Yahoo! Review: Overview
- Lots of useful e-commerce tools.
- Helps you do your own promotion with lots of articles and free credits.
- Knowledgeable 24/7 phone support.
- Hard to learn - not user-friendly.
- Charges transactions fees and has higher monthly fees. No free trial.
- No useful communication tools for businesses.
- Poor design (unless you know HTML).
Yahoo's builder is a big disappointment. With their reputation, we expected a lot. What we got was a costly builder that charges you a percentage off each sale, is difficult to use, and has almost no business tools.
Price Range: $39.95 to $299.95/month (plus transaction fees)
[*Note: Yahoo Small Business Merchant Solutions (a.k.a. Merchant Solutions) isn't a website builder itself but under this umbrella you can sign up for website/ store hosting, which incorporate the use of online website editors.]
Ease of Use
Too Many Editors, Ridiculously Hard to Get Around and Figure Out
It's no wonder Yahoo! doesn't have a free trial for Merchant Solutions; it's so hard to use no one in their right mind would sign up after trying it! We try not to be emotional when it comes to rating website builders but it's hard to ignore the utter frustration that this builder caused us.
With 4 different editors that can't be used interchangeably, the confusing interface of the store editor and documentation that even phone support says is not completely accurate, it's hard to understand how anyone lasts using Merchant Solutions more than a month.
Hard to Get Around Without Help
When you first sign into Merchant Solutions, it's hard to figure out where to click to start building your web store. The main page is quite busy with lots of clickable links.
We eventually figured out that we should click "Store Manager." This takes us to yet another page full of clickable links to sort through.
We got bored of doing experimental clicking and had to use the help documentation just to figure out how to get into the website builder's editor.
Hard to Figure Out Which Website Editor to Use
There are 4 main editors available through Yahoo. To figure out which one to use, you must first wade through documentation that helps you choose the best one for your needs. We prefer to have one system for all purposes.
Store Editor Not Intuitive
The store editor could have been better if the toolbar's headings were better worded. You have to guess what the buttons do when you're first starting out.
When you actually get into editing the website, the table-based layout doesn't make it easy to figure out how the changes will affect your website. Even if Yahoo wasn't going to use an MS Word Style editor, they should have at least made the editor give you a sense of what the page will look like when you save your changes.
Awkward Design Editor
Even though the design editor is very limited in its capabilities, it's still not easy to use. What makes it so awkward is that its table-based layout makes it difficult to see how your changes affect the look of your website. The only way to see is to make the changes and go back to viewing mode. This means you have to keep switching between the editor and the viewing page until you get it the way you want.
Consistency Between Tools Within Editor
While the editor is not the easiest to use, at least it's consistently so. Whether you're editing the design, page contents, or products, the table-based interface is used throughout. It may be hard to learn, but at least you don't have to learn more than one interface.
E-Commerce Tools are Easier, but Not Product Upload
The e-commerce tools are laid out and titled better. It doesn't take long to figure out the vast number of features they have for running a web store.
Getting your products on your website is a bit confusing though because of the parallel systems for product upload. Don't follow the Getting Started Guide's advice! Its advice is incorrect, or at least that's what one phone support rep told us.
Forget the "Getting Started Guide" and Call Support
When you're getting started, do yourself a favor and ignore the "Getting Started Guide." It's 360 pages long and it needs to be updated based on what phone support told us.
If you have questions, use the searchable online documentation or give support a call if you're having trouble figuring out the instructions (there aren't any screenshots).
It's a bit tricky to find the phone support number and email address. They try to make you use the documentation first by having you choose categories that fit your question, which then yield potential docs that might help you. When you do find it, do yourself a favor and write it down so you don't have to go through that every time you have a question.
Editor Overload - But Only One Truly Fits Our Purposes
Merchant Solutions has a total of 4 different editors for building a website and they don't make it easy for you to figure out which is best for your needs. Of all the options, Store Editor, with its messy interace, is the only useful editor that fits the scope of our reviews.
Sorting Through the Mess of Editors
Though only Store Editor will get a full review, we want to give a few details about the other editors though to be fair.
From reading their Getting Started Guide, it seemed like there were 2 editors, "Web Hosting" or "Store Editor." But when we got into "Web Hosting," we discovered that there were 3 editors under that umbrella: Yahoo Wizards, PageBuilder, and SiteBuilder.
These editors are not meant to be used interchangeably, so relax - you don't have to learn them all, just the one you decide to use. If your needs change you can upgrade to a more advanced editor, but you can't switch back.
SiteWizard - Good for a Quick Start, but Nothing More
We hate to confuse you, but it must be said that Yahoo Wizards is actually divided into a further 3 editors: PageWizards, AlbumWizards, and SiteWizards. PageWizards is for making basic single webpages, whether it's a party invitation or a personal portfolio page. AlbumWizards is for making photo albums.
