Website-creation tool Doodlekit is over a year old but has somehow managed to fly under the radar, even after releasing its free version this past October.
Several similar services are out there: Weebly, Synthasite, Jimdo, Google Pages, SiteKreator, and Sampa to name a few. They all intend to make it possible for non-techies to make modestly attractive and functional websites without touching a line of code.
Doodlekit succeeds in this respect, but it goes even further by providing a suite of advanced features, all of which can be set up with a few clicks of the button: forums, customizable forms, shopping carts, advertising, user accounts and profiles, restricted areas for approved members, file uploading, full site search, RSS feeds, photo albums, blogs, basic site statistics, and domain mapping. Some of these features are available for free, but many will require that you pay $15 or more per month. See this pricing sheet for how the service packages break down.
All in all, it’s nice to see a website creation tool that appreciates the fact that many low-level users won’t be satisfied with flat pages anymore. They want to collect data from their users, support small online communities, publish rich media, etc. Doodlekit is moving in the right direction while others (with the possible exception of SiteKreator) continue to provide a fairly limited range of dynamic content possibilities.
As the WYSIWYG market develops, I’d like to see companies like Doodlekit leverage easy database creation/management tools like upcoming Blist. Then, a wider range of people will be able to collect, manage, and publish their organizational data online without needing to rely on web developers. As for more short-term improvements to Doodlekit, it would be nice to see an even better WYSIWYG HTML editor (I have yet to find any online that doesn’t end up frustrating the hell out of me). They could also take some tips from Weebly and implement drag-n-drop editing functionality, which I find more intuitive and satisfying than clicking through several pages to make changes.
Suggestions and long-term visions aside, Doodlekit strikes me as a solid offering in its current incarnation. The company says it has reached 1,700 hosted sites since starting to offer a free version six weeks ago. I expect that number to increase substantially as the word gets out.