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Beware of Intuit’s Website Builder

So, why is this guy smiling, exactly? Because Intuit’s Website Builder is “so easy, helpful and only costs $4.99 a month.” Not so fast. Website Builder has become one of those polarizing love-it or hate-it-type things. Customer complaints read like a bad hotel review: “Worse experience I’ve ever had. Don’t go there.” Customer praise reads like a syrupy love note: “Intuit, you’re my BFF!!”

Clearly, the only way to know is to try it out – which we did, thanks to Intuit’s 30-day free trial. One thing is certain: this little piece of software has become an great anathema to graphic artists and web designers. But, I’m here to say they can rest easy. Website Builder poses as much threat as a stuffed teddy bear. Here’s a Review of Intuit’s Website Builder.

Extremely limiting: First off, there’s no true Mac version. SiteBuilder Lite (which works with Mac) only allows you to modify pictures and text. To get the full effect, you must download the software to your PC desktop and build pages offline. You can access and change the META tags and titles, but there’s no direct access to CSS style sheets. And once you decide to quit the service, Intuit owns the rights to your site. Yikes.

Inflexible: Intuit is selling people on flexibility. But wait: If you opt for the professional edition, you get locked in with this beast called “Storefront Administrator” for people who want an e-commerce storefront. Your online storefront becomes your homepage site with templates that look like they were designed during the Soviet era, and your pretty little web site gets shoved into a sub-domain folder. Once you’ve selected this route, it’s impossible to switch back without contacting the customer support.

Too many fees: Want prettier graphics? Want a nicer template? Want customers to actually find you on the web? Intuit can help…for an added fee. Like a lot of things you step into – a new car or a cruise vacation –  the $4.99 is merely admission inside so Intuit can sell more services. For $1,500-plus, they can design something uber-professional looking. That’s $1,000 for a custom build and another $500-plus and $149/mo. for the full SEO package with tracking/analytics capabilites. Several business owners who paid the up-charge for Intuit’s help got a pretty snazzy-looking web site. But, at $1,600-plus, you might as well pay an independent designer.

WYSI-WHA?? The Storefront Administrator is actually a hard-nosed CMS that assembles pages using header, footer, content, and sidebar php files (just like in WordPress). The user must customize each page by attaching pictures and links to the :ss fields. So, around 15 little links per page x’s the 100 pages Intuit supplies. At 30 minutes per page and no breaks, that would take 50 hours to build. But Joe Shopkeeper doesn’t have five hours to spare,  let alone 50. Plus, those annoying little :ss text icons aren’t so user-friendly and forced us to the source code editor to start hard-coding links manually. “Building you’re own website has never been so easy,” Intuit says. Really? What’s so easy about hard-coding html/ javascript?

Just to be fair, Website Builder does function okay, and could work for mom-and-pops, America’s heartland-types who have the extra time and want a website but are leery of getting charged out-the-whazzoo. It’s true: Unless you know EXACTLY what you want, there’s no telling what you’ll end up getting. Yes, Website Builder does make publishing a web site a bit easier, but learning how to make your web site successful can be difficult and very time-consuming. HTML, php, javascript and other coding languages notwithstanding, knowledge of paid vs. organic search, page layout, link building are vast in scope, complex in nature, and absolutely essential to a web site’s success. But who has time to learn all that stuff?

Some of Intuit’s discussion board chatter decries WordPress and Blogger for being “too complicated and time consuming.” No kidding. One Oklahoma rancher claims to have spent six (6) hours (not including time on the phone with tech support) designing a very basic site using Web Builder. Not to sound too critical, but he could’ve achieved the same look on a self-hosted WordPress account for less time and less money.

The point is that Intuit charges big money for the same stuff available for FREE on Blogger or WordPress. And the time you spend outfitting and learning Website Builder, WordPress or Blogger is really about the same.  But folks who like the TurboTax format might feel right at home with Website Builder. Intuit’s version is just one of several dozen DIY web site builders out there. Our recommendation is to research the heck out of them all, and go with what works best for you.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, April 17th, 2010 at 11:06 pm and is filed under Web Writing, Website Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.