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As the first maker of a website builder, Wix released their HTML5 editor by the end of March. Over the Easter holidays we finally took the time to experiment with this new powerful tool. Here’s what we think of it.

Flash versus HTML5

HTML 5 LogoThe fact that one of the largest website builder makers creates a new editor with a completely different technology from scratch tells us a lot already. Ever since Apple refused to allow Flash on its mobile devices, the glorious days of this technology seemed to be over. Even more so when Adobe announced last year that it stops the development of mobile browser flash altogether.

Understandably, Wix needed to find a Flash alternative rather quickly. They do state that their Flash builder will also be fully supported and developed in the future, but our guess would be that they will not put too much energy into Flash in the long run. What’s more, Google says in this recent webmaster video that Flash should at best be a “decorative element” on websites.

What benefits does the new Wix HTML5 editor offer?

Flash websites are usually not the fastest ones to load, which can lead to high bounce rates and a poor user experience. That’s where HTML5 comes to the rescue: loading times are not only faster but it also runs on smartphones and tablet devices.

For full compatibility your visitors will have to be able to use one of the newer web browsers. You can check out how well your browser does by visiting www.html5test.com. In our tests via browsershots.org Internet Explorer 6 and 7 didn’t show anything of our Wix website while it seemed to be working with IE 8.

Wix HTML5 websites and SEO (search engine optimization)

Looking at the source code of our test website can be quite confusing if you are not used to HTML5 markup (just like me). While researching this article I tried SEO forums to ask whether this source code is search-engine friendly. Most people would just say it’s terrible and don’t even bother using a tool like Wix.

wix demo site
I couldn’t believe it was that bad, so I asked Erik Moberg, a web developer friend of mine, for his opinion. Here’s more or less what he said:

This is a bit technical; you can find the short version below.

Wix is using the “single page pattern” meaning that the complete website code is essentially on one page. This works well for website visitors but not necessarily for Google as contents will be shown dynamically using Javascript and DOM manipulation.

To solve this, Google supports something called ‘escaped fragments’ (or ugly URLs). With regards to Wix, it means that URLs will end like this: “#!wixseo|cqh1”. Google replaces the “#!” by “?_escaped_fragment_=” and receives only a minimal text-only page without Javascript. And this works well for Google.

Try it here:
http://www.html5-websitebuilder.com/?_escaped_fragment_=cqh1

The official page ID is “cqh1” and not “wixseo”. But as the URL contains both IDs, the visitor can even see a description that’s readable by humans (and that’s important for SEO). You may have seen URLs containing “#!” already if you are a Twitter user.

In short: the source code does look complicated but should be totally fine in Google’s eyes. Your visitors can now also link directly and effortlessly to any page they want (deep linking).

What’s more is that Wix now allows page titles and meta keywords for each individual page, which is a big step forward compared to the Flash version. (Although right now the title is not being shown correctly – but Wix says it will be resolved shortly).

Also, it supports heading tags (H1-H4) and alternative texts for images. So from a SEO standpoint the Wix website builder seems pretty good to us.

Conclusion

The new editor is still labeled beta and sometimes it also behaves like it (e.g. we had formatting issues with the text editor, trouble when moving elements around, etc.). But all in all it looks promising to us. As soon as it’s running smoother, and maybe also has some important features like blogging and HTML code injection added, we’ll update our detailed Wix review.

Update April 23 2012: Wix pointed out that it is already possible to add external widgets via HTML code. We’re sorry to have missed that! You can find this option under “Add ons”.

Update October 4 2012: Please note that Wix’ HTML5-Websites will not work in Internet Explorer 8 or earlier versions. Approx. 10% of all web users are still using these legacy versions (Source). That’s a major disadvantage of their HTML5 templates!

To build a HTML5 website yourself, simply sign up for a free account and choose one of their HTML5 templates.

Image credit: W3C

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