Virb is a Los Angeles-based company offering a full-featured site builder for everyone. Founded in 2007 as a competitor to MySpace, Virb was acquired in 2008 and grew its business under the Media Temple umbrella. Today, Virb is a small site building company serving about 20,000 customers.
Virb boasts “unlimited possibilities,” with themes that are responsive (and therefore will look great no matter which type of device your visitor is using), modular page options that let you pick and build the pages that best fit your needs, and powerful SEO tools.
You can think of building your Virb site the same way you might build a model using parts. Virb offers an abundance of modular features, and by putting them together, you can create the site that you want. The theme is what pulls everything together, so to speak.
Virb offers twenty-four themes from which you can choose. You can filter the themes based on the purpose of your site, and hovering over each one gets you a pop-up containing brief descriptions of the theme and who might best benefit from it.
Unlike other site builders, changing your theme doesn’t mean that you have to rebuild your site from scratch.
Pages are the major subsections of your site. For example, you might have a Home page, an About Me page, and a Contact Me page. You can create as many pages as you’d like.
To help you get started, Virb has pages templates. Currently, there are templates for the following types of pages: Contact, Audio, Store, Events, Menu, Listing, Tumblr, Link, Gallery, Index, Blog, and About. You can also use the Custom template, which is essentially a blank slate that you can customize as you see fit.
The templates walk you through building your page. You start by creating the subdomain used to reach the page. Then, you’d upload your images, add your copy, and set your page’s sharing and SEO settings. You can also preview your site as you make changes.
If you have multiple pages focusing on the same topic, you can create what’s called a Section. This groups all similar pages together for organization purposes only, and visitors will not see any indications as to whether you’re using sections or how you’re using them.
Unfortunately, Virb doesn’t support the creation of subpages, so your navigation options can be limited if you’re building a larger site.
Widgets are custom features that expand the functionality of your site or integrate it with a third-party service. For example, you might want to include icons that link to your social media profiles, display your new Tumblr posts, or allow people to make reservations for dinner at your restaurant using Open Table. You can implement such functionality using Widgets.
Current widgets include audio, blog, Facebook, Last.fm, RSS Feed, Social Links, Twitter, and Open Table. You can also create a custom widget. Occasionally, you’ll need to create a page before you can use a specific widget. For example, you need to create a Blog Page before you can add a Blog widget. The site builder will let you know when a new page is needed before deploying a widget.
If you have any files you’d like to share with your visitors, you can upload them from your computer to Virb. Alternatively, you can also upload via your Dropbox. Using Dropbox also has the advantage of allowing you to backup your files.
You can upload and share a maximum of 500 MB (but do note that files uploaded directly to a specific page do not count toward this limit — in fact, you don’t have any limits as to how much you can upload to your pages).
Google Analytics provides you with in-depth information on your site’s performance. You can integrate your account with Virb so that you can access your data in the Virb Dashboard, You’ll see a graph of the number of visitors to your site, as well as a list of the sites that refer the most visitors to you.
Custom HTML and CSS
Using Virb doesn’t require design experience or knowledge of HTML or CSS, but if you would like to, you can use the custom editor to make changes directly to the code used to generate the user interface of your site. You can change the CSS of your site as a whole, or you can change the CSS on a page-by-page basis. You can also enable Developer Access, which lets you edit or replace your site’s master HTML and CSS code (note that Virb does not provide support for custom HTML and CSS).
You can see how your site looks at any time by clicking the View Live Site button in the upper-right corner of the Virb Dashboard.
Using the Virb Site Builder
To gain access to the site builder, you’ll need to sign up for an account. All new users get ten days to try out all of Virb’s features before committing to a month-to-month subscription plan.
Once you’ve signed up and logged in, you’ll be prompted to take a tour of the site builder and Virb Admin Dashboard. Selecting yes means two things. First, there’s a progress bar that guides you through building your first site. These steps include Theme, Content, Settings, and Design. Second, all of the features in the Virb editor have a small green box with a question mark in it that you can click for more information about that particular feature.
Virb offers 24 different themes from which you can choose. By default, Virb sets your site’s theme as York, but the first thing you do when building your site during the guided tour is to select the one that you want. Once you’ve selected a theme, you can click Next in the progress bar to proceed.
Up next is Content, which is where you’ll create Pages for the information you want to be displayed. You can easily create new pages, and you’re not limited to a fixed number of pages (as a matter of fact, all Virb plans come with unlimited storage, so the sky is your limit when it comes to how many pages you create for your site). You can easily set the page you want as your home page, toggle in and out of maintenance mode (which determines whether your site is accessible to visitors or not), and whether the site is password-protected or not.
