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By Gary McGath
Supporting multiple languages is important to many European organizations. Voog's claim to fame is making multilingual websites easy. It does that, but customers will have to accept some compromises.
Voog.com is based in Tartu, Estonia. The name means "flow" and is pronounced like "vogue." From 2008 to 2014, it was known as Edicy. When it went through a full redesign, the site adopted the new name. The company is still Edicy.
Anyone can sign up with Voog for a 30-day free trial without a credit card. This lets potential customers try out its features and make an informed choice. The free trial site uses a user-selected subdomain of voog.com. This is just for trying Voog out; there are no free plans beyond the trial period. When you pay for a plan, you can register your own domain or use one you already have.
The first step after signing up is to select a template. Templates are available for stores and blogs as well as regular sites. There aren't a lot to choose from, but developers can modify a template once they've picked it. One option is the "Plain Vanilla" template, which gives a fairly clean slate to add to. All templates are mobile-ready.
What sets this website builder apart from many others is the language menu. When you add a language, your site is cloned for it. The server doesn't translate your site for you; the technology still isn't good enough to make that a viable option. What it does is create pages that duplicate the existing ones, which you can then translate. It's best to do this after completing the site in the primary language, so you don't have to keep updating versions of a page to match each other.
You have the option of making any language the default, and location detection will determine whether to use one of the others. Users will see a flag or text item they can click to switch languages.
In addition to language selection, you'll see a set of controls for modifying and adding pages. It's simpler than the site editors on some other hosting services. You can add various kinds of items, but only to existing panes of the template.
"Simple" doesn't always mean "easy." To add a picture, you need to select "Files," upload a picture, and then drag its icon into a text item. This is less than obvious. Another problem is the lack of an Undo button. In some cases, selecting Undo from the Edit menu will reverse an action, but that doesn't always work. If you delete something by mistake, though, you're given a chance to undo the error.
The editor lets you do some unusual things. You can add a map pane and select its location. You can embed a video and link to social media accounts. There's a tool for creating simple forms.
Adding pages is simple. You can link to them from the menu and, of course, clone them into other languages.
Voog includes a blogging feature, which can be the main focus of a site or a page of a bigger site. The blogging tools are basic but workable. If you have a translator working with you (or are fluent in more than one language), you can have versions of the blog in multiple languages.
Email isn't available through Voog. Customers who want an email address will have to set up an account with another service.
In late 2016, Voog added e-commerce functionality. None of the off-the-shelf options satisfied them. They wanted something that would be easy to learn while supporting all European languages and payment methods, so they designed their own.
A central idea is that "your store and your website are the same thing." E-commerce features can go on any page of a site. Like a regular site, an e-commerce site starts from a template and uses the same site building tools, with some additional options. Customers should select a plan that supports SSL, so the store will be secure.
You can specify products, add options such as color and size, and let the customer add them to a shopping cart.
It should be no surprise that Voog's e-commerce includes multilingual support. A product description can include the translation of the name into your other languages. Product pages can be in all the site's languages. Payment methods include credit cards, PayPal, online banking, and offline payment. The vendor can specify shipping rates and methods by region.
Customers who need something more powerful can add Erply, a third-party e-commerce platform. It adds features such as PoS software, CRM, returns, and detailed reports.
Voog's API supports querying and modifying e-commerce data, so a remote application could manage the site. This might be a great opportunity for a mobile developer, if no one is working on it already!
Tools are available for sharing information and control with selected people. A page can be made password-protected, with email sent out to grant trusted people access. The invitees needs to create a Voog account first, however, and then can log in and view the protected pages.
A team can work together on editing a site. Invitations to edit, like ones to view a page, go out by email. There are no granular settings for roles or permissions, so adding an editor is an all-or-nothing choice. Only highly trusted people should be invited.
Voog doesn't really say anything about its servers. Hosting services that have a high-quality datacenter usually make a point of mentioning it, so this leaves Voog's hardware base and environment as an important unknown.
Some digging reveals that it doesn't have its own datacenter but uses Zone Media, an Estonian infrastructure provider. All accounts on Voog apparently use shared hosting. There's no mention of dedicated servers or VPS.
The obvious advantage of Voog is support for multiple languages. Properly setting up a website to deliver content in the right language is a complicated task, and organizations without a lot of technical resources will appreciate having this handled for them.
The website editor makes a virtue of its limitations by making it hard to mess up a site. The indirect way of adding images makes it easy to manage them once the user gets the trick. Having e-commerce fully integrated into the site helps in setting up and branding an online store.
The negatives are significant, though. The number of available templates is small. Having second-level hosting adds uncertainty, and there's no guaranteed uptime. Backend programming is very limited. There is an API for managing content as well as databases of a sort, but no option to use SQL or install a CMS.
The ideal Voog customer is someone who wants to set up a simple site in multiple languages. Some e-commerce is possible, but users shouldn't expect advanced features. What they will get is something that's quick to set up and easy to manage.
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