Namecheap Website Builder Review
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- Date Established
- Phoenix, AZ
- Inexpensive site hosting
- 30-day free trial
- 100% uptime guarantee
- 24/7 live chat support
- Free domain for 1 year
- Full feature set on all plans
- Not ideal for highly-trafficked sites
- Moderate learning curve
- Limited features
- Limited integrations
Dubbed one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing US companies of 2018, Namecheap got its start as a domain registrar back in 2000. We’ll assume that even back in 2000, Namecheap offered “cheap” domain names for websites, as it still does to this day. Seven years after the company’s founding, web hosting was incorporated into Namecheap’s services. Most recently, NameCheap added its own website building software to the mix. Personally, I now like to call the company “Namehostingsitebuildingcheap.” Think it will catch on?
In truth, Namecheap’s path is a common one for a lot of domain and hosting providers. While Namecheap still offers managed hosting for WordPress users (plus lots of other types of web hosting), not everyone has the time or technical skill required to create and run a WordPress site. It makes sense that NameCheap would seek to expand its customer base by adding DIY site-building software for those without coding experience.
NameCheap’s website builder software is called…(drum roll please)…Website Builder. Website Builder is now included with all of NameCheap’s shared hosting packages and is the primary subject of this review. At first glance, the hosting packages themselves look like a pretty sweet deal, so it’s quite intriguing to also have access to the full sitebuilder on each of the plans.
We wanted to know more about Website Builder features and usability, as well as if it’s generally worth building a website with this newish tool. If you’re also curious, read on!
Table of Contents
To access Website Builder, you must first purchase a shared web hosting plan and connect at least one domain.
There are several different options for domains — from a “.website” domain that’s free for the first year from Namecheap, to a paid domain from Namecheap, to transferring a domain from a different registrar. Your domain price will vary accordingly, but it’s typically a yearly (or multi-year) upfront fee and an ongoing renewal cost.
For hosting, you’ll be using Namecheap no matter what. Here are Namecheap’s shared hosting packages, broken down by when you pay:
- $1.29/month (annual plan, 1st year/1st purchase) = $15.44/yr.
- $2.57/month (annual plan, subsequent years) = $30.88/yr.
- $2.88/month (monthly plan) = $34.56/yr.
- Up to 3 websites
- 20 GB SSD-Accelerated disk space
- $2.20/month (annual plan, 1st year/1st purchase) = $26.44/yr.
- $4.41/month (annual plan, subsequent years) = $52.88/yr.
- $4.88/month (monthly plan) = $58.56/yr.
- Unlimited websites
- Unmetered SSD-Accelerated disk space
- $4.12/month (annual plan, 1st year/1st purchase) = $49.44/yr.
- $8.24/month (annual plan, subsequent years) = $98.88/yr.
- $8.88/month (monthly plan) = $106.56/yr.
- Unlimited websites
- 50 GB Pure SSD disk space
By the way, shared hosting simply means that you share server space with a bunch of other websites, which is why it’s so inexpensive. We’ll cover more features of Namecheap’s shared hosting in our Features section. For now, note that the primary differences between the three plan levels are the number of websites you can create, along with the type and amount of disk space. Also, all of the above plans include:
- Email hosting
- Lifetime free WhoisGuard privacy protection for your domain
- 50 PositiveSSL certificates free for the first year
- 30-day money-back guarantee (for first-time customers)
- 24/7 live chat customer support
Do note that your SSL certificate (provides verification of data encryption for your domains) will have an annual cost after the first year. Prices vary widely based on your security needs, but those offered via NameCheap range from $8.88-$169.00 per year. There’s lots of good information explaining the differences between certificates within Namecheap’s security pages.
The only other cost listed on the shared hosting pricing page is $2/month for a dedicated IP address. While not a requirement, this is a good idea for some business types.
Your website created with Namecheap’s Website Builder will be hosted by Namecheap. You do not need to download and install any files to use the software.
Hardware & Software Requirements
Generally speaking, there are no special hardware or software requirements when maintaining sites created with Website Builder. All you need is a solid internet connection and an up-to-date web browser. Most of the really technical-sounding server specifications outlined on the shared hosting pricing page are aimed at coders who wouldn’t be using Website Builder to begin with. Plus, these specs are mostly just features of Namecheap’s servers — not software apps you need to install.
Business Types Supported
We get a few clues to the target audience for Website Builder in the description of Namecheap’s shared hosting packages. For example, only the Stellar Business package is recommended for anyone planning to incorporate ecommerce into their sites. Part of the reason for this is that the Business package provides PCI-compliant hosting, which is necessary for any site accepting online payments from customers.
