A simple drag-and-drop experience — but can it compete?
Yola, formerly known as SynthaSite, is a website creator and hosting solution that uses an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to make the process of site-building much more straightforward. Having launched in beta near the end of 2007, it rebranded in 2009 (at which point it had over a million users), and has kept the Yola name ever since.
While it’s best suited in principle to low-end projects, being targeted at people without any design experience or knowledge of coding, it is capable of doing more through integrations. Lacking innate ecommerce functionality, the Yola service can be extended through an additional fee to provide regular retail operations, and that’s what ultimately matters here.
Interestingly, though, the ecommerce service isn’t an in-house development: it’s licensed from Ecwid, a company that provides ecommerce integration for websites of all kinds. We’ll get to what that means later — for now, let’s get to the benefits.
Yola is never going to compete with a heavyweight like Shopify or Magento, nor is it even going to challenge something like WooCommerce, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely without merit if you’re a beginner to ecommerce. It’s cheap, simple, and intuitive.
Technically, a Yola store can be as cheap as $10 per month, though that will be with a Yola subdomain and very strict limitations (a maximum of 3 pages, for instance). Moving up a tier will get you to $14.95 per month, but with Yola branding — you have to hit the $19.95 tier before you hit a standard that can vaguely compete with other ecommerce platforms.
Number of Pages
$4.95 per month
$9.95 per month
$19.95 per month
Furthermore, it bears noting that those monthly costs are for when you commit to 12-month plans. If you want to pay month-to-month with no extended commitment, you’ll be looking at $16.95 per month for the branded version and $24.95 per month for the non-branded version.
What you’ll make of Yola pricing will depend on what you’re looking for, because it’s only going to come close to being worth it if your ecommerce aspirations are far from exceeding the limitations of Yola’s online store integration (more on those shortly). In general, though, the pricing isn’t very competitive in a digital landscape full of excellent options.
Features/Type of Plan
Free starter site
No Yola branding
Full-site SEO scans
Auto SEO monitoring
Keyword & traffic reports
Yola offers a variety of features that will help you manage your ecommerce store.
At its core, Yola is a wizard-based drag-and-drop website builder for creating a site quickly and with ease. It’s aimed squarely at those who don’t know much about technology and just want to get online functionality without having to contend with unfamiliar terms or confusing settings.
For ecommerce, it provides an online store option for $10 extra per month: this option is provided by Ecwid, a respectable ecommerce integration, so it’s very reliable. You enjoy no transaction fees, support for numerous currencies and payment services, and enough inventory room for 1000 products.
Unfortunately, the online store addition has no tiers, so you’re stuck there. The cost does compare favorably to getting the integration directly from Ecwid (with a 12-month plan, the monthly cost of the integration alone with a 100-product cap is $12.50), but at least you can upgrade to the business tier of Ecwid if needed.
It’s possible that you could negotiate with Yola for a larger cap and more features, but it’s ridiculous that anyone should need to. And as solid as Ecwid is, the idea of paying for an ecommerce solution from a company that only licenses it is distinctly unpalatable. If something were to go wrong, would you have faith in Yola’s ability to do something about it?
Yola doesn’t really have a conventional CMS dashboard. There is a dashboard, but it’s more like a web hosting dashboard: you can adjust your domain and access any further features you’ve paid for, including the online store functionality.
And as for the ecommerce side of things, you’re essentially getting the regular Ecwid experience. That’s a good thing in general, but it also means that there’s no particular reason to recommend Yola here: you can integrate Ecwid with just about any CMS you care to mention.
When you first start setting up your Yola store, you’ll be given a set of themes to choose from. The default set currently comes to 92 (with 4 blank templates for different pages). That’s a fair range, and has been greatly expanded over the years — you can also view a live preview of each template before making a choice.
However, because the builder isn’t outright designed for ecommerce, the themes aren’t optimized for selling. If you want to set up your store through Yola, expect to need to make some significant design alterations.
Using the WYSIWYG editor, it’s straightforward to edit different pages. You simply select the page you want from the Page toolbar and use the drag-and-drop interface to adjust the content as you see fit. It’s similarly easy to tweak the navigation: go to the Navigation option and you can rearrange the site hierarchy.
Again, though, when it comes to ecommerce, you’re dealing with Ecwid’s dashboard. It provides you with an industry-standard selection of options, featuring all the category and product-tagging options you’d expect.
