Zoho Sites Review
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- Date Established
- Pleasanton, CA
- Excellent form builder
- Excellent database feature
- Integrated with Zoho’s other products
- Competitive pricing
- Excellent blogging tool
- Basic templates
- Editor is limited in free plan
- Limited eCommerce
Zoho Sites is a website builder that offers decent websites and a generous free package; it is but one of the products offered by the Zoho Corporation, a Pleasanton, California-based tech company known for SaaS packages (like Zoho Office Suite and Zoho CRM). The company, launched in 1996, was originally known as AdventNet—a Web 1.0-ish name if ever there was one. They rebranded as Zoho in 2009, and in 2012, they introduced Zoho Sites.
In the past, I’ve found website builders run by large corporations with fingers in various pies (the website builder put out by German web hosting giant 1&1 comes to mind) to be problematic on a number of fronts. With companies like Wix and Squarespace, you know their full attention is on their website builder—it’s the one thing they do. Larger tech companies often treat their website building services with less care and attention than do dedicated builder companies, as they have other ways to generate revenue. I was hoping Zoho Sites would prove to be an exception to the rule, or, failing that, be egregiously bad enough to make for a fitting target of snark and mockery. Either one works for me, really.
So how does Zoho Sites rate? I shall boldly launch an expedition to Planet Zoho and report back to you my findings. Sometimes, it takes a hero.
Table of Contents
Here’s what you get with the standard free package:
- 2 Websites
- Zoho Subdomain
- Unlimited Pages
- Unlimited Galleries
- Unlimited Slideshows
- Mobile Site
- 2 Forms
- 2 “Dynamic Content”
- 10 MB Max File Size
- Unlimited Storage
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Banner Slideshow
- Custom Themes
- Code Snippet
- Header & Footer Code
- Auto Sitemap
Should you want more features, Zoho Sites offers three paid subscription packages. On the whole, they are generally cheaper than equivalent plans from the competition.
- $4.17/month (annual plan)
- $5/month (monthly plan)
- Custom Domain Hosting (domains start at $10/year)
- No Ads
- SSL Hosting
- Zoho CRM Forms
- 301 Redirect
- Audio Player
- Comment Box
- Scheduled Blog Posts
- Social Network Auto Publish
- 5 Forms
- 5 “Dynamic Content”
- 100 MB Max File Size
- $8.33/month (annual plan)
- $10/month (monthly plan)
- Page Versions
- Password Protection
- Newsletter Subscription
- 10 Forms
- 10 “Dynamic Content”
- 2 Authors
- $12.50/month (annual plan)
- $15/month (monthly plan)
- Member Portal – up to 2000 Members
- Sell up to 25 Products
- 20 Forms
- 20 “Dynamic Content”
- 100 Authors
Payment is accepted via credit card or PayPal.
Web-hosted or Licensed
Zoho Sites is 100% web-hosted.
The company states that “Zoho Sites works perfectly on Safari, Firefox 5.0 +, Chrome 8.0 + and IE 9 +”.
Business Types Supported
Zoho Sites gives you a selection of 97 templates to choose from. These templates are divided into the following categories:
- Gift Shop
- Real Estate
I’ll note that only 17 of these 97 templates are responsive, which is something to keep in mind if you expect a large portion of your traffic to come from smartphone users. The templates also vary greatly in quality. They range from the decent-if-rather-basic-and-interchangeable…
…to the downright ghastly…
Given the nature of the features provided by Zoho Sites—the integration with Zoho’s other cloud-based business software and the lack of such features as restaurant menus—I’d say Zoho Sites is better suited to data-heavy businesses than to the sort of mobile-focused eateries and creative-class startups website builders typically cater to.
Ease of Use
Zoho Sites isn’t exactly the easiest website builder to use, but it allows you a higher degree of precision and customization than do some of the newer, more regimented website builders out there. Most of your elements, once placed, can be customized to an exacting degree.
The editor provided by Zoho Sites has some innovative elements. I liked the Tabs element, which lets you place whatever content you like into windows that are tabbed so your visitors can click through them at will. Most of the elements you can add are laid out at the top of the editor under one of four tabs: Elements, Forms, Apps, and Commerce. Not all addable content can be found here, however. Confusingly enough, adding a blog page has to be done through the Manage drop-down menu in the top right corner. Editing features–such as the ability to preview your page (both the desktop and mobile versions) and revert to previously saved versions of your website–are available, but are also curiously hidden away in menus rather than accessible through simple buttons atop the editor. What’s more, you won’t be able to roll back your site without buying the Business add-on. It’s a bit annoying when basic features like the ability to undo edits are reserved for add-on purchasers, though overall, the free package is pretty generous.
