WebSite Tonight 3.0 From Godaddy.com: Product Review

Last December, I built my own website using WebSite Tonight 3.0 from Godaddy.com. I first heard of Godaddy.com from a book about starting a writing business. I’d already been running a writing and editing business for 2 years; now I wanted to expand the business beyond my local area, and obviously I’d need a website in order to do that. I was surprised and thrilled to discover that there was such a thing as a do-it-yourself website; I thought the only options were purchasing and learning a program like FrontPage or hiring someone to build a site for me, and I couldn’t readily afford either at the time.

The book which mentioned Godaddy.com claimed you could build a simple, attractive website for about $70; I didn’t quite believe that it could be so inexpensive. But when I checked out Godaddy.com for myself, I was astounded at how many different features they offered and how inexpensive the basics options were. Through WebSite Tonight, I could choose from among nearly 700 templates, then fill in the preset “content blocks” with copy and images. I wouldn’t have to learn HTML; I could simply type the copy in plain English.

I was sold. I bought my domain name (for 1 year), a Web-based e-mail account (also for 1 year), and my first month of the 5-page WebSite Tonight 3.0 Economy Plan, all in the same transaction. Because I bought other products at the same time, the domain name was just $2, bringing the total to about $17. The Economy Plan, which included access to the website building software as well as hosting, cost $5 per month. I would spend about $70 to have my website up-and-running for a full year, just as my writing-business book had claimed.

Was it all too good to be true, I wondered? Would the WebSite Tonight 3.0 software, which Godaddy.com described as “fast and easy-to-use,” be too tricky for me? More importantly, would the Godaddy.com guarantee of “99.9% uptime” for website hosting stand? I figured that if the website building software and hosting claims didn’t hold up, I could simply transfer the domain name and build a new website through a different company.

My feelings about Godaddy.com in general and WebSite Tonight 3.0 in particular are mixed. Using the WebSite Tonight software, I was able to create a nice-looking, easy-to-navigate website for a very affordable price. But as for “fast and easy-to-use”? No, I didn’t actually think that I could put a website together in a single evening-but I didn’t think that it would take a month. It did take an entire month, start to finish. If I had to estimate the total number of hours, I’d say I spent an average of 3 hours per day for 30 days, or about 90 hours altogether. Granted, I had to write a considerable amount of copy for the website, which took up quite a bit of time. But the actual set-up of the “professionally designed template”-a very simple-looking design-was what ate up the bulk of that month-long process.

I did find that WebSite Tonight 3.0 was somewhat tricky to use, not because I didn’t know about website design, but because of apparent glitches in the software. Font styles and sizes kept changing on me, as if they had minds of their own. I would try to add an image or a simple feature such as a hit counter or a link, following the instructions to the letter, and it would often take several tries before the image or feature actually appeared. Most frustrating of all were the times when I placed copy in a content block, got it to look exactly the way I wanted it, hit “OK” -and saw it all disappear. Clicking on “OK” was supposed to save the page. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t, and the amount of copy didn’t seem to matter-brief paragraphs were as likely to be lost as long passages of text. Had I not saved all of my carefully written copy in Word before copying and pasting it into WebSite Tonight, I would have torn my hair out.

I can say that Godaddy.com’s hosting claims seem to have been accurate. If my website was ever down in the past 7 months, I never knew it. I’ve checked it frequently, especially when it was newly published, and I never had difficulty pulling it up, nor has anyone reported problems accessing it. This was my chief concern, so knowing that I don’t have to worry about hosting problems is worth the trouble I went through in building the site.

Godaddy.com keeps adding new features to WebSite Tonight 3.0. It now offers free e-mail, RSS feeds, flash intros, photo slideshows, and a “Coming Soon” page, among other features. I’d prefer to see Godaddy.com take the frustrating glitches out of WebSite Tonight before they add fancier features.

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