Having your own personal website is a dream for most internet users nowadays. People have resorted to creating blogs hosted on a myriad of free services that will get the job most of the time. But if you really want to have full control on you site, you can either pay for your own hosting plan or setup your own server — which is intimidating to those who just wanted to post content easier but wants to have the freedom to do anything that are most of the time limited by the free plans. This is where the uCoz Free Website Builder comes in as they promise to provide a great website maker service for free. Sounds good? Read on more for the review of their builder and see if it’s a good alternative to the better known services.
Registration & Initial Configuration
Like with all other web services, you need to register and provide the necessary credentials. Once done, you’ll be presented with their “Webtop Desktop” that basically mimics your typical Windows desktop that has two icons as seen below:
As seen, this desktop only has two icons initially, the “Secure Login” and “My Websites”. In order to access your website control panel, you’ll be using this desktop to serve as login. And do take note that this login isn’t the same as your initial uCoz login (i.e. another password). This gives it another layer of security as you’ll be needing two login passwords in order to modify your site. For the desktop itself, the concept is good though it isn’t utilized that much. Opening the My Websites icon reveals all sites you’ve registered on uCoz and upon clicking it will open a new window, not on the uCoz desktop, but literally a new window or tab, and there you can access the control panel. If they had placed the control panel on a new window inside the Webtop Desktop, then it would have made the desktop itself serve more purpose. Other than that, you can create shortcuts that would allow you to either of the following:
Upon the first visit to your website control panel, you’ll be presented with the initial configuration that will let you set the website name, design and native languaege:
Speaking of designs, uCoz gives you around 250 designs to choose from depending on what you like your website to feel among others. Choosing a design is as simple as selecting a template from the list they’re giving:
Now this is the point where you determine what features your site will have. We have to give uCoz credit for giving users this much functionality, like forums, galleries, blogs, polls, and email forms among others.
Like with most control panels, you first have to get used to this one in order to get its full functionality, though for the most part, its intimidating for beginners. On the get go, we see the one limit that the free account has, disk space. As seen above, a free account only has 400 MB of space to work on. This may prove to be very little for some that wanted more multimedia content to be posted on their site. For expansion, you have the option of either paying for 1 month (yes, it is on a monthly basis) or for a multitude of months that will include discounts depending on the no. of months paid in advance. For example, you wanted to have 5GB worth of space for 1 month payment, uCoz will charge you $10 for 5GB extra space in 1 month.
Remember the modules shown earlier. uCoz gives you the option of adding and removing them in “real time”. So for example, you don’t want to have a forum anymore, you can simple set the module as inactive then activate it once you decided you want it again, it’s that easy.
If you want total, and we mean total, control over your CSS, then uCoz will greatly satisfy that demand. Users are given all the freedom in the world to edit, change or modify the CSS and even the HTML of a specific module. There’s one for pages, blog posts, galleries and basically any content that appears in the site, you can edit.
Creating posts, among others, is also easy, uCoz gives you the option in editing them in the visual editor, the HTML editor and even the BB codes editor for those used to doing them in forums. Creating posts will also bring your screen to the page of the site itself where you’ll put the post. This will give you a better idea of how the post will look like with the other design elements of your site.
Once posted, each entry will be displayed in the site with the comments module below though there isn’t any means to share posts via the popular social networking sites.
Creating photo galleries on the other hand, while very useful is quite time-consuming. You have to upload photos one-by-one and you’ll be putting captions and descriptions in them the same way. If they only have the means of uploading images just like in Facebook, then things will be easier. Once uploaded, the gallery will appear like those seen in typical image hosting sites where each image will be in a sort of lightbox when displayed.
All in all, uCoz provides a very neat solution create a free website. They give you a wide, and we mean wide, range of customization features with its theme selection as well as HTML and CSS tweaking. It also allows you to choose a wide range of modules that can turn your site to a portal of services. The only limit we see for the free version of the service is the available space. At 400 MB, this is really small for today’s standards. Some may say that their monthly charges may be too high for just additional space when others can give more for a better cost. But at the end of the day, given their selection of options, we can say that though may be on the costly side, what you’ll pay is very much worth it.