who speak a range of languages like English, German, French, and others.
Yola’s site builder
Yola’s crowning achievement is their site builder, an app that runs in your web browser without requiring any installation or plugins. It lets you point-and-click your way to a full-blown website. The only thing you need to know to create a site with Yola is how to click and move your computer mouse. No HTML, CSS, or any other acronyms required. The site builder underpins their hosting plans and that’s really what you’re paying for.
When you sign up to build your free site, you don’t need to provide a credit card. A nice feature of Yola’s free sites, though, is that they’re also ad-free. (Mostly. You do need to purchase one of the more expensive hosting plans in order to remove Yola’s own branding from your site.) If you don’t want to purchase a custom domain name (or provide one you already own), you’ll get a Yola subdomain, like yoursite.yolasite.com.
Site Creation Wizard
Yola’s site builder may be “easy mode” for putting websites together, but they offer an even easier mode: the Site Creation Wizard. The Wizard walks you through the elements of a three-page website and gets it up and running in about 30 minutes.
If the site builder dashboard (shown below) is still too intimidating, you can also ask Yola to build your site for you. However, it’s unclear whether this feature incurs an additional fee or comes only with paid plans.
Yola gives you 16 fairly generic Blogger-like templates to choose from for your free site, but offers hundreds of other designs for their paid plans. Besides adding text and images, you can also add videos, display maps, and create forms. Before you commit to a template you can see a live preview of it, similar to the way that WordPress lets you try out themes. You can easily change your theme at any time. Many, but not all of these themes are responsive to mobile devices.
Yola Hosting Plans
Yola has only two types of site hosting plans: regular websites and online stores. (We discuss online stores in the following section.) Their regular website plan is called Sitebuilder.
There’s an impressive number of features that come with all of Yola’s Sitebuilder Plans, including the free site:
- At least 3 web pages: A homepage and two subpages of your choosing (paid plans include unlimited additional pages)
- 1 GB bandwidth (paid plans come with unlimited bandwidth)
- 1 GB storage
- Yola subdomain: like yoursite.yolasite.com (custom domain names require a paid plan)
- Email support and online tutorial library
- Social sharing functionality for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and a Tumblr blog
- Contact forms
- Google map integration
- Availability in 6 languages.
- Password protection for your entire site or for specific pages
- 99.9% uptime
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection via Prolexic
- SiteWit Stats is a site metrics app that connects to your Yola account. On Yola’s free plans, SiteWit provides a website visitors report, popularity statistics for all pages on your site, and a measure of your site’s performance against various keywords. SiteWit’s features can be upgraded by purchasing one of their plans (separate from Yola).
One caveat: According to Yola’s online support database, there’s no way to backup and restore your site if something goes wrong. Although they back up their own servers, customers don’t have the ability to request restoration on a per-site or per-file basis.
Paid Sitebuilder Plans
Yola offers several options to upgrade your free site whenever you choose. The paid plans are worth looking at, even if you wish to try before you buy. All paid plans include unlimited site pages and unlimited bandwidth. You’ll also get a free custom domain (or you can use a domain you already own) and free private registration, which keeps your name and address off of public databases. Premium support is also included, although it’s not clear what that entails. Be aware that all plans except the most expensive ones include Yola branding on the footer of your site.
The top tier of Yola’s Sitebuilder plans comes with additional perks like unlimited storage, premium templates, and SEO-optimization.
Publish to Facebook
By far, the coolest feature of Yola’s top plan is the ability to publish your site to Facebook. Your site becomes a new tab on your Facebook Page which is updated whenever you update your website. Your Facebook fans can fill out a contact form or, in the case of Yola’s Online Stores, purchase products without leaving Facebook.
For those who want to use a free Yola site for personal purposes, be aware that you can’t simply link your site to your personal Facebook account. You must create a Facebook Page in order to use the Yola integration.
