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- Date Established
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Easy learning curve
- Generous free plan with limited free eCommerce
- SimpleSite has many satisfied longtime users
- The editor has limited functionality
- Few third-party integrations
- No blogging tool
- Limited contact form
- Limited customer support
The appropriately-named SimpleSite is an old-school drag-and-drop website builder that seems to belong to a different era. However, while undeniably plain and dated, SimpleSite does offer a free subscription plan and limited free eCommerce. Do SimpleSite’s positives outweigh its shortcomings?
Founded in 2003 by brothers Morten and Jacob Elk in the Helvetica-flavored design paradise of Copenhagen, Denmark, SimpleSite was originally known as “123hjemmeside” (123homepage). The product was envisioned as providing an easy means for “Mr. and Mrs. Denmark” to set up a website without coding knowledge. The following year, the company launched in the US as SimpleSite.com. Expansion throughout the intervening years has seen local language versions of SimpleSite produced for 25 countries around the world.
The quote no longer appears on SimpleSite’s website, but the company once proclaimed the following on its About Us page: “Our ideal is not perfection; rather, our ideal is play. Using our product should feel like playing — it should be easy, exciting and expanding.” I had always found this laid-back European ethos to be a refreshing contrast to the sanctimonious hyper-ambition idealized by too many American firms. That said, the question remains: Does this playful product meet the needs of today’s would-be website jockeys? Sadly, once you get past SimpleSite’s modern-looking homepage, an unmistakable aura of obsoletion permeates the whole endeavor.
Does a more in-depth exploration of the product validate this impression? Read on to find out!
Table of Contents
SimpleSite offers three pricing plans. Plans are paid monthly, although you can receive a slight discount for paying for an annual subscription instead. SimpleSite offers Visa and Mastercard as payment options. There is a free plan available, and surprisingly, the company includes basic eCommerce features with the free plan (a feature that is usually always associated with a paid plan among other website builders). The one downside is the limited number of sellable items on the Pro plan.
Here are the details of SimpleSite’s pricing.
Simple Site’s Basic plan is free and includes:
- 15 pages
- Limited design options
- Five online store products
- SimpleSite advertising
SimpleSite’s Pro plan costs $15.49/month and includes:
- Unlimited pages
- Unlimited images
- Unlimited video
- All design options
- Your own domain name
- Five email addresses
- Five products
- No ads
SimpleSite’s eCommerce plan costs $30.49/month and includes everything in the Pro plan, plus:
- Unlimited online store products
Web-Hosted Or Licensed
SimpleSite is completely web-hosted.
Hardware & Software Requirements
The sole hardware requirement is a computer. As for software, just make sure you’re using an up-to-date web browser.
Business Types Supported
Upon signing up for a SimpleSite account, you’re asked whether your site will be for personal/blog use, business use, or “other.” Choosing business use will bring up the following specializations:
- Cafe or restaurant
- Online store
- Physical store
- Service business
In all, 36 templates are on offer. SimpleSite has updated its editor recently, and the new templates are more attractive and modern than those that were previously offered. Nonetheless, the structure of each template is pretty much the same, so you won’t find much variety here.
Ease Of Use
Before SimpleSite’s recent revamp, its editor certainly delivered on the promise of simple website editing — though the entire experience left me feeling as if I had been transported back to 2004. Previously, there were no real templates on offer, and the design and style options were severely limited, making it difficult to distinguish your site from any other site produced by SimpleSite’s editor. Combine that with such features as a 90s-style hit counter and the ability to have an audio track auto-play when someone visited your site, and the SimpleSite editor was good for a laugh if nothing else!
Thankfully, at long last, SimpleSite has a new website editor — one that, whatever its shortcomings, can be used to create websites that look as though they were created in the modern era.
The new editor is one of the most pared-down editors I’ve seen in a website builder. There are no sidebars with editing options here — just a toolbar along the top of the editor. The toolbar contains six buttons: Account, Design, Pages, and Contact appear at the top left, while Preview and Share buttons appear at the top right.
The Account button opens up options for editing your account information (along with some very basic site analytics), not for directly editing your site. The Design button brings you options for changing your website logo (or for uploading your own), changing your header layout, fonts (some are available under the free plan, and some are reserved for Pro subscribers), colors, background (video backgrounds are available), and what appears in your footer.
Moving on, the Pages button lets you rearrange your existing pages, add new ones, and edit the page of your choosing. The Content button is next, and it’s pretty crucial, as it’s the means by which you can add content to your site. Unfortunately, there are only ten things you can add to your site: text, images, slideshows, videos, posters (an image with a call-to-action button), headlines, “signatures” (basically an image paired with a signature), dividers, maps (provided through a Google Maps integration), and contact forms.
The Preview button lets you preview your site’s look in desktop, mobile, and tablet form, while the Share button lets you post your website’s URL to Facebook, Twitter, or to an email message.
You might be wondering where the Publish button is. Well, there is none. Your website is published immediately the moment you start working on it, and all the changes you make to your site are automatically saved and published. The fact that you can’t choose when to publish your site — and that every change you make goes live immediately — is pretty galling. No small business owner wants to have to worry about people seeing an unfinished version of the company website!
