Homestead Site-Builder Review: The Godfather of Websites

Homestead’s website claims a whopping 12 million users, making Endurance one of the biggest website hosts out there. The platform has also received numerous positive press reactions since since its launch in 1996. This alone is enough to make us want to try their product.

A closer look revealed one feature in particular that we didn’t expect: Homestead works as both an online and offline website builder. But you can’t actually do anything unless you’re connected to the internet, which cancels out any advantages to this two-tiered approach. We’ll readily admit that we’re not a big fan of installing software too.

Homestead’s web-based tool, Site Builder Light, unfortunately only features a fraction of the tool’s functionality.

See it in action here

Homestead in Detail

Criterion Rating Comment
Ease of use
Web-based editor is very simple but offers only the most basic of features. Locally installed version is a lot more complicated and less intuitive. Does not look like a convincing concept to us.
Choice and flexibility of design (templates)
Templates on offer do look ok - we've seen worse. But template customization is very limited and if you decide to change your template, you lose all your content. (Not a problem we've seen with other site builders we've tested).
Advertisement-free yes Only paid subscriptions available. Find more on Homesteads pricing options here.
Languages
Text editor supports any western European language, but interface available in English only.
Your own domain name (e.g. .com or .net) yes Re-direct or transfer your existing domain; you can also register a domain via Homestead. Help section will show you how this works.
Depth of navigation
There's only the main navigation level, as the templates don't have any sub navigation. This will be a major problem if your website grows larger.
Widgets (small tools to add extra functionality)
Video tool, photo gallery and many other widgets such as a Facebook "like" button included. Also a large image gallery with free photos.
Monetization yes With Google AdSense inserted via a HTML widget, or other banner ads.
E-Commerce
Add a simple Paypal button or upgrade to SimpleStore or Storefront for an additional charge.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Meta tags, meta descriptions and page titles can all be edited. URL is generated from the name of the menu item. W3C Validator finds a high number of HTML errors in the source code though, which is unnecessary.
Blog
Can be added via the blog manager module, which is quite a pain to work with.
Visitor statistics
Use Homestead's built-in RealTracker, or add Google Analytics to each site individually.
Contact form yes Offers quite a few field options.
Password protection not tested
Newsletter tool yes There is a mailing list feature. Not tested.
Add HTML code yes Allows you to add other widgets and tools.
Storage space 25 MB+ The Starter plan offers 25 MB only. The Business plan looks better with 5 GB.
Forum no No forum available.
Support yes Email and phone. Support has been responsive.
Fun Factor
To be honest, working with Homestead was not our idea of fun.
Overall Rating
2/5
This website builder is in desperate need of a complete overhaul to better reflect the era we live in.

Conclusion

When describing Homestead’s site builder, it’s easier to tell you what it isn’t: neither free nor cheap. In fact, it is very expensive compared to its competitors. The USD $4.99 package gets you only 5 single pages with storage up to 25 MB (that’s right, not GB). To be able to use it in a remotely realistic fashion, you’d have to opt for their hugely overpriced Business package at USD $19.99.

The problem is not that Homestead is missing a lot of features. Instead, the underpinning system should probably have been replaced long ago because it seems like more and more features have just been added on top of an old core. Homestead is the dinosaur of website builders and is doomed for extinction, unless it quickly learns to adapt to its new environment.

> Homestead website builder packages

Homestead Example Sites

Alternatives to Homestead

Weebly
See review
Squarespace
See review

Last updated: 10 Jan 2011 | Robert Brandl

Your opinion and user reviews:

 
  • Charlie

    I have used homsead for the past 7 years…

    the website features get worse or disappear, the offline wbsite builder is very unstable and take forever to do a simple task and even then it might crash without saving any thing.

    The customer service is the worst i know..

    For the amount it cost you would think that they could cover the basics, But on the bright side my website did stay at A on Google map and on the first page for at least 5 years so i just put up with it.