Yola is a simple solution with simple options, so it doesn’t have any kind of store or marketplace for extensions, apps, or plugins. Either the built-in integrations for payment services and platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are enough for you, or they’re not — in the case of the latter, you’ll need to find another platform.
Ecwid’s checkout is very decent, particularly following a major update last year that moved to a one-page design. All integrations and uses of Ecwid’s software get updated at the same pace, so you can at least know with Yola that you’ll get the most recent version. Of course, the lack of meaningful connection between the Yola site and the Ecwid-sourced checkout might not bode well for long-term optimization efforts.
The online store solution provides you with integrated tax and shipping calculations, so that should save you some time and make life a little easier. If you should need help with shipping, though, where would you turn? Would you go to Yola, or directly to Ecwid? Lacking a comprehensive single point of contact could spell trouble.
There isn’t much to say here. Ecwid’s inventory management is comprehensive and well organized, and with the decent 1000-product cap of Yola’s implementation, you have a good amount of room for expanding and optimizing your range.
Ecwid allows you to add customers individually or in bulk through CSV files, add groups to determine which customers qualify for different discounts, and view by specific customer. That’s essentially it. There’s nothing built-in for complex CRM, aside from the option to track orders and communicate with customers through the dashboard.
Free to Install
Free to Install
Ease Of Use
Promotion is a core part of ecommerce. Simply having a store won’t accomplish anything if you don’t bring in any relevant traffic, so it’s important that you find a CMS that supports your marketing strategy. Here’s how Yola stacks up:
With every tier of Yola, the page builder allows you edit metadata and define URLs. However, it doesn’t seem to provide the option to define canonical URLs, which is a frustrating omission. It seems to be the result of the system simply failing to move with the times. There is an SEO Scan feature provided as part of the Gold tier, but it doesn’t seem to do anything impressive — it scans for keywords and identifies possible opportunities, but there’s no guarantee that its suggestions will actually be worthwhile.
Yola has a native widget for Google AdSense, so if you want to run Google Ads on your store to make some extra money, you can do so. And since you can easily configure Google Analytics, your Yola site is a suitable destination for any type of PPC ad you can think of. In addition, through a collaboration with SiteWit (a paid search analytics service), you can go directly into retargeting and even lead generation.
The Yola online store option provides two notable features for social marketing. Firstly, through an Ecwid-based integration, you can sell directly through a Facebook page. And secondly, you can use a dedicated Social Tools menu to add social sharing buttons to your pages, allowing shoppers to promote your site through easy referrals.
Yola doesn’t provide any native A/B testing functionality. Ecwid supports various A/B testing solutions, though, and since Yola allows you to access code if needed, you should be able to run split tests on your store if you want to. But given the simplicity of the software, any effort at long-term optimization would better suit a more powerful platform.
You can add mailing widgets to your pages to establish newsletter sign-up forms easily enough, but to actually handle the emailing you’ll need a paid account with Constant Contact, an email automation software service. This means that your easy options are limited. And since the integrations are static (with there being no extension marketplace), there’s no use in trying to deploy a different mailing suite. If it isn’t supported today, it might never be.
Yola is a cloud-based hosted service, so you don’t need to think about that part of the equation, and it claims 99.9% uptime with DDoS protection. With every paid tier providing unlimited bandwidth, it should be solid enough for ecommerce, though there’s no telling what the speed and reliability will be like overall (with the platform not being designed for the demands of retail).
As noted earlier, you can easily add Google Analytics through pasting the tracking code into Yola’s Tracking section. You can also use native analytics to get a basic single-page breakdown of your visits, though not with anything approaching the sophistication and customization of what you can achieve through Google Analytics.
Yola isn’t a foundation for future development — it’s a static option that’s only suitable if you’re content with your chosen business model and have no desire to grow it significantly in the future. There’s no marketplace for it, and people don’t release plugins for it. In fact, it doesn’t support them. You might be able to get something done through manually editing the code, but at that point, why bother using a simple service like Yola at all?
One clear positive here is that Yola provides an excellent level of support. The official website has an extensive set of relevant blog posts, guides, and technical document, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you can always reach out directly: the company maintains a 24/7 in-house support service, with live chat and email channels for paid users. There’s also a Yola Community Forum, though it doesn’t seem particularly active: there are no posts from within the last year.
Is the great level of support enough to compensate for the general mediocrity of what Yola brings to the table, particularly if your goals is to sell online? Well, no. It’s not even close. Relying on third-party software to enable sales, and offering a basic builder with a dated aesthetic at unappealing price points, I simply can’t recommend Yola overall.