Yola’s Online Store
For a fairly low cost per month, you can add an online store to any paid Yola plan. Unlike many other web hosts, Yola doesn’t collect transaction fees from the sales you make. All the money you make is yours after the monthly fee. There are no tiers in the Online Store pricing: one fee provides Yola’s entire suite of e-commerce tools.
Every Yola website plan (free or otherwise) comes with an SSL certificate turned on by default. The SSL certificate is a must-have if you intend to open an online store since it helps inspire trust in your customers that their data is safely encrypted during transactions. It’s also now considered a best practice for any site; Google has suggested it plays a minor role in its ranking algorithm.
Yola’s Online Store offers a robust customer experience for the price. You can use any type of media you want to showcase your products, including video. Customers can either click to add products or drag-and-drop their orders into the shopping cart. If they lose track of what they’ve already put in their shopping cart, your store will adapt and show a flag on the product informing the customer they’ve already added it.
When your customer checks out, they can either create an account or checkout as a guest. If they choose to create an account, customers can store their payment details as well as track delivery of their purchases.
If you like, you can turn on an optional “terms and conditions” agreement condition prior to purchasing, which can be useful if you’re selling digital products or other items which require consent of some kind.
Your store also integrates with your site’s Facebook page, allowing your customers to check your stock or order without even leaving Facebook.
Inventory and Catalog Management
Yola’s Online Store allows you to sell up to 1,000 inventoried products or services, so you always know exactly what stock you have available. Your products can be physical or digital, for both products and services.
You can categorize your products for ease of browsing. Your customers can filter products by category or you can choose to display only certain categories for any one particular page on your site. You’ll get to create an image gallery for each product, including automatic thumbnails.
Your store comes with metrics so you can see how your sales are trending by day. From your dashboard, you can either import product information en masse or export it to your favorite spreadsheet program.
Managing Your Digital Products
Yola online stores support almost any digital product you can think of. Yow can sell images, music, software, video files, ebooks, graphics, and more. Customers can get their items immediately after purchase via a download link sent after purchase. To prevent theft of your digital products, you can force an expiration date on the download links or limit them to a number of times used. There is a limit on digital product size (100 MB), but you can work around the limitation by providing multiple files per product.
Your store can accept a wide variety of payment methods including credit cards, PayPal, offline checks, purchase orders, and even wire transfers. You can even arrange a setup whereby UPS or another shipping company collects Cash On Delivery (COD) on your behalf. If you intend to sell globally, know that Yola supports over 160 global currencies. Yola stores even lets you offer discounts and coupons to your customers.
Your store will come with a robust set of order management tools. You can customize email notifications, track orders, print invoices, and create variable pricing for products depending on size, color, version, or other specifications.
Shipping and Taxes
You can work with almost any shipping providers you like — including UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS. Your customers can get real-time shipping quotes for domestic or international shippers before selecting one. You’re also able to configure your tax zones along with rates and rules which are applicable to your products. Track incoming and outgoing orders in real-time via the store dashboard, with the cool option for communicating with your customers at any point along the delivery chain.
Yola isn’t like many hosting providers who essentially “nickel and dime you to death” with add-on fees (except for their email plan, detailed in a later section of this review). Their online stores, for example, come fully loaded with everything they offer, no add-ons necessary. Their Sitebuilder plans are similar in that you can get extra functionality by upgrading your monthly plan without the need for additional add-on products. That said, there are a few limited ways that you can enhance your Yola Sitebuilder website for a bit of extra cash per month.
Additional Custom Domains
Although all of Yola’s paid Sitebuilder plans come with a free domain included, you can purchase other domains as well, even if you don’t intend to use them at Yola. They offer a limited number of top-level domains (.com, .net, .org, and .biz) but they have a good variety of international extensions like .ca, .co.uk, .eu, .fr, and others.
Private Domain Registration
For an extra fee, you can purchase private domain registration for any of your domains which masks your identity in public WHOIS registration records. Private registration can also protect you from spammers and telemarketers.
