Homestead Review: Ease of Use (2.5 stars)

Sacrifices Ease of Use for Versatility

Website builders commonly struggle between providing ease of use and versatility. Homestead has clearly chosen the latter. With 3 different editors and 6 different website packages, using their builder is complicated right from the start.

Having Three Editors Creates Confusion

On the main navigation page, you're given a choice of two builders, the online one and the downloadable one.  The online version is a simpler program meant for quick edits on the fly. The downloadable one is more advanced, allowing you to add and edit more complex features. Then if you want a Web store, you have to learn to use a third editor.

Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Mo...

The online editor is basically a simplified version of the downloadable one, but the Web store uses completely different technology, ProStores's technology to be exact. So if you want to sell products from your site, you need to learn two entirely different interfaces. We prefer to have one program that integrates all three builders' functions.

Get the Exact Look You Want - the Price is Time and Effort

Using the downloadable builder, you can create, design and edit pages, it just takes a while to go through the process. Some aspects are easy. You can add a number of images, text boxes and tools to the same page then drag and drop them wherever you like.

The problem is you have to take the time to create all the page elements of each individual page. And for more complicated tools like online forms, you have to create each and every field as well as the text boxes to accompany them. There are no pre-created page templates that let you make specific tools quickly. That being said, it's much easier to manage versatility using this builder than it is using DreamWeaver or other HTML editing programs.

Hard to Pick the Right Package for Your Needs

There are 6 different price packages from which you have to choose. Depending on your needs, you may even need to buy 2, one for your standard website and one to add an e-store. This makes it harder to make a decision at the start.  Homestead tells you which ones they believe are the best overall value, but that doesn't mean it's the best one for your needs. That means you have to go through all the features in each package before making a decision. Homestead realizes how hard this is; they even suggest that you call them for help sorting through it all.

PayPal Pretty Easy, Full Storefront Fully Complicated

If you're only going to use PayPal to offer a few items, it's easy enough to do once you learn the downloadable builder. But if want to have a full e-store that takes credit cards, and offers shipping options, you'll have to pay for the option. You'll also have to use Homestead's Storefront manager (i.e. ProStores's technology), which is more difficult to use. 

So Where Do We Start?

While it has advanced merchant tools and functions (care of ProStores), it's tricky to figure out how to use them, especially since the set-up is entirely different than Homestead's own builder.  There's support and documentation, but it's frustrating when you have to ask for help or read lots of instructions just to get your website going. Click here to read the Ease of Use section from our ProStores review.

Website Promotion Made Easy, If You're Willing to Pay for It

For an extra $29.99-249.99 (depends on your needs), you can sit back and relax and let Homestead take care of your entire pay-per-click advertising campaign on Google, Yahoo! and MSN. They'll create the ads, monitor their activity and optimize your campaign. For people who don't have time to put into running their own website advertising campaign but have the money to put up, this is a great option.

Phone Support Makes Life Easier As Long As You Can Find the Number

Whether you're in Homestead's online builder or the downloadable one, the number is nowhere to be found. When we turned to phone support, we had to go to the original log-in page to find the number. There is extensive help documentation built into the system, so they probably prefer you to look up the answers first before reaching for the phone.

Ah!  Here's the Support Number!

They also have an online support form for submitting questions.  There aren't too many fields to fill in and it's easy to use.  Too bad it took nearly 24 hours to get a reply (much longer than the average).  But that's not such a big deal when there's also phone support.

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Senior Writer
Rodney Scott
Senior Writer
Senior Writer
Eric Rancic
Chief Researcher

We are a team of five website creation professionals. We believe that the website builder is a wonderful tool that puts website creation in reach of any person or business.

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