    Oh i forgot to say dispite all of the downside they always remember to take payments on time without fail.

    Hope this helps a bit???

    • http://www.tooltester.net/ Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Thank you Charlie, I appreciate your feedback!

  • Sophie

    I’ve use Homestead for 3 years now, I like it. It was fun and easy to create a website. Every time I have an issue trying to design something they are very helpful. It used to be by the phone, but one is by chat. I personally don’t see any problem with that. I think they can improve by having the option of calendar, the reducing the cost of “simpler store” … At least for small businesses.

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Hi Sophie,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with our readers. We agree with you. The total costs with the store addon could be cheaper. If you need a calendar then check out Tockify. You can add this calendar feature to any website.

  • sam

    last year 2013 it http://www.homestead did not work 2-3 times and i did not complain, this year today
    it has not been working for 1 day and 9 hours already. do not ever in your life use this website.

    they are highly, highly, highly unreliable and they have never said sorry for it.

    i am thinking of changing my 2 websites.

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Hi Sam! We’re sorry to hear about that problem. In the past we ran a test (that we’re currently updating). Here you find more reliable solutions in our server availability test.

  • matt

    it has been roughly 1 week my 2 websites are not working at all.
    the e-mail with them is also not working. and you call this company good.

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Hi Matt,
      It looks like that you are not the only one with that problem. I’d recommend you to leave a comment in their homestead forum. Where have you read that we called this company good? We’d gladly change that due to the fact that the Homestead sitebuilder comes in last place on our Top 10 comparison.

  • Carlos Fernandez

    A very accurate and real review. We have used Homestead (H) since 2009. It was not a quick-and-easy-to-use SW, but we eventually got it. It is not intuitive or “smart.” Many, many aspects to take hold (changing font color, posting of links, and other simple changes), it does not support outside links to files you post (like commonly used PDF format!). I could go on, but real web masters repeat that this was LONG OVERDUE for major overhaul. I guess the haul of $$$ they get is too good right now.

    As a single business manager I can’t seem to find the time to create a new site with a new company, so I wrestle. My wife keeps asking me to stop cussing when I work on H, i can’t get her convinced it’s not me. Maybe I should let her make the changes, well, actually she went with another company when I sent the link to H. So I guess she is the smarter….

    Anyway, steer clear and try to get out if you can!

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Hi Calos! Thank you for your honest feedback. If you you want to switch, you find some good alternatives in our overview. Most of them have a free plan like Weebly or Jimdo.

  • Moruti

    Presently Homestead SiteBuilder has a major disaster – impossible to login. The problem is already several days old. Very dishonest help chat fooling customers and hiding the real problem. Very unprofessional treatment of customers – even those very loyal to them for a very long time.

    • Josep Garcia

      Hi Maruti, I am so sorry to hear about your problems with Homestead SiteBuilder. I hope they get fixed soon. If you’d like to change you can have a look at our overview page. Most website builders have free accounts to try them out before purchasing any plan.

  • Frustrated

    RUN AWAY!!!! I have been with Homestead for over 10 years. I have over 200 websites with Homestead. Each year it gets worse and worse. This morning I encountered text magically appearing on my websites. Yesteday I spent over 7 hours repairing just ONE website. I’ve got hundreds of hours of work to do to fix these problems, and all at super slow Homestead speeds since their servers are being “updated” for the past month. I’ve been on the phone with tech support for 15 hours over the past 3 weeks, enduring lies, false promises, and frustration. I think Homestead is doomed to oblivion if they don’t get these problems fixed very very soon. Many people can’t even log into their accounts. I wish there was a rating I could give under 1 star!

