1&1 is a web hosting provider based out of Montabaur, Germany. While it couldn’t quite make the cut in our best web hosting guide, the company has still been at it for quite awhile, founded back in 1988.
Recently, it’s updated the roster of services to include a website builder. While severely lacking in ease of use, the builder combines some of the best website builders on the market under one roof. It has a slew of options and features as well.
Over the course of this 1&1 website builder review, we’ll talk about what this builder gets right and where it struggles. Overall, it’s a surprisingly dense service, one that struggles to keep up, though, because of an overzealous interface.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Lots of features
- Wide range of tools
- No free plan
- Difficult to use
- Lackluster support
Alternatives for 1&1 Web Builder
Despite the humble looks and price of 1&1’s website builder, there are a surprising amount of features. 1&1 includes a lot of extra goodies with each plan and, while you won’t take advantage of most, the effort is certainly there. A few practical features set 1&1 apart, but if you’re in the camp that needs a few of the niche apps, you’ll certainly find them here.
The practical features start with responsive themes. While the theme selection itself isn’t great, all themes are fit to adjust automatically on mobile devices. Moving forward, this is extremely helpful for a website’s SEO, as search engines are now factoring responsive sites into search rankings.
On top of that, 1&1 includes full backup and restore for you site. The tool works automatically in the background, backing up your site each time you publish changes. You can restore all backups within the settings menu without overwriting blog posts or ecommerce settings. Blogs have their own separate backup area.
1&1 advertises web apps for the builder and, while that’s true, there is no app center. Instead, some of the widgets integrate third-party services with the builder. For instance, you can add a PayPal donate button or Yelp review section anywhere a widget is supported. It makes up for a lot of the ground lost by the app center.
For those paying the premium for a Plus plan, there are a few extra features. The most noteworthy are pop-ups, customizable landing windows for your site. You can create your own rules, such as a returning visitor or someone about to exit the page, and display any window like a newsletter sign-up or coupon.
On top of that, 1&1 includes SSL security and brute force protection for DDoS attacks. This website builder struggles in a lot of areas, but this isn’t one of them. You have plenty of features at your disposal, with a few extra tools if you want to upgrade to a premium plan. The lack of an app center is disappointing, but the few included third-party tools easily make up for the delta there.
1&1 has pretty good pricing upon purchase with renewal costs higher than most website builders. As is tradition it seems for this web host built web builders, the pricing is good, but the rest of the service isn’t. You can get in cheap at 1&1 with a competent builder, but the area still feels tacked on to 1&1’s other services.
Personal plans are more expensive upon starting up, but cheaper upon renewal. Even so, this rate makes absolutely no sense for the majority of users. You simply have access to the builder and nothing else, not even themes. You’ll have to purchase your own domain as well, so we’d recommend avoiding this plan altogether.
Basic makes much more sense. The introductory rate is cheaper than just about any website builder out there, but the renewal costs means you’ll pay more down the line. A similar plan at Webnode (read our Webnode review) comes in at $5.95 starting out, but stays that way, making 1&1’s $9.99 renewal rate seem a bit high.
As with many website builders, though, most users won’t land on either of those plans. Instead a Plus plan makes the most sense. The only difference here is the addition of newsletter and SEO options, but those come at a hefty premium. While the base rate is cheaper than an Unlimited plan Wix (read our Wix review), the renewal rate comes at nearly twice the cost.
The final tier adds a Hamilton to the startup and renewal cost and adds RankingCoach Pro. This tool is an all-in-one SEO front for monitoring competitors, keywords and more for your website. It’s a nice addition, but nothing that a little leg work and Mozy can’t save you some money for.
The real drawback of 1&1 as a website builder is the lack of any free plan. Many web hosts have thrown a website builder onto its services, and 1&1 fits in that bandwagon with only paid plans. Nearly all dedicated website builders offer some sort of free option, and the lack of one here makes the service far less attractive.
If 1&1 is already your web host of choice, then perhaps the pricing makes sense. You get a few features like SEO and RankingCoach if you’re willing to flip the bill, but not much outside of that. Instead, most will feel an underpowered plan that’s still competent, but far too expensive for the website builder market.