A second clue is in the types of site templates offered via Website Builder. These are categorized as follows:
The category with the largest number of templates is “Services,” providing yet another clue to Website Builder’s focus.
However, the main key to understanding what types of businesses work best with Website Builder is in Namecheap’s own explanation of shared hosting:
Shared hosting offers the most cost-effective way to get a site online since the costs of maintaining a server are split among all the users. This style of hosting is best suited for a small website or blog that doesn’t require advanced configurations or high bandwidth. Since shared hosting is not sufficient for sites with high traffic, high volume sites should look to VPS or dedicated hosting solutions instead.
In other words, if you expect a high amount of traffic during certain time periods (or just generally high traffic as your business grows), or if you anticipate massive downloads from visitors, Namecheap’s shared hosting is not for you by its own admission. By the same token, it makes a lot of sense that websites built for, say, the services sector could be especially ideal for a shared hosting situation. “Small websites” and “low traffic” are relative terms, but it’s good to keep in mind the general limitations of shared hosting.
Namecheap offers VPS (virtual private server) and dedicated hosting for more resource-heavy websites, but those plans don’t come with Website Builder.
Ease Of Use
Finding your way to Website Builder is a multi-step process. Once you sign up for Namecheap hosting and either buy or connect your domain, you’ll receive an email from Namecheap with a link to your Namecheap account. From here, you’ll enter cPanel:
cPanel is a special control panel for managing all aspects of your hosting service, and it’s where you’ll find the Website Builder tool. It’s actually a separate account from your main Namecheap account, with different login info. I was a little confused by this setup at first, and I noticed in comments on the Namecheap help pages that other users were as well.
Frankly, cPanel itself is a daunting dashboard for web novices, and you may never use many of the included functions. I’ve only shown the first section below:
Entering Website Builder, you begin by selecting a template for your site:
You can preview each template, and you can also watch a demo of how the homepage was originally built using the Website Builder tool. It’s kind of neat to see Website Builder in action right off the bat, but I’ve found that these demos (which are basically little slideshows) are prone to freezing midstream.
Upon selecting a template, you’re directed to your template editing interface:
The best part of the tool is that you are able to customize, drag-and-drop, and resize your page elements relatively easily. It mostly gets harder from there, unfortunately. If you’ve experimented with the editing tools of well-known DIY sitebuilders like Wix or Squarespace in the past, I think Namecheap’s Website Builder will feel a bit clunky and confusing.
Here’s a closer look at your main toolbar atop the editing interface:
And, here are several ways I found these tools awkward or unnecessarily difficult:
- Missing Dropdown Menus: You can drag-and-drop most of the items from the toolbar into your pages. The problem is that most of the items lack a dropdown menu you can see before you place the item. Instead, you place the item first and then choose what subtype you want. I’m used to seeing my options before I place something with other sitebuilders.
- Incomplete “Undo” Tool: Related to the above, you can’t undo placing an item you’ve dropped — only the subsequent edits you’ve made to it. You have to find where to delete it separately (I eventually figured out it involves right-clicking and locating the remove button).
- Difficult To Delete Blocks: If you drag-and-drop a full block with multiple components (e.g., team member profiles or a contact form) and then decide you don’t want the block, I don’t think you can delete the whole thing at once. Every time I tried to delete a full block, I had to delete each sub-component of the block individually. Of course, this wouldn’t be a huge problem if “undo” let you just delete it all quickly!
- Strange Items To Place: So, I have the option to drag-and-drop a payment processor right into the middle of a random page? The average user won’t need the freedom to place several of the provided options, and I think this ability will actually do more harm than good for novices.
- Complex “Properties” Screens: Each site component has its own Properties interface, which may be nice for some users who want to tweak every little nuance of each item non-visually via measurements, input fields, and a gazillion other settings. However, each Properties screen is quite different from the next, so there are multiple learning curves involved. To get an idea of what I mean, here is just one of three tabs inside the Properties configuration panel for a site menu bar:
- Confusing eCommerce Software: I still really haven’t figured out how to properly use Website Builder’s ecommerce system, and haven’t found any good tutorials. The back end is quite different than other shopping cart software I’ve used. Perhaps give me a bit more time, but I will say it’s not very intuitive from the start. I would probably just set up an Ecwid ecommerce store instead, as it’s already one of the drag-and-drop items.
My overall sense is that the creators of Website Builder came at this project thinking too much about what coders and developers want, and not understanding enough about what novice website creators want. Even though you don’t need actual coding skill to make changes to your site with Website Builder, I don’t think Namecheap has figured out yet how to best cater to a non-coding audience.