Zoho Sites’ feature haul is pretty significant, with a number of features designed with the small business in mind:
- Form Builder: Zoho Sites serves up a form creator the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve yet seen in a website builder. There are several different pre-designed forms (Satisfaction Survey, Job Application, Membership, Appointment, Volunteer, Contact Us, and Party Invitation), each of which is completely customizable (you can create a form from scratch as well). Once you’ve added the form to your page, choosing to customize it will open an entirely new page filled with form customization options, so many that it almost feels like a separate piece of software! The options are so plentiful that most users will likely just scratch the surface of the possibilities presented here. But for the business that knows how to use it, the Zoho Sites form builder is an invaluable tool for interfacing with those flighty humans passing in the night who you’d like to transform into your customers. You can even integrate your forms with Zoho CRM if you have a Zoho CRM account. Zoho’s cloud-based business software pedigree really shows through here.
- Blog: Zoho Sites provides a robust and intuitive blogging tool. Blog posts are put together the same way a page is constructed. Just drag and drop the elements you want into the “Post Container” and poof, there’s your blog post. All the options you need for blog management are also here. You can choose whether to allow comments (moderated or not), add Facebook/Twitter/etc social share buttons to your posts, and/or import blog content from your WordPress or Blogger blog.
- eCommerce: Zoho Sites’ eCommerce solution, available only with a Professional subscription, is rather bare-bones compared to other Zoho Sites features. You can add products and set prices (in one of 24 different currencies), but these will just link to your PayPal Email ID, so there is no on-site checkout. It’s a somewhat flimsy eCommerce package — probably the weakest link in Zoho Sites’ feature chain.
- Dynamic Content: Another advanced feature from a company showing off its business software chops, Dynamic Content is content you can link to a Zoho Creator database. Whenever the database is updated, the changes will immediately display on your page. It’s an advanced feature, and one that somehow managed to elude my full grasp, but it’s another example of Zoho’s experience with business software informing its website building. Contra my earlier concerns, it seems Zoho’s diversity of software interests serve to benefit the website builder, not water it down.
Other Zoho Sites features include a photo gallery, a table function, social media widgets, basic SEO, and HTML/CSS editing.
Web Design and Editing
- Templates: The 97 templates on offer from Zoho Sites–only 17 of which are fully responsive–are mostly decent, with some notable exceptions. When compared to the fresher templates of many competitors, however, it’s clear that the Zoho templates are a step or two behind the times.
- Mobile Editor: Zoho Sites does not have a mobile editing app, and don’t bother trying to use the editor from a mobile device. It won’t work out for you.
Integrations and AddOns
As explained in the Features section, Zoho Sites provides various ways to integrate with Zoho’s other SaaS business software packages, which makes it a powerful tool for businesses that manage a large amount of data. Beyond that, there aren’t a great deal of other third-party integrations. One odd note: There’s a Maps function you can plop into your website, but unlike every other website builder I’ve used, you have to paste an embed code for the map into a box before the map will appear on your site. This is unnecessarily cumbersome.
Negative Reviews and Complaints
Zoho Sites has been called to the carpet for the following issues:
- Images in Photo Gallery Can Appear Pixelated
- eCommerce is Very Limited
- Theme Library is Outdated
- No Google Analytics
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
Zoho Sites has come in for praise as well. Some examples:
- Advanced Form Builder
- Newsletter Signup Connects with either Zoho’s Newsletter Service or Mailchimp
- Lots of Features Tailored to Small Businesses
Zoho (not specifically Zoho Sites, but the parent company) is well-received by users, scoring an average of 8.0 out of 10 by users on Trustpilot. This is no shady fly-by-night operation.
Zoho Sites is a solid website builder with data management features that far surpass that of the bulk of the competition, thanks to Zoho’s business software prowess. For companies that manage a large amount of data, Zoho Sites is an ideal website builder solution.
That said, with somewhat dated templates, a lack of full mobile responsiveness, and inadequate eCommerce, it’s not perfect. If Zoho Sites were to modernize its builder to better fit the needs of mobile-focused businesses and online vendors while retaining its advanced data management features, it would truly be an unstoppable force. Four stars!