When it comes to website solutions, there are roughly two kinds of users. First, there’s the “outsource it all” type — hire a designer, hire a developer, offer a creative brief, then just sit back and wait for the coders to deliver your site design for your review.
Then there’s the “do it myself” type. These hands-on folks don’t see any reason to spend tons of money paying others to do something they could probably do themselves. If only they could just find the right set of tools.
CityMax has aimed itself squarely at the second group. How well it’s hit that sweet spot, however, depends on your perspective and preferences when it comes to site-building tools.
We’ll explore the CityMax offerings, but first, let’s look at the company itself.
How Did CityMax Get Started?
Founded in 1999, by Sunny Hirai, CityMax focuses on providing turnkey solutions for website construction and hosting. The company is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, and boasts over 500,000 websites built using its tools.
CityMax Site Builder Plans
The beauty of an approach like the solution CityMax offers is its simplicity. The downside is, often, a lack of control and customizability. CityMax is no exception. However, that simplicity and “one-stop shopping” experience can be very valuable to a busy small business owner who has no desire to be a full-time site manager.
With CityMax, just about everything you’ll need to create a site — even an e-commerce site — is included in one flat monthly rate. There’s only a single plan to evaluate, instead of three or twelve or twenty, which simplifies your decision-making process.
The CityMax plan offers a number of benefits and features. It includes everything you need to create, launch, manage, and grow your small business or e-commerce site. Hosting is included, as is your domain registration.
Also included: email marketing. With third-party autoresponder services such as Constant Contact and AWeber, you can wind up paying $20 per month or more for email marketing alone, and that’s for a small list. With the CityMax all-inclusive plan, you’ll get that functionality added in for no additional cost.
Finally, CityMax also includes at no additional fee, the two biggest required components to run an e-commerce store: online payment processing and a shopping cart. With these tools, you can design your store as you build your site — the site-building tools are basically the same — and launch your store quickly.
CityMax’s interface is form-based, which can yield a tedious and less-than-visually-pleasing experience, especially for those who are used to more robust drag-and-drop tools.
There’s a confusing mix of horizontal and vertical menus and controls, which can occasionally cause some frustration. However, once you find what you’re looking for, the controls are well-labeled and communicate the purpose clearly.
The controls are also page-based, which means you’ll encounter sometimes drastically different workflows depending on the type of page you’re adding.
Sitebuilder Tools and Templates
There’s no “start from scratch” option, but for CityMax’s apparent target audience, that’s an advantage, not a drawback.
CityMax starts you off with a handful of pages already created, waiting for your input: Home, Photo Album, About Us, Contact Us, Links, and Catalog. You can add more pages by selecting from a handful of available page templates — for instance, the Feedback page, or the Map page.
Putting aside the questionable currency of a “Links” page (blogrolls have pretty much been abandoned, and most businesses prefer to keep traffic on their own sites), this approach is a tad clunky. You can only put one such element on a page.
So if you’d like a map on your contact page, you’re out of luck. Compare this to a WordPress site, where you can use plugins, widgets, and scripts to configure your pages the way you want.
On the other hand, the 20+ page templates from which you can choose are fairly varied and offer a solid menu of additional functionality for your site. Adding pages by primary purpose might also help you maintain a tighter sense of control over your site and its pages.
Be aware that what CityMax calls a “membership site” is really just a page type of “Message Board” where your users can subscribe and register in exchange for posting privileges. There doesn’t seem to be a way to lock this message board, or any other pages for that matter, behind a paywall or password.
As for the visual elements themselves, they’re pretty limited. You won’t find any access to web fonts, unfortunately. Instead, you can select from among 20 or so, mostly old standbys such as Verdana and Arial. This seems like an unduly restrictive approach.
View live sample sites in the company’s portfolio slider and you’ll see there’s not much here in the way of cutting-edge design. However, they’re not unattractive and while a site built with CityMax won’t necessarily win any vanguard awards, it will get the job done for your business. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
One of the biggest selling points for CityMax’s site-builder approach is its ability to create an e-commerce store. Unlike traditional hosting, where the best you can usually hope for is a one-click installation script for something like Magento or OpenCart, this is an actual e-commerce site builder.
The problem is that it’s fairly limited as these things go. Other site-building apps for e-commerce offer a more user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop functionality and more on-trend designs and templates.
It’s also a tad on the “unduly complex” side. As with non-commerce sites, you’ll have to proceed page by page. So for each page of your products catalog, you’ll have to create that page, add the images, add the text, etc. — product by product, page by page.
This means you’ll be forced to sketch out a wireframe for your site, which itself isn’t the worst idea in the world for a new business site of any type. But it also means the process is a bit more complex than simply adding new products themselves, and having your CMS automatically create those pages for you.
You can sell both physical and digital products from a CityMax store site. You can also choose from a number of different payment processors, offer coupon codes, and provide variants on your products (i.e., styles, colors, etc.).
CityMax doesn’t seem to offer customization for email messages and receipts to your customers, nor does it provide for product categorization, which can help with SEO (search engine optimization).
CityMax Customer Service
CityMax offers a number of customer service options for its users to help ease their transition into its tools and services. First, you can take advantage of a free fifteen-minute coaching call to help you get started. If you run into trouble thereafter, you can browse through a fairly complete set of help files built into the site-builder interface itself. And if all else fails, you can submit a help request ticket through the website.
In addition to winning several prominent industry awards for customer service, as well as its products and services, CityMax is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau.
You can try out the site-building experience on CityMax for ten days.
Billing and Cancellation
After you’ve tried out the site-builder tools for ten days for free, CityMax will bill you for the first full month. You can pay these invoices with Visa or MasterCard. There is no penalty for cancellation, which you can do at any time.
Is CityMax Right for You?
CityMax is slanted towards e-commerce site owners and those who are planning an online store component for their site. It’s also obviously meant for those who prefer a simple approach to the website/hosting/site management puzzle, and are willing to trade off some control and customization in order to achieve that simplicity.
So, is CityMax the right website building and hosting solution for you and your business? Possibly so, especially if you’re looking for a Canada-based hosting solution.
If you’re planning a website, especially an e-commerce website, and you’re keen on doing the job yourself simply and easily, and you’re most drawn to streamlined, turnkey solutions, you’ll want to check out CityMax.
But don’t go in blind. Use the ten-day free trial period to fully explore the site’s tools, menus, and interface. See whether the designs make sense for your niche and your business, and how intuitive you find the controls and workflow that the sitebuilder necessitates.
On the other hand, if you need more flexibility, control, and function, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.