    • Phil

      Hi There i to have been using Homestead for over 10 years and have dozens of sites on there. I am tired of spending hours fixing what Homestead continuously break. The frustration is beyond belief and its been going on for years. The whole thing is a dinosaur of epic proportions and like yourself i’m stuck unless i want to rebuild the sites elsewhere which will take forever. Their customer service has deteriotated since being sold to intuit, that was the death sentence for what started as a great tool. The online sitebuilder is a joke compared to the original downloaded sitebuilder. I would say to anyone who is considering homestead don’t, do not get caught up like the rest of the long time existing customers, steer well clear

    • Josep Garcia

      Hi guys, I am sorry to hear you are having issues with this builder :( If you are considering alternatives, you could have a look to our comparison here: http://www.websitetooltester.com/es/programas-para-crear-paginas-web/

  • Guest

    I was with Homestead for a several years and in the beginning when they were tied to Intuit, things were working great, but over the past year things have slowed down greatly since they parted ways. Homestead keeps saying that it is a migration issue, then it is a server issue, then it is this, then it is that, and the list goes on. I don’t frankly think they know what the problem is or how to fix it. Once I started losing customers of my own because of their ineptness, I pulled the plug and went to Weebly and got all the domains through

  • Peter Morrison

    I was with Homestead for several years and built many websites for several clients during that time. Homestead was not a bad place when they were partnered with Intuit. However, those ties got severed about a year ago and things have gone down hill since. Homestead has blamed their issues on server issues, network problems, source code problems, software problems, this problem, that problem, and this list goes on. It is one miserable failed attempt after another to keep people calm while they claim to be fixing things while they claim to be migrating their servers and network. Bologna. It does not take three months to move a network and servers, it takes a weekend at most if the company knows what they are doing as Homestead has proven they have no clue. Countless client websites are up and then down and all they can say is they are sorry for the inconvenience. People are losing hundreds and sometimes thousands in sales per day and the worse part is that this all took place during Christmas time. Not smart on the part of Homestead. After losing two of my own clients and not wanting to lose more, I too jumped ship and took my domains to NameSilo Domains and took the websites to Weebly and built them all from scratch. While it took some time to get this all done, it is not anything I would want to go through again. I have also learned that they are sistered with Entourage Technologies and their ratings are even lower than Homestead’s. They also have less then 10 employees if what I read is correct. In further research it says that Homestead has 116 employees as of June 2014. I find that hard to believe. If they did, then maybe things would be fixed by now. But who knows, maybe a lot of them have been released or have left by now because of everything going on. When you try to reach them by Chat or by Phone there is nobody there online or on there 800 number, but I did find a local number for the first time. I will be sharing that at a later time in their forum and see where that gets them.

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Hi Peter! Thank you for sharing this information. Just in case you have a problem with Weebly, let us know. We’re happy to help you. Here you find more information about Weebly.

      • Peter Morrison

        I have managed to get all my clients up and running. There were a few glitches at first, but that comes with anything new when you switch over to somebody new. Many of my clients are actually much happier with Weebly and many things work the same as Homestead, but there are other features that work way better.

  • disgruntled

    Homestead has worked fine for years, but over the past months they have been “moving” to new servers and are using other excuses for why the site is dysfunctional. I can no longer update my site (that I am paying good money for), and have had to build a temporary site on a silly blog just so I can keep customers updated. All phone lines are busy at Homestead.

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      Hey! Unfortunately, you’re not the only one. Peter, from the comment before, had more or less the same problems and he finally switched to Weebly. If things aren’t getting better, I’d recommend you to give it a try. There’s a free plan also.

  • hamishdad

    I’ve been a Homestead customer for over 10 years, but they banned me from their Community Forum for mentioning that there are free e-commerce solutions that work with their Sitebuilder program. Apparently, the only e-commerce solution they want you to know about is their SimpleStore, which costs an additional $14.99 month!

    • http://WebsiteToolTester.com/ Armin

      We haven’t tested their SimpleStore product so we can only hope that it is better than their standard editor. Fortnuately, there are many great solutions available. Our eCommerce overview provides more details.

      • hamishdad

        That’s awesome, thank you!