For years now, Intuit has been a shining star to many small businesses because of its highly acclaimed TurboTax, Quicken, and Quick-Books software. I myself have been an avid user of their small business tools and have enjoyed the time it saves with handling budgets, bills and payrolls.
Recently, Intuit began a major push for their new website building software and I thought I'd give it a shot. If it's better than Go-Daddy's horrid "Website Tonight" software, that would be a great improvement for businesses beginning a web footprint. I've decided to break down my critique of their builder into three basic categories for this assessment. There are certainly other criteria that could be used, but I would likely write much more than anyone would be willing to read. After discussing the criteria, we will make a founded assessment of the value vs cost of their development price. The three categories we will discuss are for design structure, code development, and what SEO and SEM their builds enable a site with. We'll use a scoring method of 1 to 10 with 1 equaling Go Daddy's Website Tonight and 10 equaling a Free Wordpress Theme.
First of all, their design structure, while a bit cliche, is one of the first autobuilder formats that has some decent design structure to their templates. That being said, these are templates and will not move far. Of the ~2000 templates they have, there are only about 100 that are really going to get peoples attention. Of these 100 templates, take a guess at how many times each one will be recycled continuously across the internet. On the positive side, the builder does allow you to tweak certain aspects and containers of each template to allow for some impression of originality on your site. This will help to an extent, but eventually there will be repition of your site throughout your market and maybe even your direct competitors. While far better than the templates that most autobuilders use, there's still a lot to be desired here.
Some of you familiar with their templates are going to be scratching your heads after seeing a score of 7 on this one. Yes, it may be a little high for legacy HTML, but there is a good reason behind this thought.
They're using Quality CSS and don't have tons of tables being shot out at your browser. If familiar with other autobuilders, you understand that the majority of their build are conducted in long and dirty table design. The CSS in the Intuit sites are actually decent. Anyone hoping to see PHP within their listings, hope you can find one, but after and hour of search and reading "index.html" as many times as I did, it was apparent that there are no PHP driven sites within their selection. This means that there is less functionality available through these sites, but if you're using them, you probably don't even notice. All in all though, the HTML is written well for template use and the CSS is clean enough to earn an 8 in this category.
SEO and SEM
Ok, here is the category that hurts them. While it was hard to find any sites built with this tool(besides spend money and make one), I was able to find a few that we could run through website. grader from Hubspot. The sites saw a "Best Ranking" of 30. At no point in my life has a score of 30 been a passing grade. The same occurred when running it through the tools on SEOmoz(know some of you hate them, but they have easy tools). There's simply no excuse for a website builder that will leave a client with a site of limited ability and still be published mainly through PPC style advertising. If there is any suggestion for Intuit, or specifically people thinking of using there site builder, it would be that there needs to be more focus within the code structure to benefit the customer needs. If you are looking for a website that allows people to find your business and not just a vanity plate to put on a business card, avoid this builder as well.
Final Score= 4.3
While Some of my fellow designers will vehemently disagree with my assessment, I think it's like to be the best summarized review that could be offered. It should be mentioned as well, that this is only a grade of the Starter system, since that's the one being offered for $4.99/month(while the only one with the tools needed for business cost $49.99/month). The problem with the price is the "Bait and Switch". If we look at the pricing table, it becomes apparent that this is not the fantastic deal that they make it out to be in the commercial(imagine that happening). Here are there price columns per service.
As you can see, there's not much you're getting for their advertised $4.99/month or even for their Cadillac Package that could legitimize this site build being used for a long period of time. It is understandable that some businesses must use one of these auto builders to get started, but it should only be a temp fix. These should not be used over six months at max; otherwise, it becomes a money pit instead of a money producer. A quality CMS system built for your business will save you money in the long-run, and will do more for your income as well...