November 29 2016

I was talking to a prospective client yesterday. He wanted to build an e-commerce website. I threw some numbers at him and he had a bit of sticker shock and said “Maybe I’ll just go use GoDaddy.” I didn’t really know what he meant but we talked some more and mentioned the GoDaddy Website Builder tool.

So today I thought I’d go check it out for myself. I opened a “free” 30 day trial account and played around with the tool and the GoDaddy interface. It was an interesting experience.

First of all, you can’t see anything on the GoDaddy site in terms of real content or tools without creating an account. This strikes me as very sleazy.

Then, when you sign up for the “free” trial, you have to input your credit card which will be charged $71.88 for the first year at the end of 30 days. Normally, I wouldn’t worry about that but after my experience with the GoDaddy shopping cart, I’m guessing that this will be a problem a month from now and I’ll be calling my bank to cancel the payment. More on that in a moment.

The Website builder tool itself is extremely basic. It reminds me of Microsoft Front Page circa 1999. You have your choice of hundreds of themes which are best described as extremely cheesy. More importantly, once you choose a theme you are stuck. If you change a theme, you lose all your content.

Here’s the exact language from the GoDaddy site:

“Whenever you change your website theme, all your existing text, images, and settings are removed from the site. While you can create a backup of your existing site, restoring it also reapplies your old theme”

Well, this sucks and defeats the whole purpose of using a template/theme based system! Change your theme, lose your content!

Once you open Website Builder, you are faced with a really primitive user interface. I’d love to show you a screencap, but that would violate GoDaddy’s TOS. They go to a lot of trouble to keep all of this hidden until they have your credit card on file.

I put in my own picture and changed the title. The navigation is extremely clumsy and again, very out of date. It’s workable but just barely. For some people it might be enough, but trust me, you aren’t going to win any design awards.

Then you click a “Publish” button and you’re done. If you don’t have a domain, it will assign you a GoDaddy sub-domain for free, like mine below, which you can click on if you’d like to see the actual site built with GoDaddy Web Builder.

Click here to see a live example of a Webbuilder site

If you look at that live page you’ll see a random bit of instructional text that got pasted in the middle of the page by accident. I left it there on purpose because it’s so silly that it works like that. I can easily imagine somebody using this for the first time getting very frustrated with this tool.

So then GoDaddy asked me if I wanted to buy a domain for 99 cents. I thought I’d test that too and what I found really disturbed me. I added the one year “free domain” to my shopping cart and also searched for a second domain just out of curiosity but didn’t add it. I then clicked on the shopping cart icon to check out.

What I found once I got to the shopping cart was that it had added both domains for two years and that the second year as $19.95. It also added privacy protection to both domains. My total for my two allegedly .99 cent domains was now $60.

Now here’s the thing. $30 per year per domain including privacy is totally a fair price. That’s the exact same price I pay with my hosting company. But GoDaddy is obviously targeting this service at the web novice and they totally did a bait and switch. You click on something for .99 cents and all of the sudden you’ve got a bill for $60.

Even worse, the shopping cart was not editable. Once something is in your cart there is no way to remove it! I tried refreshing the page, closing the page and logging back in – even changing browsers! No luck. Absolutely no way to edit your shopping cart. That’s just straight up sleazy.

Finally, the one thing that you’ve got to understand about GoDaddy is that every single service is a la carte. Everything. While I was on the site, I calculated the price of adding normal services that come with every other web hosting plan. Not at GoDaddy. Here are the actual prices.
GoDaddy Price Breakdown for Basic Account

Prices are per year

“Free” Website builder 71.88
Email, per account 47.88
Domain Privacy (2 year only) 15.98
Domain Registration (2 year only) 19.88
cPanel 95.88
sub-total 251.50
The bottom line is, to configure your .99 cent domain and “Free Web Builder” account like any normal web hosting plan is going to cost you $250 and that’s assuming you only need one email account. If you were, say, a band and you need 4 email accounts that would be an additional $200 a year.

Rating and Final Thoughts

User Interface D

Design F

Value D

Company Morals F

I’m giving them an F for Company Morals because of the almost total lack of transparency until they have your credit card number, for the bait and switch on the 99 cent domains and especially for the little shopping cart trick where a customer is unable to edit their shopping cart and they hope that you’ll just click “Buy” out of frustration.

Finally, this is just not a good value. Although you can’t hire a real web developer for $250, you can do much better using services like Squarespace or Shopify, which are vastly better in every way – transparent about pricing, ethical, with much better designs – and half the price to boot.

Conclusion: Don’t use GoDaddy, period.

Categories: Reviews