Unlike most hosting companies, Yola doesn’t give you email addresses with any of their paid plans, even if you purchase a domain from them. Instead, you must add the Yola Mail plan to your paid Sitebuilder plan or Online Store. In fact, adding both the Online Store and the Email plan will at the very least double the cost of your Sitebuilder plan.
The Email plan lets you access your email through your web browser and via your favorite email apps like Outlook, Apple Mail, or via online hosted services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail. The plan comes with a cap on total email storage and per-email send/receive sizes.
Another example of how Yola is unlike most other hosting services, their email plan only gives you a single mailbox. You can add unlimited aliases for the mailbox (like [email protected] or [email protected]) but all the addresses point to the same mailbox. That means you can’t give out email addresses to your employees or contractors since they won’t be able to access the main mailbox.
Be aware that you can’t take advantage of the Customer Mailing List features (powered by Constant Contact) on any Sitebuilder plans without paying for the email add-on plan.
Yola doesn’t go into minute detail on its infrastructure, since part of its mission to make website building easy for anyone to do. So, instead of listing server specs and datacenters, Yola seeks to assuage your possible technology concerns with generalizations like “we’re ready to deal with… a power outage.” No detail is provided on how power is backed up or what hardware and software is used to protect their customers’ sites and uptime. Neither does Yola support its claim of being able to handle tons of visitors to your site other than asserting that it can do so. As with most hosts, Yola claims to have 99.9% uptime for the 50 million web pages it hosts.
In other words, Yola is asking you to trust them to know what technology is best for their customers. For those in their target audience, that’s probably fine. If you really want to get knee-deep into the minutiae of transit providers and routing protocols, Yola isn’t for you.
However, it’s important to know what technology is underpinning your site, especially if it supports your livelihood.
Yola describes its infrastructure only in general terms:
- Load-balanced servers and infrastructure that supports over a 100,000 new websites a month
- Geographic performance optimization, which we assume means they choose a datacenter located in your region on which to host your site
- They partner with “best-in-class content delivery networks“
- 24/7 application and performance monitoring.
Yola’s skimpy information about their technology setup is completely aligned with its motto: “All you have to do is publish. We take care of the rest.”
Yola’s customer support comes in different forms, some of which depend on the paid plan you choose. Everyone gets access to the extensive tutorials and other online information. There’s a well-indexed online knowledgebase. Tutorials provide step-by-step instructions and provide links out to similar topics.
Free Sitebuilder plans can access customer support personnel via email only. Paid plans give you priority email support and additional access via live chat help located conveniently on your Sitebuilder dashboard. All support staff are employed by Yola in-house.
Although other web hosting companies allow you to contact them via their social media accounts, but Yola’s Facebook and Twitter pages haven’t been updated in months.
Yola offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on their premium packages.
Three Reasons to Choose Yola
- Yola is a good choice if you’d like to create a simple, free business website. Its paid plans will also work well for portfolios and more extensive small business sites.
- Yola provides great value for the money if you’d like to set up an online store.
- If you’re intimidated by HTML or if you just don’t have time to devote to learning it, Yola is a quick and easy way to get your first website online.
Three Reasons Not to Choose Yola
- If you have advanced hosting needs — like enterprise systems, high-end SSL certificates, backup and restore functionality, dedicated or VPS services, cloud hosting, or specific robust hardware and network needs — Yola probably isn’t for you.
- If you need multiple custom domain email addresses, you’ll need to go with another email hosting provider instead of Yola.
- If you’d like to start a blog, Yola doesn’t provide that functionality on their Sitebuilder.
Summary of Yola
It’s a good idea to check out Yola if you need a quick, simple website that’s free — for example, to use as a “virtual” business card or to create a portfolio or an online resume. Also, if your goal is to sell physical or digital products and services online, Yola’s store plan offers a lot of value for the money, too. The best part is that you don’t have to guess whether Yola’s right for you because you can try it out for free.