1&1’s Ecommerce Plan
If you’re focused on the selling end, 1&1 has a dedicated ecommerce builder as well. The overall look is the same, but the extra features really justify the $9.99 price tag. You have full integration with eBay, Amazon and Google Shopping, with syncing across all platforms. Additionally, you have apps like SendCloud for managing your shipments.
The theme selection of ecommerce plans is mediocre, though, so don’t expect as nice of a look. Even so, it’s difficult to have so many features under such a low price tag. If you want to sell online without spending too much, we’d definitely recommend these plans.
Design & Tools
The editor at 1&1 is one of the most dense we’ve reviewed. It combines elements of Webnode, SquareSpace and Weebly (be sure to check out our SquareSpace review and Weebly review) under one roof, presenting a boatload of power. We’ll talk more about how that impacts the useability in the next section, but for now, you need to know that the builder is quite powerful.
The theme selection is not, however. 1&1 manages a wide selection, but all the looks feel a bit off. The stock fonts look cheesy, and the plain, two to three color designs don’t feel like they’re taking full advantage of the builder. The themes aren’t ideal starting points in your overall look, but should provide you enough basis to build out your site.
Thankfully, you have the power to dismantle the themes completely. 1&1 breaks up its editor into sections and content. Sections handle the build out of the overall page. You stack different sections on top of each to other to move down as a user scrolls.
Content, or in this case widgets, are what make up those sections. It can be anything from a simple text box or image to testimonials and TripAdvisor integration. There a ton of options for widgets on your page, catering to most businesses looking to build a site.
Outside of that, you’ll mainly deal in the pages and settings areas. Pages has a normal page hierarchy, with different templates such as a landing page or restaurant menu. Premium plans will also see a popups section here. These special screens display circumstantial offers such as a coupon. You can build out rules such as a first-time visitor for pop ups in the personalize tab.
The settings tab has a surprising amount of options. You’ll have the standard fare such as your favicon and home screen image, but also have more advanced options. This area is where you can set and configure your backups, edit the header HTML, set URL redirects, manage SEO and even customize your 404 page.
Few other website builder have this wide of a range, with custom CSS and HTML for nearly any aspect of your site, and tools for spacing and animations for nearly any element. However, there are some issues with the layout of the builder.
We’ll touch mainly on those in the next section. We did, however, want to point out one thing about the builder now. The way in which you add and manage a blog doesn’t make much sense. Instead of adding a new page, you have a dedicated tab for blogging, one fit with options for managing your posts, editing the look of the blog and adding new posts.
While we can certainly appreciate the support and options for blogging, the tools are too scattered. For instance, you must create a post, publish and then go back to the blog menu to edit the post design. Furthermore, the editor will take up the entire screen, forcing you to backtrack through your site to get back to designing. It’s not an ideal implementation and, while it works, still presents plenty of frustration during the process.
1&1 has a fully featured builder, one that presents so many options without regard for the consequences that may have. For this section, that means a builder that gives you all the tools you need for building your site, despite the erratic placement and layout of them. For full control, 1&1 isn’t your only option, but it’s certainly up there.
Ease of Use
1&1 has quite the complex editor, one that’s ripe with options, but difficult to navigate. Even on high-end hardware, the interface lags behind, disconnecting your workflow entirely. While we can certainly praise 1&1 for its design options in the previous section, here, we must point out the consequences that come from it.
There are a few concepts that are fairly easy to grasp in the editor. As will Webnode your website is split into content and sections. Sections are straightforward. Simply mouse over the plus icon in between two existing sections and click to add a new one. Content, on the other hand, has a few issues.
Unlike Webnode, 1&1 calls these widgets. You can access the menu from the left-side toolbar, which presents a grid of all the widgets available. Drag your widget from the menu onto the webpage and you’re all set to go.
As it stands 1&1 seems fairly straightforward. However, after a bit of design, the massive amount of widgets become easily overwhelming. Each has its own pop-up menu with options for spacing, styling and more, but no base functions like deleting or duplicating. There is such a high density of options that it can easily become crippling, even for those fairly proficient in tech.