Meanwhile, you don’t get a lot of assistance from the Namecheap website itself. There’s a basic guide to the main editing tools in the knowledgebase, but no in-depth tutorials or videos. The silent slideshow demos of template creation give snapshots of how to make adjustments, but we can’t be expected to watch all the demos of all the templates to catch all the functions in action. We need a comprehensive tutorial (or set of tutorials) all in one place that walk us through site modifications step-by-step — and with audio commentary to explain what on Earth is happening!
Happily, all of Website Builder’s features are available across all shared hosting plans. There are some differences between hosting packages, though. Check the “Tech Specs” at the bottom of the shared hosting pricing page for the full list.
To be honest, the average Website Builder user won’t care much about most of the hosting specs, but I highlighted a few that may pique your interest below. It is good to have a general idea of which hosting limitations you’re likely to hit first so you can decide which plan to use, and predict if/when you’ll need to upgrade.
- Number Of Websites: You can create three with Stellar, and an unlimited number with Stellar Plus and Stellar Business.
- Disk Space: The type and amount changes as your package level changes.
- Subdomains: 30 with Stellar, unlimited with Plus and Business
- Number Of Backups: Bumps from twice per week to six times daily on the Business plan.
- Email Features: If you’re using Namecheap’s email hosting, you get 30 email accounts, forwarders & autoresponders on the basic Stellar plan, along with 10 mailing lists. These are all unlimited on the other two hosting plans.
- PCI Compliance: Only the Stellar Business hosting servers are PCI compliant. Not a huge deal if you’re not planning to accept payment through your site, but essential if you are!
With those more technical differences out of the way, let’s quickly round up the tools Website Builder brings to the table. Items you can drag-and-drop into a given page include:
- Text, pictures, & photo galleries
- Shapes, lines, & customizable buttons
- Social media buttons & feeds
- Contact forms
- Language switcher (with flags or a dropdown menu)
- Payment processors
- Mp3 player
- Youtube & Vimeo videos
- HTML code
- Simple tables
- Google AdSense (requires HTML configuration)
- Namecheap’s ecommerce shop widget
- Ecwid ecommerce shop
- Maps by Google, Yandex, & Bing.
Below are the pre-made block types you can currently add to your sites. These typically include a few individual elements (such as images and text fields) combined into a group:
- About Us
There is also a free image library you can draw from. I’m not sure of the origin of these images, but it looks like a free service similar to Unsplash. I don’t see any way to edit images from within Website Builder.
Other features that are noticeably absent include a native blogging tool, as well as a booking or reservations tool (essential for restaurant and hotel sites). There is an “Effects” tool in the toolbar (perhaps for visual effects like parallax or fading), but when I tried to set it up, I got an error message.
Finally, a few additional features appear in the dropdown menu at the top right of your editing interface. These include adjustments to your site-wide fonts, SEO settings, backgrounds, and favicon. The editing interface itself is also available in 45 languages.
All in all, I’d say Website Builder offers a decent but slightly underwhelming feature set for a DIY sitebuilder.
Web Design & Editing
- Templates: Building a site with Website Builder always begins by selecting a template. Approximately 200 templates are offered, and the collection includes a good amount of diversity. The overall quality of templates is respectable, but some designs seem a bit dated or basic. Most are not quite as elegant or contemporary as a Wix or Squarespace design. Note that if you change templates after editing, the changes to the current template will be lost.
- Desktop Editor: From a desktop or laptop, you can view how your site will look on multiple devices, with gridlines that adjust for each format. Preview is available for each format as well. You also have the option to save your site and publish it, save a draft of your site without publishing it, or backup and restore your site. Meanwhile, an automatic backup is created every 10 minutes. The two most recent backups are available if you need to restore your site. For more information on using Website Builder’s editing interface, head back up to the Ease Of Use section of this review.
- Mobile Editor: Website Builder does not have a mobile app for editing your site.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Website Builder’s tool for making your site automatically fully mobile-responsive is currently in beta testing. This tool is called Auto Layout in the top toolbar. Unless you choose this option, you will be in charge of how your site looks on various devices, with help from the gridlines within the editor and the preview tool. Your sites are still “responsive” to changing devices if you don’t use Auto Layout, but you’ll need to make sure they actually look okay.
Integrations & Add-ons
Namecheap’s descriptions of its three Stellar shared hosting packages mention access to 100+ free apps. This is a reference to the Softaculous app store, which is automatically connected to your shared hosting account and can be reached from the (dreaded) cPanel. I looked through most of these apps, and they’re largely open-source programs that require coding skill. I doubt most Website Builder customers would be incorporating any of these (if it’s even possible to begin with).
