When I had rebuilt Ultimate Mac’s redesigned site about a year ago, I did a lot of coding for it. This was because I built my own template from the ground-up to accommodate what I thought readers were going to expect from a new Mac enthusiast magazine.
Luckily I had been a coder when building this site, so it was pretty easy for me. But I see that the biggest barrier to entry when it comes to building sites (especially at scale) is that the time it takes to build them. Companies know this, so there has been a slew of ways to get templates and drag and drop builders to do most of the work for you.
The current problem with most DYI drag and drop builders
The problem I’ve had with most of the drag and drop builders is that you don’t get to keep the site if you ever cancel their service. Platforms like Squarespace, Wix, and Instapage are all guilty of this. I love them for what they are trying to do to make the process easier, and they’re all sophisticated and easy to use (especially Squarespace), but if you don’t to pay the monthly fees and when you want to move on, then too bad: you’ll need to rebuild.
Considering that, I was happy to see a new product come out that was looking to solve the problem. With Website In A Box (WIAB), your website is actually free, all you’re doing is paying for the hosting (the server where your site is stored so it can run). The cool part is that even if you wanted to switch hosts in the future, you get to keep the template.
My experience with Website In A Box – building a duplicate version of Ultimate Mac
I found that WIAB is great for people that are starting a website for the first time since you’ll need to go with their hosting provider at first (they use WP Engine, which is a really awesome WordPress-based host) to be able to activate the site.
The first thing you’ll notice with WIAB is that it’s really easy to get the site up and running. You get an email from the WIAB and WP Engine that gives you the instructions to activate, and then you’re pretty much ready to go.
So let’s get to the good part. I told you that I built a site in 25 minutes using WIAB, so let’s me give you the play by play.
6:58 pm June 5th 2016
I get my email and starting the activation process. This takes about 2 minutes, so then I’m ready to go to the next step.
I’m now playing around with their page template builder. I like that they offer templates ready to go depending on your objective. I’m not the hugest fan of the interface compared to Squarespace, but I also see the potential for creating more cohesive layouts. This is really like drawing a wireframe of a site.
I’ve been having fun with this so far, while I know I’m on the clock I’m liking the fact that I can try so many different layout variations on the fly. What I found was helpful was having a second window up with the visual of your site. The preview function is easy to use, and I’m finding now that my layouts are more precise.
I’m happy with the layout for the homepage – I’m going to need to work on the margins later, as I couldn’t quite figure that out yet. Need to still add a couple of images too, but I’ll worry about that after. Still impressed with how quickly WIAB allowed me to do this.
I still need to make the template for each post and then make sure that every post has the same layout. I still need to also have a categories template.
Post and categories templates and done too! Once you get the hang out how the drag and drop functions work, it gets pretty easy. I was also able to fix the margins for the homepage so I feel good about this!
One thing that’s cool about WP Engine is that it allows you to easily build sites using what’s called a “test environment,” meaning that if you do have a live website already or don’t want to have your website shown until it’s completely done, you can do that. Since I’m keeping it on WP Engine’s test server, I’m now done!
I technically didn’t completely recreate the site in 25 minutes, I must confess. I only copy / pasted a couple of posts (I know I could export these posts to my new site, but I wanted to pretend I had more work to do on that front)
So what do I think of Website In A Box?
I think if you’re creating a new website, want it for cheap (since the only thing you’re paying for is WP Engine, your website only costs less than $1 per day), and want the layouts that usually come with a $5,000 or up website, WIAB works really well. If you haven’t worked with layouts before, it’s going to have a little bit of a learning curve, but just give it some time and you’ll be able to work really well with it in no time.
You can try Website In A Box here.