Weebling a web

Websites are potentially very useful for a whole host of purposes, which might include advertising a business, posting pictures from your holiday, or any one of a great number of other things.

Creating a website has, in the past, demanded a fair degree of expertise from the user but there are more and more tools being developed, which anyone can use to build a websites. We have had a look at a few of these in the past editions of this column, but a new and very clever service recently came to my attention.

It goes by the somewhat odd name of Weebly, but as I was to find, it’s a capable web development and hosting service. Like many other such services on the web, the basic Weebly package is free, and you are only asked to pay if you have the need for more advanced features.

When you go along to weebly.com, you go through a very brief signup procedure during which you also create your first website. Once the signup is complete, and that only takes a very few minutes, you get taken to the front page of your website which is blank.

Running along the top of the screen are tabs which you can select to change the settings of, or add things to the site. The default tab is the Elements one, which allows you to add elements to your page by dragging and dropping them.

These include titles, paragraph text with a picture, paragraph text without a picture, a two column layout, photo gallery, a YouTube video, and many more.

In building a typical web page, for example, you would drag a title element onto the page, click on it, and type into the space provided. Assuming you then wanted to add a picture to the page, you would drag a picture element onto the page, select a picture from your computer, and click the upload button. Building a page is really a lot easier than it sounds, and certainly takes less time than it would take to read this.

You can also choose a template for your website from a huge list of options, ranging from businesslike to fun. There is also a section which allows you to add more pages to your website, or re-arrange existing ones.

Finally, there is a big orange Publish button which you would click once you’ve built the site to your satisfaction, and it will be visible thereafter to the entire world. The site can have an address like http://yoursite.weebly.com, you can apply a domain name that you’ve already registered, or Weebly can register one for you for a nominal fee.

I was very impressed with the Weebly product and I’m sure that that it would be a very viable way of building a website with features including a very decent blog, a photo gallery, a contact form, an online poll, which will allow you to get your site visitors to vote on issues, or even a forum, which you can set up to allow visitors to the site to chat amongst themselves.

It also allows users to easily add an e-commerce facility to their sites, to sell goods and services, but it probably won’t come as any surprise to know that an online payment processing feature is not easily available to South African users. That limitation aside, however, Weebly is really a first class product.

Added after print version of article appeared: I have heard from Weebly co-founder Dan Veltri (don’t you love folk who return e-mails??) in answer to a question I posed on how you would accomodate your e-mail if you registered a domain with Weebly. It turns out that they offer integration with Google Apps, which means that you use can Gmail and the Google online applications for your business along with your Weebly website.

As far as e-commerce goes, Dan pointed out that accepting online payments is built-into Weebly with the choice of Google Checkout or or Paypal. Neither of these currently offers South African customers the option of receiving payments (you can use them to make payments) but South Africans can embed other payment options into their websites using the Custom HTML element provided by Weebly.

In short, Weebly has done its part and it’s the fact Google & PayPal won’t deal with us, and the fact that our local providers set their prices too high to make it viable to do e-commerce on a small scale, that is really BLOODY ANNOYING !!!

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4 thoughts on “Weebling a web

  1. Hi, very interesting, but it is very disturbing that there is no pay facility in South Africa for "small"? transactions. How can an online business make money in this country? Thank you for your article.

  2. Daniel, it's all to true that there is no way way of doing e-commerce on a small scale in South Africa. The trouble is that you need a full credit card merchant account, which isn't cheap, and then you need an organisation to process the payments, which isn't cheap either. You have have to do be doing a lot of online business to pay the monthly charges for the facility.
    There used to be what were known as Super Merchants, who had the facilities, and who would accept payments on your behalf, usually for a percentage. That loophole has been closed, and Super Merchants are no longer allowed to operate.

    Even if the banks allowed you to start from a zero-cost base and pay a larger percentage of the transaction, it would be better than the present system. They want their substantial monthly fee and make no allowance for small merchants who might only make a few sale a month.

    It makes me furious whenever I think of the raw deal that South African consumers usually get, and this is across the board from internet bandwidth, Telkom, cellphones, call charges, and the Banks.

    High prices and shoddy service are the order of the day!

  3. Vernon, I had the impression that, with Adsense, Google only paid the site owner a tiny fraction of the ad revenue. Do you mean their Checkout payment processing service? If so, and if it was available to SA users, I wouldn't have a problem with a high transaction fee.

    You lose much more than 25% of the sale if the item is on sale in somebody's store in the physical world anyway. I know this from selling my book around Durban. From that perspective, 25% isn't bad at all. And you are always free to get a proper merchant account and payment processing facility, once your volumes go up enough to make that viable.

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