Doodlekit Review

There is a certain amount of signal mixing when the word “free” is plastered all over a website, but the first banner that shows up in a rotating series of pictures prominently declares that “prices start at $14.95 a month,” which is very attractive. Otherwise, though, Doodlekit’s main website doesn’t seem to have been designed with either brevity or a real plan in mind. It shows off a number of things, but in no particular order and with no thought put into what the user will likely be thinking of next. This continues with the builder itself.

Ease of Use

What is endlessly frustrating about Doodlekit is that some things about it are incredibly easy to use. It seems as if the system is always on the edge of a sublime intuitiveness that it keeps backing away from every time any real interactions start to happen. That being said, sign up is remarkably easy. Name, email and password will get you an account, and even though it defaults to {firstname}{lastname}.doodlekit.com as a subdomain, it’s very simple to change this as often as necessary. In fact, the admin tools in general are simple to use.

What is complicated is that whenever a user attempts to change something on the page, they are brought to a menu with a load of Boolean operators that should have been translated into something that the average person would understand. The page looks more like a debugging page than it does an actual place that users are supposed to interact with.

Builder

Building itself is that same mix of easy and frustrating. The user is given a number of templates to choose from, most of which are very well designed and look good. They are given a default one to start that looks like a regular website, but with red boxes near the various elements to click on in order to change the data in those elements. In one respect, this is fantastic. Rather than “Lorem ipsum,” in the boxes, there is an explanation of what the box does (if it’s text) and what a person should put there. That being said, the reason why Lorem ipsum is generally used is because it is distinctive, and it may take some people a while to realize that this is their website that they should be working on. It’s very much a matter of personal preference. Other than the strange looking pages, Doodlekit’s website builder is mostly point and click with nothing incredibly difficult or magnificent about it.

Hosting

This is where the confusion with the main page comes in. On one hand, hosting is free for a basic site including access to all of the templates, a blog, 100 gigs of bandwidth a month, and 100 MB of storage. From there, bandwidth becomes unlimited with every plan, and storage space begins to skyrocket with every new level. All in all, it’s a good set of hosting options, with the free solution not being very bad at all.

Marketing

One of the more impressive things about Doodlekit is that they offer a number of SEO tools to help build a website’s search engine optimization. These are only available starting with the paid plans, but are pretty good and include a high quality analytics system, the ability to work with your meta tags, and a tool to create a robots file. Otherwise, this system isn’t really built to work with things like email marketing.

Customer Support

This is the biggest disappointment of Doodlekit. There are two customer support options, one of which is a support forum and the other is a web based form that can be filled out, though it says that many questions will just be referred back to the forum. Neither of these options makes for rapid response, and forums are the laziest version of customer support since it relies primarily on other users to answer questions so as to save money on support staff. When questions are answered, they are generally professionally done, though being referred back to the forums after explaining that the answer listed there was confusing and unhelpful was incredibly frustrating.

Pricing

There are four plans that include a host of features.

Free: This is entirely free and includes basic hosting and access to everything necessary to use the builder. It also allows for photo galleries, a blog, 100 GB of bandwidth and 100 MB of storage.

Simple: For $14 a month, a person gets everything above plus SEO tools, bulk image uploading, unlimited bandwidth and 3 GB of storage.

Business: This plan is $29 a month and includes everything before plus a shopping cart, form builder, forums, and 10 GB of storage.

Advanced: $49 a month will get everything listed above plus unlimited extra users and unlimited storage.

The Good

The actual builder uses its template space to explain what goes where.

The marketing solutions are actually above average.

The Bad

The site is generally confusing.

And The Ugly

Customer service needs to be expanded.

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