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By Gary McGath
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Jimdo's key idea is that setting up a website should be easy. It has been successful with this idea. The company started in Hamburg, Germany in 2007, and it now has offices in Tokyo and San Francisco as well.
You can sign up for a free account with Jimdo, no credit card required, to try out its features. The free account gives you a subdomain of jimdo.com and enough disk storage to create a simple site. Free sites display a small ad for Jimdo, but nothing more.
After you choose a subdomain, the first step is to choose a template. Unlike some other sites, Jimdo doesn't artificially assign templates to specific professions or business types. After all, it's the content, not the layout, that tells viewers what kind of business they're dealing with. Developers who know HTML and CSS can create their own templates, a feature which many website builders don't support.
The builder isn't drag-and-drop, and it takes some work to master. Before trying to use it, click on "Support" in Jimdo's website menu and read the articles under "Basics." Create some elements step by step, following along with the explanations.
This approach provides some nice features once you get the hang of it. Many kinds of elements are available, from text and pictures to social media inserts, maps, file downloads, and blog teasers. You can move any number of elements to the clipboard, where they're available for later use. Elements can be moved from one place to another in the layout, but you are always constrained by the template's design. You can't resize elements or put them in arbitrary locations. This helps to keep the layout clean, but you may have to try different layouts until you find one that accommodates all your content.
Before adding pages, read the tutorial on editing your navigation and moving pages. It's not too complicated, but it's not so intuitive that new users can just dive in. The "Edit Navigation" button is invisible until you hover over it. Each page can use a different layout.
You can hide pages from public view. With a paid plan, you can create an "Under Construction" page that will temporarily become your homepage. Pages can be password protected, so only authorized people can view them.
All sites on Jimdo, including free ones, use HTTPS (SSL). This is a valuable feature which many hosting services offer only at extra cost or not with all plans. All pages built on standard templates conform to HTML5.
The paid plans offer an assortment of extras. Some are basic to a serious business website. The Jimdo ad is removed. A custom domain is included for free, or you can transfer your own domain. The bandwidth allowance is much higher, and an unmetered option is available.
Other features make running the site easier. Email accounts are included (the number of accounts depends on the plan). Detailed statistics on site use are available. And the support staff respond more quickly to paid accounts.
Some e-commerce features are available with all plans, but a paid plan is necessary to run an online store. Start by reading up on the "Store" feature. A store item is just another element to add to a page, but it has a lot of special features. When you create one, you have to specify an item name, description, and price. Adding an image is a good idea too. Sale prices, with the regular price struck through, are supported. Jimdo recommends giving each item its own page.
Payment is through PayPal or Stripe. Only users with a business plan can get credit card processing through Stripe. An add-on is available for more payment options in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Being found by search engines is always important. Jimdo pays attention to search engine optimization. The help pages provide instructions on making a site Google-friendly and setting up the page elements to get the best results. A "Check your site on Google" link lets you see if your site shows up in Google's searches.
Having a blog is a convenient way to provide fresh content on a site and keep readers coming back. When you activate the Blog feature, a new page, not surprisingly called "Blog," appears on your site. It consists of "blog teasers," short excerpts from the posts you create. Additionally, an RSS feed of your blog is automatically created at the same time.
Blog entries are simply pages which the blog knows about. You create them from a template, like normal pages. It would be nice if Jimdo had some templates that were optimized for blog entries; the existing ones are too fancy for the typical blog. Jimdo recommends that once you get a post the way you like it, you copy it as a template for your subsequent posts.
A mobile app is available for editing the site. It lets you do most of what's possible with the web-based site builder. There's even a photo editor which lets you add effects and rotate and crop images. The web-based editor is more powerful and easier to use, but being able to make changes while away from the desktop is a valuable feature.
Owners of paid sites can also use the app to view site statistics.
Jimdo has servers in the United States, Germany, and Japan, but it doesn't have a content delivery network (CDN). If your website is on a server in the USA, load times won't be as good in Europe, and vice versa. No specific information about the server hardware is available. Virtual and dedicated private servers aren't offered. Nor are there any backend programming options.
As already mentioned, Jimdo provides lots of useful instructional material. The support pages are bilingual, in English and German. Unfortunately, the pages aren't one-to-one, and you can't jump between languages. A bilingual user should look at both versions.
Users can submit support tickets if they're stuck on an issue, and they'll get a response by email. Promised response time is considerably faster for customers who buy the higher-end plans. There's no phone or live chat help.
The Jimdo YouTube channel contains a lot of instructional and promotional videos, including ones in English, German, Spanish, French, and Dutch.
Jimdo offers a lot of features to customers who want to build their sites online and not worry about HTML. At the same time, it doesn't limit them to the available templates. Developers can create new templates and add custom HTML. The e-commerce feature is good for basic needs. Blogging is more cumbersome than necessary, though.
The website builder has a somewhat longer learning curve than ones that use a drag-and-drop approach, but it's quite powerful. Being able to edit from the mobile app is an extra benefit for people who aren't always at their desks.
Overall, Jimdo offers a nice package for individuals and organizations who want easy site creation capabilities and basic e-commerce, with options for custom development.
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