As the hosting industry becomes more diversified it is also becoming more specialized. These days, there are hosting brands and services for nearly every single application, operating system, CMS, client type and country.
If you have a specific need for your site, there’s a company out there that can meet it.
HostBaby is a predictable extension of this specialization. HostBaby is not just a hosting company targeted at musicians, it’s an entire hosting platform.
I recently found myself in need of a quick site for a friend’s band and decided to give HostBaby a try. Although my expectations were initially low, I was surprised to find that HostBaby is actually a fairly powerful and robust system, and one that many musicians (and their developers) may want to consider.
What is HostBaby
Hostbaby is a hosted content management solution for musicians and authors that’s aimed at helping them get an attractive site online quickly and with minimal fuss.
Similar to WordPress, HostBaby makes it easy to create pages and posts as well as organize your site’s content. HostBaby also has a set of simple yet powerful design tools that make it easy to manipulate and customize a site, similar to a WordPress theme framework.
However, where HostBaby really specializes is with custom apps and tools aimed at musician. This includes a calendar, audio player, photo gallery, custom bios, contact forms, press pages, stores and more.
Hosting with HostBaby also allows the artist to make free use of CDBaby, the company’s service for uploading and selling tracks on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and more. They also have access to ListBaby, the company’s email newsletter management system.
The system is meant to be all-inclusive; a one-stop shop for all musicians to get their Web presence up and running. But how well does it stack up?
The Good Points of HostBaby
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that HostBaby’s themes are both beautiful and varied. There is a wide selection of layouts and styles to choose from, and nearly any would make a great start for a musician or band website.
Once you start manipulating the site design, you’ll find that the editing tools are fairly robust and very easy to use. One can easily edit colors and make changes to their theme through the beta theme editor. Best of all, changes appear instantly, even before you save, making it easy to see how a change looks before pushing it live.
Feature-wise, Hostbaby is pretty complete. You can add audio files, a photo gallery, an events calendar and more to your site and they are all well-built for musicians to use.
In short, HostBaby makes it very easy for a musician to set up an attractive, complete and usable website with relatively little work.
The Drawbacks to HostBaby
However, all of the simplicity and completeness of HostBaby does come at a price: flexibility.
Although HostBaby lets you manipulate most aspects of your site, it’s far from complete. For example, one theme would not let me change the navigation background in the default editor. You can get around this by adding CSS code to your site’s header, but this solution feels more like a hack than an answer, especially considering HostBaby’s target doesn’t know much CSS to begin with.
You also can’t make any major changes to your site’s layout. Though you can make tweaks through the aforementioned CSS hacks, other than moving Widgets around you can’t rearrange the site’s elements.
The content editor and image uploading tools, though functional and usable, can be a bit confusing and, in the case of the photo uploader, somewhat limiting. Likewise, the design editors and other tools, as powerful as they are, are designed in a very childish and non-professional way, giving you the feeling that you’re using a children’s toy at times and not a real site design tool.
Finally, many of HostBaby’s site tools are also limited. Though the calendar, bios, audio page and other tools are great, the blog, for example, is sadly very limited. Anyone who is used to using WordPress or even Tumblr is going to find HostBaby’s blog app very anemic. Most will probably want to set up a separate blog, maybe on a Tumblr account.
Still, for what HostBaby says it does, I came away impressed. Just don’t expect to coast the entire way to a perfect band website, unless your vision of such a site is exactly what Hostbaby is providing out of the box.
HostBaby achieves its goal of making it easy and fast to set up a musician website that is both beautiful and complete. To do that, however, it sacrifices flexibility and usability.
Though you could easily sign up for a HostBaby developer account and have FTP access to the server, that essentially makes HostBaby an overpriced and feature-limited traditional hosting account with a few extra apps (most of which can be done through WordPress plugins).
If you like HostBaby’s themes, need a site quick and know CSS, image editing, etc. then HostBaby may be a great choice. If you have more time, need more flexibility or just simply want a different ‘look’, you probably need to go elsewhere.
All in all, what HostBaby does what it says well. The target is a very specialized one but, with the way the hosting industry is fracturing, such a specialization may work out to be the perfect niche.
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