Webon Has its Game On for Developing Simple Sites

This week, Lycos unveiled Webon, their new drag-and-drop Web site builder and the moment I heard about it, I had to jump on it. With the proliferation of blogs, blogging and blog publishing sites, I was struggling to find a free, easy-to-use Web-based site builder. You know – the old fashioned, non-blog free Web site that we used to create with Tripod, Angelfire or Geocities?

WebonI was looking first and foremost for ease of use, not because I don’t know how to use more robust site building tools such as Dreamweaver but because I wanted to find something that I could recommend to non-programmers and non-designers who needed a simple site up quickly.

Webon is clearly geared toward the personal site, offering a Personal Site kit, a Photo Album kit, a Travelogue kit and a Wedding kit. It also has a drag-and-drop blog creator and builds the blog feature into it’s some of its other options such as the personal site and travelogue. Simple. Really easy to use.

I can definitely see some practical uses for this tool:

1. For clients who really aren’t ready for a full fledged site. When consulting clients about their Internet strategies, I emphasize the importance of having a Web site as the hub of their e-marketing activities, however, some just don’t need a big Web presence. Webon can be that toe-in-the-water solution for individuals, micro-startup companies and small grassroots nonprofit organizations that should have a Web presence but don’t yet have the funds.

2. For projects where I need to throw up a quick site. I’m always coming across the need for a site to demo something – either to potential clients or during presentations. Sure, I can whip something up in Dreamweaver but it does take some time. With Webon, the time it takes to put up a basic Web presence is negligible and the results are basic but very functional.

Webon supports the OpenSocial API so add-ons and widgets are a breeze to embed. This is no longer your plain vanilla site from a rigid site builder. Webon gives you flexibility and an easy way to drop in some bells and whistles. The sites can include RSS feeds which these days is an essential feature for any site or blog.

Webon siteAs I tested it out, Webon allowed me to create multiple sites under my account for free, each with its own URL as myname.webon.com. As with any Web-based site building tool, the site you end up with is only as good as your content and your ability to manipulate the templates, but the ability to manipulate is there if you have the skills. Webon also has a handy Media Manager tool to handle all of your uploaded images and a Backups feature where you can restore your site to a few versions back if needed.

To publish your own domain, you need to upgrade to the Webon Personal Plan. This is the only part that I found downright confusing. If you click on the link to upgrade, the first screen brings you to a dialog box where you can enter your domain name choice before proceeding, but there is no context or explanation as to what will happen once you provide your domain name of choice. Will they register the domain name for you? Will they host the site for you with fees attached?

When searching the site for a pricing page or billing information, it was nowhere to be found. Clicking “Help” at the bottom of the page opened an email to send to their tech support. Clicking “Help” at the top of the page brought me to what must be a Lycos knowledge base because when I searched for “upgrade” and “billing,” the information was clearly not about Webon but more specifically about Lycos mail. I was totally lost.

Other than the major disconnect between a link to upgrade and actual information about what upgrading entails, I must say that my first impressions of Webon are positive. It is everything I hoped it would be and more. Kudos to the developers on this one. Now can someone tell me how much it costs to upgrade and what that’ll give me?