Therefore, most Website Builders users should primarily concern themselves with the modules already present inside the site editing dashboard. These include simple modules like YouTube and Google Maps, as well as payment processors like Stripe, 2Checkout, Braintree, and PayPal. For online sellers, the Ecwid app could also come in handy.
Namecheap-proper does include a little app store of its own, and here it is in its entirety:
Again, most of these apps aren’t relevant to Website Builder users. In fact, several are actually third-party sitebuilder apps themselves!
Customer Service & Technical Support
Namecheap offers 24/7 live chat support on all shared hosting plans, along with web ticketing. There is no phone support offered.
When you go to submit a ticket or enter live chat, “Website Builder” is not currently one of the categories to select, but I’m assuming this will be added in time. For now, you must choose hosting topics:
On the Stellar Business plan, you have access to “priority support.” According to the description, this means customer service will respond more quickly to your initial request, and also prioritize finding a resolution to your issue. I tried to ask a live chat rep what that means, but she didn’t really have any answers for me. She did respond to my chat within 30 seconds, though!
You can find a blog and a press release section at the Namecheap website, but Namecheap’s main self-help resource is its knowledgebase. I’d like to see more knowledgebase resources specifically related to Website Builder in the future. As I mentioned earlier, the slideshow demos for individual templates are kind of cool, but mostly leave me wanting more.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
As a relatively new tool offered by a company that’s already well known for its other offerings, Website Builder has a limited track record so far. The most common complaints about Namecheap as a provider of domains, hosting, and other related products center around customer support. Less often, technical or payment issues are mentioned. Some customers allege Namecheap somehow scammed them out of a domain, but with over 10 million domains registered via the company, it’s hard to imagine that all of these folks would ultimately be happy with their experiences.
Regarding Website Builder, all I’ve really seen is a few users asking Namecheap if Website Builder offers a certain feature — like a blogging tool, or a way to password protect one part of a site — and being told the feature is not available. One customer simply called it a bad tool, but used stronger language.
Have you tested Website Builder yourself? If you were already a Namecheap customer, did your experience with this particular piece of software change your views about the company as a whole? Let us know in the comments!
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
For many years, Namecheap has been collecting verified customer reviews at a website called Shopper Approved, either at checkout or via customer surveys. In fact, there are around one million total Namecheap reviews collected at Shopper Approved alone.
I have mixed feelings about this sort of service — where a business pays to have a feedback collection solicited and maintained. Still, I read all one million reviews at Shopper Approved (kidding, I read enough to track the patterns) and checked out the positive reviews at a few other places around the web (Trustpilot, comment sections of other Namecheap reviews, etc).
Again, there’s just not much feedback specifically about Website Builder at all. We’ll just have to wait and see what turns up over time. Meanwhile, here are a few things users like about Namecheap in general:
- Good Feature Offerings
- Easy Service To Use
- Good Tech Support
- Lack Of Constant Up-Sells Or Auto-Renewals
- First-Time User Discount
- Periodic Special Deals
I kind of wonder if we’ll ever be able to isolate much feedback about this particular sitebuilder tool. Still, I invite you to prove me wrong by leaving your own Website Builder-specific feedback in our comment section below.
Although I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Website Builder as a top contender for building your site, please understand that I haven’t slapped a 3-star rating on Namecheap as a whole. If I were grading Namecheap as simply a domain registrar and hosting provider, its score could easily bump to four (or more) stars. The main issue with Website Builder is that it is competing against a lot of other great DIY sitebuilding platforms. Website Builder may be newer than the competition, but it still has a long way to go to catch up in both feature offerings and user-friendliness.
If you’re a site-building novice with limited-to-non-existent coding skill, I’d recommend taking a look at Wix, Squarespace, or a similar all-inclusive service that really specializes in ease of use. The creators of these platforms have always had non-coders at the forefront of their minds, and you notice this immediately when you use the software. If opening an online shop is one of your primary aims, it’s also worth checking out Shopify, or another easy-to-use ecommerce platform that also has website construction capability. As an added bonus, things like hosting, SSL certificates, and management of most other technical issues are included in your subscription.
Of course, the primary appeal of using Website Builder along with Namecheap’s shared hosting is the price — cheap! I think Website Builder can certainly get the job done if you find yourself in several of the following scenarios at once: 1) you’re already comfortable with dashboards like cPanel, 2) you’re are an existing customer with Namecheap for other services, and you’ve had good experiences with the company and its customer support, 3) you are at least tech-savvy if not an expert coder, and 4) you want to create a fairly simple website with low resource demands.
Website Builder is still a relatively new tool, and Namecheap is a solid company. Perhaps support materials and tutorials for Website Builder will improve quickly with time, along with the ease of use of the software. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic.
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