1and1 IONOS is a good option for building business websites and online stores with a little more hands-on control
- Low costs in first six months or year
- Impressive and thoughtful online store features
- Good range of basic and intermediate design tools
- Well-designed, customisable templates
- Limited range of templates
- Lacks features for blogging and social media feeds
- Sometimes tricky to find tools or settings
1and1 was one of the UK’s best known web hosts long before it merged into Germany’s IONOS, and it’s developed more of a profile as a website builder with its attention-grabbing ‘Aunt Helga’ TV campaigns. There, Aunt Helga promises to build a business website in a jiffy, which is pretty much what the IONOS Website Builder claims to do. But are you going to be happy with the options and the results, or left wishing that you’d signed up with another host?
1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: What do you get for the money?
IONOS Website Builder packages start at £9/mth (ex VAT) for the Starter package and go up to £25/mth for the high-end Pro package, with the £15/mth Plus package coming in-between. All three packages come with limited period deals to entice you in, with the Starter plan costing just £5/mth for the first six months, Pro costing £15 on the same terms, and Plus coming in at only £1/mth for the whole first year. That takes a lot of the risk away if you’re just trying it out, though you’re committed to a one year contract before you can leave.
The Starter package is aimed at beginners, with basic editing tools and ready-made templates, plus a maximum of 10GB of webspace and just ten pages, though IONOS throws in one year’s domain registration and an email address with a 2GB mailbox. The Plus package gives you more customisation options, more flexible editing features and 50GB/200 pages, along with site analytics and an online booking tool. The free email mailbox swells by another 10GB. Go Pro, and you can expect unlimited webspace and pages, a 50GB mailbox and more sophisticated analytics tools. You also get SEO features through the rankingCoach Essential tool.
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1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: How easy is it to set up?
You won’t have any major problems or delays setting up your website. However, where other website builders get you up and running even before you have to set up an account or enter any credit card details, IONOS Website Builder makes you sign up and pay first, with no free trial or plan.
Beyond that, though, it’s relatively easy. You need to select whether you want or don’t want ecommerce features when you select your plan, but after that you just select a template, enter the basic details of your business and get to work.
IONOS doesn’t offer as many templates or categories as rival website builders, which might be a bad thing if you want choice or a good thing if you struggle to make up your mind. However, those you do get are well-designed and easily customised (on the Plus or Pro plans) with different colour themes, fonts and graphic elements. Just because there isn’t a template for, say, an artist’s portfolio or online video games store, that doesn’t mean you can’t build one with a little creativity and ingenuity.
1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: What’s it like to use?
At first, IONOS Website Builder can seem a bit inflexible. It’s not immediately obvious how you customise page elements or edit sections, and some elements seem to be fixed in terms of size and styling. For instance, the heading in the site header on the template I worked with had a fixed square container, which made it impossible to fit the heading I wanted in at a decent size. I settled for a smaller font size and a slightly ugly text shape, where simply being able to resize or reshape the container would have been a more elegant and satisfactory approach.
The more you use it, though, the more IONOS Website Builder gives you a good balance between modern-looking, responsive site design with consistency and control. You can change the style of most elements, add new sections and new pages. Likewise, adding image galleries, videos and interactive modules can be done with just a couple of clicks.
It’s also got some great features for handling backgrounds and nesting multiple images, plus some useful image-handling options to shift and scale your images so that you can see the right area if they’re going to be cropped. It’s not always the most flexible editor when it comes to setting fonts, highlighting words or moving elements around, but it does make it easy to create good-looking sites with surprisingly advanced effects. We also like the way it uses responsive design to avoid you having to design separate sites for desktop and mobile, as well as the ability to preview for desktop, smartphone and tablet screens with just one click.
One more thing that we would like, though, is a little extra speed. It’s hard to make apples to apples comparisons as connection speeds can vary so much, but IONOS Website Builder occasionally took its time to upload images or switch to a different tab or settings page. SquareSpace, Wix and GoDaddy Site Builder all felt a little faster and more responsive.
1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: Is it good for ecommerce?
IONOS pushes the business angle, so it’s not surprising that IONOS Website Builder has a strong set of ecommerce features. If you’re more interested in services than sales then you might want something with more video chat and subscription features along with the provided online booking support.
For physical and digital sales, though, you’re in safe hands. Adding products to your catalogue is easier, as is organising them into categories. IONOS Website Builder has some useful bulk editing features, so that you can add a whole bunch of products to a category or change their availability in one go. IONOS even makes short work of providing different options for a product, such as size, colour or finish, with different price points. You can set one base price for your product, then set a premium or discount for each of your options.
There are built-in guides for advertising through Facebook or Google, or for connecting your store to Facebook Shop and Instagram Shopping. Website Builder also includes Kliken Stats for a store dashboard and reporting, and can also tie into Google Analytics. What’s more, you can get updates and reports on the move through the IONOS Mobile app.
We also found that the editor gives you plenty of control over how your storefront looks, which is one area where IONOS Website Builder pulls ahead of dedicated ecommerce builders like Shopify. Not everything could be customised – we couldn’t find an obvious way to change the plain fonts used in the categories thumbnails – but you have a good level of control over how products are displayed and listed, and over which information or option is shown or hidden on each page.
IONOS offers Lightspeed Payments, Stripe, Square and PayPal as payment options, and you can also setup shipping through UPS, FedEx and DHL. If you’re happy to do things manually, you can set free shipping or flat rate shipping options by setting up the costs, your packing times and the service’s estimated delivery times; a useful feature.
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1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: What other features does it have?
IONOS comes with some effective templates for showcasing video content on YouTube, and the gallery sections are nicely laid-out, with easily customised designs. Many of the modular sections also feature more flexible layout options where you can assign page elements to specific slots, though it sometimes seems impossible to find a slot that will fit certain elements, like the BookingPress Form, even when you’ve cleared other elements from the page. These tools could be a little more intuitive.
It’s also possible to embed HTML elements in your page through a dedicated module, so there’s some added flexibility there.
1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: Is there anything it could do better?
Other Website Builders have more features for integrating a range of media content or social media feeds, and IONOS’s toolkit doesn’t seem to include any blogging features. You can add articles manually to a page as sections, but we couldn’t find anything to add or manage posts in a standard layout.
Another minor grumble is that if you’re starting up an online store in the UK, it shouldn’t be too much to expect GBP as the default currency. You can change this fairly quickly, but it’s buried in a settings menu, and the step-by-step tutorial doesn’t take you there until after you’ve added products to your catalogue. When we switched from dollars to pounds all the prices went blank.
1and1 IONOS Website Builder review: Should you sign up?
1and1 IONOS Website Builder is a solid all-rounder for business and ecommerce sites. GoDaddy Website Builder is faster, but more limited in terms of creative control, and while SquareSpace is hard to beat on templates and design tools, IONOS is arguably easier to use – at least at first.
There are times when IONOS Website Builder also feels restrictive, or where the right tool or setting can be tricky to track down, but you can develop an impressive-looking website without putting in a lot of time or effort. Wix still beats it on features, flexibility and pricing, but IONOS is a great alternative if you want to build a business website fast.