For such bland webpages, the designs are so involved, and 1&1 presents you with the options to change absolutely everything. The unfortunate part of that is the option paralysis that results. As mentioned above, 1&1 is like a combination of many different website builders, resulting in an overcrowded interface that doesn’t take into account those who may not understand all areas of website design.
You can certainly get your footing in the interface, and you’ll be paid off for it. However, it simply doesn’t stack up well when compared to other builders that present the same level of power without delving into an overabundance of options.
Before moving on, we would like to point out a particular issue we encountered during this review. On Windows 10 with Google Chrome, 1&1’s website is completely unresponsive, including the homepage. It briefly loads, stalls and eventually crashes the entire browser.
We tested it with different operating systems and browsers and everything worked fine. Seeing how Windows is the most popular OS and Chrome is the most popular browser, though, it’s still something we should note.
1&1 IONOS is among the few hosts that seem to care about user privacy. It fits in the same category as DreamHost, offering free domain privacy and clear terms for how your data is handled (read our DreamHost review). When it comes to privacy, it’s a far cry from the shady practices of Endurance International Group (read our HostGator review to see them in action).
The most important part is free domain privacy. When you register a domain, you’re required to put your information on record. That information is available online, meaning anyone who wants to can find your name, address, phone number, email and more.
Domain privacy replaces your personal information with information from the registrar, so, for example, the record would show “1&1 IONOS” as the name instead of yours. Few web hosts include domain privacy for free, and the fact that 1&1 IONOS does speaks volumes.
It seems like 1&1 IONOS is trying to remind you of your privacy at every turn. In your account dashboard, there’s a section dedicated to data protection and privacy that shows what you’re consenting to by using the service and information about the General Data Protection Regulation.
Privacy isn’t talked about much when it comes to web hosting, and that means large web hosting companies have been able to take advantage of their users. Companies such as DreamHost are changing that, and we’re happy to see 1&1 IONOS join the charge.
1&1 has a fairly basic array of support. The help center focuses mainly on web hosting questions with a few articles based around the website builder, and a support number is available 24/7. Even so, the support struggles with lengthy wait times and articles that don’t do much in the way of answering your questions.
Rather, the support center is far more focused on the web hosting end of things. There are a few basic articles revolving around using the website builder, but these fall more in the category of tutorials and less in the category of support. Still, the guides are fairly easy to follow should you have any questions.
However, most of your questions will probably be answered in the editor itself. Nearly every tool has a help icon that will explain what it does. If you’re new to website builders, then this will certainly come in handy. Even so, it doesn’t support much of anything, rather just explains it.
That’s the largest weaknesses we’ve seen in most website builders. There are no troubleshooting guides at 1&1 or most website builders with the exception of Strikingly (read our Strikingly review). While troubleshooting isn’t something you’ll need to do often at any website builder, it can certainly help in the few cases it applies to.
Outside of that, you’ll need to contact support. The main form is a 24/7 hotline that’s pretty helpful. In the middle of the night, the agents are decent, but still competent enough, and during the day, everything runs smoothly.
That is if you can get ahold of them. During this review, we called 1&1 to try out the support hotline. The call didn’t connect three times and, suddenly, it worked. The same number was used every time, so we not too sure why the call wasn’t connecting the first time.
1&1 also offers live chat, but only occasionally. Sometimes the chat icon pops up on the site and sometimes it doesn’t. During this review, despite trying quite a few times, we were never able to open a live chat while an agent was online. That said, we’d have to stretch a bit to claim live chat is available ever.
As with many sections in this review, we must point out a particular problem here as well. 1&1 provides you with three numbers when you sign up. You’ll see a contact ID, customer ID and support pin. All three must be saved as you’ll need them in order to contact support, reset your password or even login.
It has to be one of the more obnoxious forms of security. There’s no 2FA or anything of the sort. Instead, you’ll be left with a simple line of numbers that must be entered to access any area of the service. Your email address, which should work, will not.
1&1’s rebranding and redesign did wonders for the service. Instead of the clunky mess it was before, IONOS feels like one of the top contenders, offering inexpensive, full-featured hosting that’s fast. Support could use work, but everything else about the service is excellent.
Even so, it’s missing VPS hosting and our Load Impact results were less than desirable.
What do you think of 1&1 IONOS? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.