The clean, uncluttered look of the DoodleKit website, plus the header caricatures representing the web creator’s team members, got me excited to use the DoodleKit website maker. The testimonials as I continued scrolling down the home page inspired me even more. What is evident about this free website builder is its purposeful navigation that keeps the process of building a website, from setup to going live, as straightforward as possible. I took a few minutes to browse the content under each topic and found that each page provided information that was concise, yet inclusive in the details necessary for making an informed decision about using the website building service.
To get started with DoodleKit, you can either click on the See Plans and Pricing button in the header or the Free Plan highlighted text in the home page content. Both take you to a form where you’ll need to create a name and URL for your website. Since I selected the Free option, my website URL is a sub-domain under DoodleKit, which means the doodlekit.com extension will follow my URL name. But if you select one of the fee-based plans, you have the option of creating a domain name, or registering or transferring your domain name yourself.
The form also required my email address and I had to create a name and password for my DoodleKit account. After doing the interactive verification process and reading and agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of using the DoodleKit website builder, my setup was complete. However, I had to wait to receive an email confirmation that contained a link to confirm my email address before I could begin using DoodleKit. While the email confirmation arrived almost immediately, it’s important to know that you only have one hour to confirm your email address, otherwise you would need to complete the setup form again. This confirmation procedure enables DoodleKit to offer its free plan without requiring a credit card while preventing spammers and spam robots from using its free website builder. So although the process took an extra step on my part, I like that DoodleKit is being proactive about spamming and keeping its environment as secure as possible.
With an established DoodleKit account, I was ready to build my website. With most website builders, you begin by choosing a design template, but with DoodleKit, you start with the Template Manager, which contains pre-designed layouts. There are only a handful of sleek-looking layout templates, but DoodleKit plans to eventually have thousands of them. What’s great about the Template Manager is it stores a copy of the template you selected in your template library for use again. DoodleKit allows you unlimited template copies in your template library.
Usually, I’m disappointed when a website builder does not have a wide variety of pre-designed layout templates, but with DoodleKit, it’s not a problem because of its dynamic and powerful Layout Manager tool. DoodleKit is all about helping you make a unique website design using a pre-designed layout template as a starting point and customizing it with the Layout Manager. With simple point and click actions, I was able to effortlessly select a different color theme, header image, background, title font, and typestyle and font, just to name a few available design capabilities. And I could take these elements and perform even deeper design functions. For example, I decided to choose a different header image and was able to modify my selection by cropping it and changing its color and background color. Then I repositioned the navigation and sidebar menus. I actually liked this greater design ability because it gave me more creative freedom and ensured that my website would look very different from someone else’s using the same pre-designed layout template.
With the layout complete, I moved on to the DoodleKit Editor. This editor is also powerful and gives you a lot of functionality. DoodleKit built the Editor toolbar in the same fashion as Windows, with a main toolbar and drop-down menu options and tool icons. Since I use Windows programs, it was very easy for me to add images, change various text attributes and upload a file. I particularly liked the Paragraph Format tool because I could easily change text to standard HTML formats, such as header and subheader formats, and the coding was done automatically. The Editor’s tool is also where you can access DoodleKit’s bountiful Stock Photo Library; insert a video album into your Web page; add a table and define its properties; or make other modifications or enhancements to your website’s content.
DoodleKit Editor also has some welcoming functions not typically found on other free website builders, such as a Find tool for searching for certain text on a page; a Replace tool for finding text on a page and replacing it with different text; and a Paste text from Word tool that automatically converts formatting properties to HTML. I also found it extremely easy to spell check my content, insert RSS feeds, remove Web pages, create sub-pages, reorder my Web pages and hide pages from visitors’ view.
In addition to its rich website builder tools, DoodleKit provides 22 other convenient features. Most are typical of those offered by other website building sites, however, there are other features in which DoodleKit is among the few that provide, such as building a website in multiple languages and displaying international settings; using W3C valid XHTML and CSS layouts to ensure an error-free website; compatibility with all browsers; full website searching; and website usage statistics. Some features, though, are not available with the Free plan.
Features included with the Free plan are free web hosting; interchangeable layouts, designs and color themes; W3C valid XHTML and CSS layouts; its advanced page editor and content management system; blog design; 5 extra pages and sub-pages; uploading of up to 500 photos and/or images and creating albums; a maximum of 25,000 hits each month; RSS feeds; custom CSS layout editing; and full website searching. However, DoodleKit reserves the right to place ads for its service on your free website. If you want an ad-free website, you would need to upgrade to a fee-based plan.