SiteWizards has a little more business application, but it has no advanced features, tools and has no e-commerce capability. You are also limited to 7 pages.
You can't upload your own images (except for your logo), nor can you customize the design of your chosen template. The lack of customization made for a pretty crappy home page for our Widget Factory. We dare you to try and find our logo (Hint! It's in the top left corner.)
It does however do a good job of walking you through the creation of a basic brochure style website. It helps you make a quick link page. It even provides forms for entering info for the contact page, like business hours and driving directions.
Too bad it comes out very plain-looking:
Ultimately, Site Wizard isn't flexible enough for a serious business. If you want more customization, you'll have to switch over to PageBuilder or SiteBuilder for more options (not Store Editor though - the technology is different). Once you switch over though, there's no turning back to SiteWizard. The technology for the other two editors is too complicated for it.
PageBuilder and SiteBuilder (and Why They Don't Make This Review)
PageBuilder is an MS Word style website editor. It has more advanced applications than SiteWizard, but no e-commerce options. It is software that is launched and run online, but not through your Internet browser (this can take awhile if you have a slow connection). Our review magazine is devoted to browser-based website builders, so it doesn't make the cut.
SiteBuilder is the choice recommended by Yahoo for the widest range of business tools. It allows e-commerce, though it limits you to 150 products (Store Editor allows you unlimited products). Unfortunately, it is downloadable software and it is not compatible with any of Merchant Solutions's online editors. That means if you want to make any changes to your website from a computer that's not your own, you'll have to download the software. Because SiteBuilder is not a browser-based website builder, nor is it compatible with one, it doesn't make the cut either.
Store Editor - Hard to Steer, but It Makes the Cut
Considering how simplistic the tools and design are within this editor, you'd expect it to be easy to use. It's not.
When you first use it you start on a blank web page with a yellow tool bar. Some of the buttons are self-explanatory, like "Edit" (to edit your site) or "Link" (to add a link to your site). Others are so vague, you can only guess what they do, like "Section," "Item," and "Variables."
Let us clarify these for you. "Section" is for adding another page to your site. "Item" is for adding a product. "Variables" is for changing the look of specific pieces of your website, like the font color, button size, or image dimensions.
Yahoo tries to help you by adding a contextual help menu to define each of the buttons, but it doesn't clear up confusion because it uses the same lingo that caused the problem in the first place. They define the "Section" button by writing simply "will create a new section and list it here." The help menu can be hidden if you so choose.
Not an MS Word Style Editor
There's a reason why so many website builders are using the MS Word style as the basis for their editor. Everyone knows the interface, making it easier to follow.
Store Editor, unfortunately, marches to the beat of a different drum, one with a very strange rhythm. When you click to edit a page, you're taken to a different page where you change the elements on the page. The layout of the editing page is just a big table, making it hard to pick out individual elements you want to edit. And it looks nothing like the page you're working on so you have to use your imagination to know how your changes are going to look.
Even if Yahoo wasn't going to go with the MS Word format, they should've at least included some of its basic text formats. In Store Editor, not only can you not add advanced text features like tables, it even lacks basic functions like bold and italics.
Plus, if you want to change the font, you actually have to enter the specific font name, rather than being able to choose from a drop-down list. Most people don't know the names of fonts beyond Arial and Times New Roman.
Editor Seriously Lacking Flexibility
To top off the lack of editor options, the editor offers no control over the placement of text and images. You add your text and images in the fields and the editor plunks them on the page in the same place every time. The only work-around is to use HTML, but then what's the point of using a website builder at all if you have to do that?
Show Off Your Wares on Your Home Page
One feature we do like is the "Specials" button. This lets you easily add products you want to feature as specials on your home page. We found this feature through experimental clicking (the button wasn't descriptive enough for us to know its use intuitively), but it's quite handy once you know what it does.
Save Your Work and Publish Later
Sometimes it takes awhile to develop the text for a web page. Some builders force you to publish unfinished text because they simultaneously save and publish.
Store editor allows you to save your work by clicking the "Update" button. The word "update" is misleading, making you think you're "updating" your website, but the function is nice anyway. To publish your work, you have to go to the tool bar and click "Publish."
Upload Images One at a Time
Image upload is simple enough. Within the edit page, you click "upload" to put an image on the page. This brings you to an upload page that prompts you to browse through your computer to find an image. Once you choose one it's put directly onto the page. You can only upload one image at a time unless you compress a bunch of images into a .zip file.
Resizing your images is a bit trickier. You have to go into "Variables" then enter the specific dimensions (in pixels, not inches). Don't know how big 70 pixels is? Too bad.
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