Likewise, there are no undo/redo buttons for editing, so you can’t go back and undo any editing mistakes you make. This isn’t the way a website builder should work. You can’t edit your site with any confidence, as you can’t undo your mistakes, and everything you do is immediately published!
At first glance, SimpleSite’s editor seems streamlined and capable, but it doesn’t take long before its flaws are revealed. What’s more, while it’s easy enough to add an element to your site, moving or editing an existing element is rather cumbersome, and the editor lacks common features, such as an image editor or a blogging tool.
SimpleSite offers a small selection of features, one of which is perhaps its main selling point:
- eCommerce: The aspect of SimpleSite I most appreciate is the fact that it allows free subscribers to sell up to five items in its online store. Few competing website builders give such a feature to free subscribers. eCommerce is nearly always exclusively a premium feature, so SimpleSite should be commended for its part in lowering the eCommerce barrier to entry. SimpleSite’s eCommerce tool carries a decent set of options (see image below), three different basic layouts to choose from, and a PayPal integration. It won’t look like anything special, but it works and is freely available. However, if you want to sell more than five items, you’ll need an eCommerce subscription — and those go for $26.25 per month. Since a basic Shopify subscription goes for almost the same price and provides a much more robust and well-featured eCommerce platform, I wouldn’t recommend SimpleSite’s online store for any serious online business. It’s for small-time sellers only.
- Blogging Tool: You can’t add a blog to your existing website. Even if you choose “personal/blog” as your site type during the initial setup, you won’t find any blogging tools available. There’s no real way to create a blog post — the most you can do is create individual web pages, call them blog posts, and create another page to link to/summarize your “posts.” Disappointing!
- Contact Form: SimpleSite’s contact form is quite lackluster. You can’t customize its appearance, and the only thing you can do with the fields with regards to customization is to add or remove the Name, Email address, Message, Phone number, and Subject fields. You can’t add radio buttons or anything like that. All submissions will be sent to your email address.
Other basic features include a Google Maps integration, a slideshow feature, and the ability to play YouTube videos. That’s really about it. At least the old SimpleSite editor had a few wacky features, such as a pedigree chart for your pet. It was kind of cool, as you can see below.
Web Design & Editing
In terms of web design, here is how SimpleSite stacks up:
- Templates: SimpleSite’s templates — there are 36 of them — range from decent to somewhat dated. Unfortunately, they’re all essentially the same in terms of their basic structure. Like most aspects of SimpleSite, the templates are good enough for those looking to create a website for personal reasons, but most businesses will want a site with a bit more polish.
- Mobile Editor: Unsurprisingly, SimpleSite doesn’t have a mobile editing app, nor any options for customizing the mobile look of your site.
SimpleSite Integrations & AddOns
Aside from PayPal, Google Maps, and YouTube, there really aren’t any third-party integrations to be found, though you can add links to your social media accounts.
PayPal is the sole online payment option you can give your customers with SimpleSite eCommerce. As for offline payment, SimpleSite allows you to set up a store in which orders are completed by email, so your customers can pay via old-fashioned means.
SimpleSite Customer Service
SimpleSite’s customer service is decidedly limited. An FAQ page is provided, as is an email address for questions not answered in the FAQ. A helpful note under the customer service email address reads, “We try to respond to all requests within two business days.” A modest goal, indeed, and one just barely achieved in the case of the query I sent them relating to this review.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
While there aren’t a great many SimpleSite reviews out there, most of the ones I’ve seen make mention of the obvious limitations of the platform. The lackluster themes get a good amount of criticism, as does the meager amount of features. The limited customization options and the general lack of value in the paid plans get mentioned as well.
Though billing complaints are not ubiquitous among SimpleSite customers, a few have reported seeing unauthorized charges on their credit card from SimpleSite.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
While many reviewers echo my complaints about SimpleSite, the platform has more satisfied users than you might think. Most reviewers, while taking note of SimpleSite’s manifest inadequacies, do note that the product generally lives up to its name, as it provides non-techies with an easy way to get a website up and running.
Customers on Trustpilot give SimpleSite an average of 4/5 stars. It goes to show that even given the glaring limitations of SimpleSite, it generally does what its customers expect of it, though you’ll find criticism as well. Part of SimpleSite’s puzzling popularity has to do with the fact that the platform has a considerable base of longtime users in Europe who appreciate the extreme simplicity and aren’t too bothered by the lack of business-friendly features.
Picking on SimpleSite doesn’t feel very sporting. Punching down doesn’t bring me any satisfaction. SimpleSite isn’t trying to be Weebly or Wix. It’s just a limited, dated website builder that allows people around the world to create a functional website and even sell a few items for free. It’s an honest product put out by an identifiable company, and it seems to retain a base of satisfied users, so I’m glad it exists.
However, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t point out the obvious: SimpleSite is an anachronism. It simply doesn’t have the features necessary to satisfy the needs of most small businesses. The whole enterprise is so thinly featured that there’s not much to say about it. What’s more, the fact that you can’t choose when to publish your site or undo your edits is rather unforgivable, in my view.
SimpleSite is what it is: a means to get your content online as easily as possible, without regard to aesthetic considerations or advanced functionality. While I see no reason why somebody would pay money for it, SimpleSite does provide a workmanlike service to the masses for free. May it exist for years to come.
I just hope SimpleSite brings back the pedigree chart.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.