DoodleKit offers four fee-based plans. The Simple Plan is $14 a month and includes everything offered with the Free plan, with increases of 30 extra pages and sub-pages, uploading of up to 1,000 photos and/or images and a maximum of 50,000 hits per month, plus domain registration, up to 5 users per registration, upload up to 100MB of extra files, bulk photo and image uploader, SEO tools, website usage statistics and SPAM protection.
The Business Plan is $29 a month and includes everything in the Simple Plan, with increases of 100 extra pages and sub-pages, uploading of up to 2,000 photos and/or images, a maximum of 100,000 hits each month, up to 500 users per registration and upload up to 500MB extra files, plus the forum creating and form builder tools, a shopping cart, advanced security, email forwarding, and Google AdSense and other advertising tools.
The Advanced Plan is $49 a month and includes everything offered in the Business Plan, with increases that provide an unlimited number of pages and sub-pages, uploading of up to 5,000 photos and/or images, a maximum of 1 million hits per month, an unlimited number of users per registration and upload to 1GB of extra files.
The Premium Plan is $99 a month and features custom designed services performed by DoodleKit professional designers, including a custom header, color theme, header image or incorporating an existing logo. The plan also includes 24/7 premium care and support by phone or specially designated email address and a refreshed header image each year.
Platform – HTML
Free Plan Includes – Web hosting; 5 extra pages and sub-pages; 500 photos/images; 25,000 monthly hits; interchangeable layouts, designs, color themes; W3C valid XHTML and CSS layouts; advanced page editor and CMS; blog design; custom CSS layout editing; RSS feeds; full website searching
Premium Plan Prices – Simple: $14/month; Business: $29/month; Advanced: $49/month; Premium: $99/month
Domain Registration Cost – Included in plan prices
Number of Templates – Under 50
Bandwidth – Free Plan: 25,000 hits a month; Simple Plan: 50,000 monthly hits; Business Plan: 100,000 monthly hits; Advanced and Premium Plans: 1 Million monthly hits
Storage – Simple Plan: 100MB; Business Plan: 500MB; Advanced and Premium Plans:1GB
Shopping Cart – Included in Business, Advanced and Premium plans
Support Options – Email, FAQs, online support forums, website building tips, blog, telephone support with Premium plan only
Free Trial – No
DoodleKit tries to keep everything as basic and uncomplicated as possible, as evident throughout its entire website. The pertinent information you need to build a website is well organized and concisely presented. As a result, I found it extremely easy to use this website builder’s services.
What I did find lacking with DoodleKit is its number of pre-designed layout templates. Granted, the Layout Manager allows you to totally redesign a pre-designed template, but I would still like to see more design templates, particularly for those who do not want to do a lot of customization. Judging by the phenomenal look and quality design of the pre-designed layout templates currently available, it’s worth waiting for DoodleKit to add more template offerings.
Like its website, the DoodleKit website builder platform is also well organized and easy to use with toolbars and tools that are based on those found in a Windows environment. If you use Word, Excel, or some other Windows program, you’re going to find the DoodleKit Editor extremely easy to use. Yet despite the ease of using the toolbar, I do miss the drag-and-drop feature used by other website builders. Drag-and-drop just makes it so much faster to make changes or add enhancements.
DoodleKit gets high praise for clearly outlining its plans, prices and what is included for the price. The Free plan is very generous in what it includes, particularly free web hosting. The paid plans also offer great value for the price. However, I was a bit disappointed to find you could only contact the company for help via email. Telephone support is reserved only for those who purchase the Premium plan. It was also a bit frustrating not being able to conduct a keyword search in the support forums. Rather, you have to go page by page to find the topic you want. Although there is a general search button for the entire website, the results are not that conclusive. I would also like to see some video tutorials or visual how-to’s under the Resources section.
All in all, DoodleKit is a good tool to use for building a website. If you want to build a complex website quickly or easily create a website with multiple pages, DoodleKit is the website builder for you. It’s approachable for beginners, flexible for those with HTML knowledge and user-friendly for all. Most of all, DoodleKit has the tools necessary to create a really attractive, professional-looking website.