The following section on the tour is Settings, which is where you’ll set the title, subtitle, and footer for your site. You can also choose the Favicon to represent your site or change its Virb URL, site type, and time zone.
If desired, you can also link your site with Google Apps, enter a site description that will be displayed when your site shows up in search engine results, or set up a custom domain name (all sites come with a Virb URL formatted like
yourSite.virb.com, but you can purchase a custom domain elsewhere so that people can reach your site via
The last step is to make any design changes to the theme you’ve chosen. You can certainly use the theme as designed, but if you want to, you can change its colors, fonts, font size, display logo, and background images. Note that you don’t have to make site-wide changes; you can make changes on a page-by-page basis if desired. If you’re versed in HTML and CSS, you can easily open up the themes editor and make changes by customizing the provided code.
All-in-all, the Virb site builder is very easy to use. All of their features are straightforward, but we do note that it’s missing drag-and-drop functionality, which is something most other website builders offer. Nevertheless, we don’t think that this would be a dealbreaker regarding getting your site created.
SEO features, while present, are minimal. Virb’s templates are cleanly built and meant to be easily read by search engines, and there is an option of setting the description that users see if your site appears in search engine results. Beyond that, there’s not much else.
All Virb sites come with free cloud hosting and a Virb subdomain (for example,
mySite.virb.com). However, you can easily use a custom domain with your site. All you have to do is provide the requested details for this integration in the Settings area of your dashboard.
There doesn’t seem to be support for hosting your site with another provider, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on growing your site. If the cloud hosting service that comes with your Virb package ever stops meeting your needs (for example, you might triple the traffic you see on your site), you won’t be able to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated hosting package, nor will you be able to move your site. To do so, you’ll have to start over with your new provider.
Help and Technical Support
Virb prides itself on the number of resources offered to help you get going with the least amount of fuss.
If you’ve opted to start the guided tour when you built your first site, you’ll see pop-ups with links to video tutorials that show you how to use the site builder’s features. You can also refer to these videos (and more) at a later point.
You can also query the extensive knowledge base to see if there are existing docs about your question.
The Virb Community allows you to pose questions to other Virb users and crowdsource suggestions on how you might fix something or implement a new feature.
To reach the Virb Support Team, you can open a ticket via email. The team is available for responding Monday – Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM Eastern time. There doesn’t appear to be support for any phone-based or live chat support.
Virb has profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, but none of these show recent activity, so social media isn’t a great way to get in touch with the Virb team.
Pricing and Billing
All new users get a free, 10-day trial. After that, Virb’s pricing scheme is very simple: for a fixed monthly rate, you get access to all of the features they offer. There are no long-term contracts, and you can pay using a credit card or via PayPal. You can easily cancel your subscription at any time, though you will not get a refund for any payments you’ve already made or for the time remaining during that month.
You do not have to provide any billing information during the trial period, but once the ten days allotted have elapsed, you’ll need to provide the appropriate billing information upon signing in. If you don’t do so within 90 days, Virb will remove your account, and the URL you’ve reserved goes back into the general pool where it can be claimed by other users.
Virb Student Program
If you’re a student, consider looking into the Virb Student Program, which gets you your first year of service free of charge. The goal of the program is to provide you with the resources needed to create a portfolio you can use to showcase your skills and talents to potential employers. The Student Program plan is no different from the paid plan — you get all of the Virb features available.
To sign up for this program, you’ll need to use the
.edu email address assigned to you by your university. If your university email extension isn’t
.edu (for example, British students’ emails sometimes use the
.ac.uk extension), you can still qualify for the program. You just have to talk to your dean and have him or her get in touch with Virb so that they can activate your account appropriately.
Conclusion: Is Virb Right for You?
Virb’s site building options, which seem to be aimed at those in the creative industry, lets you create a sleek, modern, and professional-looking site in no time. But Virb does have some serious limitations: e-commerce tools, such as product display galleries, shopping carts, and checkout processes are noticeably missing, and the only hosting solution you can use is Virb’s cloud provider. The company does not provide any specifics as to how well their hosting services perform, so you don’t get any guarantees that your site will be available to your users consistently.
Most concerning is the fact that the Virb status page, which reports on the status of Virb’s systems, no longer exists. Perhaps GoDaddy is not interested in expanding the business or even maintaining it to its former standard of excellence. But Virb offers some quality features at a good price. If you’re a novice site builder and you aren’t planning on building a site that utilizes the most up-to-date technologies, Virb may be an option to consider.