Building and running a website sounds like a fabulous idea. There’s only one problem – having to deal with technology.
Unless you are a qualified programmer or web developer, you probably need a helping hand constructing a website for your business.
That leaves you with two choices. Either, find the cash to pay a professional web developer to do the job for you. Or, find a site building platform like Cindr which does all the messy, techy stuff for you.
What’s Special About Cindr?
Of course, the point of all site builders is to make web development easy. There would be no point in them otherwise. But UK-based company Cindr aims to go the extra mile. It claims to be, to quote their website, “the simplest website builder available”.
With a company strapline “Websites for everyone, built by anyone,” you can imagine Cindr, British accents and all, as the Robin Hoods of web building, robbing the technocrati to spread the wealth far and wide.
Or, perhaps, they are more like the Fairy Godmother in the tale of their partial namesake Cinderella, weaving their magic to ensure all their customers can go to the web ball.
So, if you’re looking for a dashing, elusive hero or someone with a magic wand to save you from your web woes, read on and find out if Cindr is the solution you have been looking for.
Much like characters from myth and legend, it seems like Cindr enjoys cultivating an air of mystery. Beyond the fact that it is a relatively recent British start-up, there is very little information about the company to be found.
Cindr has your golden carriage ready and waiting. Launching your website could not be simpler. From the company home page, click the “Get Started” link and then choose from one of the templates. These are basic and there are not many to choose from, but they are only to get you started.
If you don’t want to use a predefined template and would rather design your own, no problem, just scroll down and click the “Start from scratch” link, or the “Blank Canvas” option on the overview here:
Then it is just a case of entering an email address, or signing in with Facebook, and you are straight onto the site builder in just three clicks. If you sign up with email, just remember to check your inbox and use the link to set a password, otherwise you won’t be able to get back to your site later.
Everyone who signs up gets a 14-day free trial. As all you have given is your email address or Facebook account, there is absolutely no obligation, no automated roll over onto the paid-for service.
The free trial gives you the chance to play around with the tools as you please. If you like what you see and want to sign up fully, you can click to upgrade at any point. Otherwise, you will be sent an email or Facebook message after 14 days inviting you to subscribe. Although Cindr it is a UK-based company, it bills for everything in US dollars.
If you choose not to, no hassle — just ignore the message and your account will be deactivated when the trial expires.
Find Your Way
At the start of your free trial, an introductory tutorial will pop up on your screen. You can choose to skip it if you wish, but it is a good way to familiarize yourself with the various tools and options available. The main task menu is displayed down the left-hand side of the screen. The tutorial will walk you through the following options, which are mainly self-explanatory:
- Select Page: This is where you can choose a page to work on. The current page displayed is indicated with a green button, and you can also rearrange page order and navigation.
- Open, Save, Publish, View: Your main file options for your site.
- Add Blocs to Page: This is the main building tool. See below for more detail.
- Get Premium: Only displayed during your free trial, this is where you sign up for a full account.
- Page SEO: Set the title, descriptions and meta data for each page to help optimize for search engines.
- Site Settings: This is where you manage multiple sites, change domains, add custom icons and run Google Analytics. These options are not available on the free trial.
- Account: Change details of your subscription. Only available once you have signed up for the full service.
- Help: Here you can re-launch the tutorial or access one of Cindr’s online help resources.
Stack the Blocs: Building a Site with Cindr
Lots of site builders use a drag-and-drop interface which allows you to position different types of content where you like on the page. Cindr takes a different approach, using a tabular layout to arrange content.
Cindr calls its units of content ‘blocs’. With more than 100 to choose from, you get more choice than many site builders offer. Each can be individually customized in terms of size, color, design and what is displayed in them. Blocs are positioned on the page using Move Up, Move Down options.
When you click on the Add Blocs to Page option in the main menu, a submenu opens. You can view all blocs in one go, or browse by the following categories:
- Header blocs: Template headers combining images and text
- Content blocs: Ready defined layouts for images and text, plus timeline graphics and social media links
- Gallery blocs: For adding multiple pictures
- Text blocs
- Statement blocs: Specialized, pre-designed text blocs for adding things like call outs and straplines
- Team blocs: Ready-to-go layouts for ‘Meet the Team’ sections on your About Us page
- List blocs: Layouts for menus, price lists and top tens
- Contact Form bloc
- Resume bloc: Ideal for sole trader websites, present your CV as part of your site
- Pricing blocs
- Footer blocs
- Background Options: Set the background color for each page, or upload an image.
To add a bloc onto your page, simply click on it. This is what Cindr means when it talks about simple — you can feasibly create a working outline for a page in 10 clicks or fewer.
Want to embed a YouTube video into one of your pages? Or set up an events listing section and even sell tickets? No problem. Cindr has you covered with a choice of third-party apps which can be pasted onto your page like any other bloc.
In the Add Blocs to Page menu, click on Browse App Blocs to get the following options:
- YouTube: Embed a video straight onto your page
- Google Maps: Display your location, or allow visitors to work out a route to find you
- SoundCloud: Let visitors to play music right from your site
- Typeform: Create professional looking surveys for your site
- Eventbrite: Promote events and sell tickets
- MailChimp: Enable email capture to kick-start your web marketing; if you want to run an e-commerce platform, this is a great way to promote new products, offer loyalty discounts, and so on
- PayPal: Add PayPal and take direct payment for whatever it is you are selling
- Facebook: Allow comments via Facebook.
The Bloc Editing Bar
Once you have dropped the blocs you want to use onto your page, it is time to start arranging and editing your content.
To edit a bloc, you need to click on a pencil icon in the center of it. This opens the editing bar which is the same for all bloc types. Here, you format the appearance and position of whole blocs.
You can set the width and height, the transparency, and the background. Cindr also allows you to change the font style, position, and color.
But there are limitations to how much formatting you can do, particularly with the layout and position of blocs. The toggle width and height options only have two defaults each — either set the bloc to fill the width and height of the screen, or fix to a preset size, centralizing the bloc and showing more of the page background.
You can only rearrange blocs vertically, i.e. reposition by moving up and down. This makes the designs and layouts repetitive, as there is no way to format blocs so they sit next to each other horizontally.
To add or edit content in blocs, you click on the editing icon again.
To edit text, all you have to do is click into the text box and type, just as you would with any standard word processing platform. If you highlight text, you can bring up options to make it bold, italic, add a bulleted list or add a hyperlink. You can also display the HTML code for that element, giving those who know how to code some limited control over how the text appears. If you want to change the font or color, you have to use the editing bar.
Adding or editing other types of content is just as easy. In a gallery bloc, for example, once you are in the bloc editor, you just have to click on each image to upload a new one from your files. Similarly, in a third-party app, if relevant you can click on the content displayed to change it. So, for example, in Google Maps you can click on the map displayed and type the name of a new location to change it. For SoundCloud and YouTube, you click on the window and search for the video or song you want to post.
This is no option on all third-party app plug-ins, simply because there is nothing to change. If you enable Facebook comments, the way they are embedded on your page is fixed and there is nothing you can edit.
Adding new pages
To work on a new page, first save the page you are using in the main menu, and then choose “Manage Pages” in the Select Page section.
The Page Manager lists all current active pages. To add a new one to your site, click “Add New Page”.
Managing a Cindr Site
Once you are satisfied with your site, you can publish any time. Cindr publishes page by page, so even if you have only managed to get your Home page done, you can put it up straight away and start building your online presence. Just click the “Publish” option in the main page menu and you are away, your site will be live. And to have a sneak peek how it looks, click “View”.
Once you have published, the site builder doubles up as your control panel. If you want to change a particular page, add new content, or change the structure of your site, you follow the same steps and use the same tools as you used to build your pages.
The Page Manager is your first port of call. Here you can quickly rearrange how your site is organized simply by clicking the up and down arrows next to each page — no complex site maps of navigation keys to contend with. Whichever page sits at the top of the list automatically becomes your home page.
In Page Manager, you can also rename, duplicate or delete each page. But the most useful tool is the Live/Draft toggle button. If you click on a live page from the Select Page menu and start to edit it, visitors will see the edits. By clicking a page over to Draft, you temporarily take it offline, giving you the chance to work on it until you are completely satisfied.
A link to the Site Manager page is found at the bottom of the builder main menu and to the top right of the Page Manager. It works in much the same way as the Page Manager. You can take a whole site offline to work on it and, once your 14-day trial is over and you have signed up, add new sites. This page then comes into its own as a key hub for working across different sites.
When you first join Cindr, you automatically get a randomly generated subdomain. You can change this at any time, even during your free trial, in the Site Manager section. Cindr will check to make sure nobody else is using the same name already.
One oddity here was the Site Rename feature. It said “Invalid Site Name” no matter what we tried. Clearer error messages would help to make Cindr more user-friendly.
Once you sign up to the full service, you can choose to replace the subdomain address with a “real” domain name. You can import an existing domain from the Site Settings section of the main site builder menu, which is activated when you sign up for a full account. To switch domains, you always have to access the DNS settings in your existing domain host and create a new CNAME to port over. Cindr helpfully publishes some knowledgebase articles on how to do this at major domain registrars like GoDaddy and 123-Reg.
SEO and Analytics
You can edit the SEO settings for individual pages to boost search rankings at any time, even during a free trial. From the Page SEO option on the main builder menu, you can alter the page title and page description, and see how it will appear in search results in a preview underneath. The changes will be applied next time you publish your page.
If you choose to sign up for a full account, you will also get access to Google Analytics included, which will provide key statistics about your website such as visitor numbers, unique page hits, visits per page, traffic sources and so on.
From the moment you sign up for your Cindr free trial, web hosting is included as part of the service. It is quite feasible that you could be ready to publish a page within five minutes of clicking the “Get Started” button, and the moment you hit that publish button, Cindr hosts your site for you.
Cindr only offers one hosting plan, as part of a single subscription price for the whole service once your free trial is over. If you want things to be as simple as they can be, somewhere to build and publish a website without having to weigh up dozens of different, this is perfect – it couldn’t be more straightforward.
Help & Support
Although Cindr might wave a magic wand and get you running a site before you can blink, it won’t be there to hold your hand 24/7 on the phone.
What Cindr does offer is live chat support, but only during UK office hours, Monday to Friday. You can also e-mail your issue to the support team.
The tutorial gives you a good overview of how the platform works, and can be repeated at any time, which is handy if you want to train someone up to run your sites. And from the Manage Pages and Manage Sites pages, you can access Cindr’s help module, which contains a series of fully searchable FAQs and how to guides. These are all very concise and digestible and get right to the point of what you need to know.
Why build a site with Cindr? We think these are the best features:
- As easy a web building experience as you can get — start publishing within minutes of signing up
- Get a free 14-day trial giving you the freedom to build and publish and entire site before you decide whether to subscribe
- Plug in useful third party apps like PayPal and MailChimp to help get your business off the ground.
But here are some of the downsides:
- If you are looking for choice of hosting options, look elsewhere — Cindr is one-size-fits-all.
- Limited ability to customize pages and page elements the way you want them.
- Layouts are restricted by the fact you can only arrange blocs vertically.
- Few developer options.
While some users will find the limited support a problem, the majority of people will find that live chat and email is sufficient. Despite its lack of layout flexibility, it’s an enjoyable tool for a newbie to use.