Virb: Simple Yet Powerful Website Creation

I can remember back to the days when web design was an extremely technical subject — a skill limited to those with an advanced knowledge of HTML, Javascript, CSS, Flash and all of the other technologies that currently make up the Internet we know of today. But nowadays, thanks to some pretty clever programmers, anyone can create a web page with no prior technical knowledge required — apart from the fact you need to know how to use a mouse and a keyboard.

There are countless of these kinds of programs, from Squarespace to Webflow but today, I’m going to be looking at Virb, a service we first wrote about back in 2010. Since then, an awful lot has changed (we did look at it nearly 3 years ago!) so without further ado, let’s dive straight in and see what Virb has to offer.

First Thoughts

Getting set up with Virb is really easy — all you have to provide is a bit of personal information and the name of your site. I grabbed the name theawesomesite.virb.com (which wasn’t taken, surprisingly!) and was redirected to the dashboard view, which allows you to administer everything related to your site.

The Dashboard view of Virb.

The Dashboard view of Virb.

The first thing that struck me about Virb was how simplistic the interface was — which nowadays is like a breath of fresh air. The most popular commands, such as adding a new page or section, choosing a theme for your website and customising your site’s design are accessible in a couple of clicks, and didn’t require me to hunt through endless menus or how-to guides to find the option I was looking for.

Virb gives you suggestions for pages depending on what type of website you're creating.

Virb gives you suggestions for pages depending on what type of website you’re creating.

When you sign up to Virb, you are asked which kind of website you are going to create. This isn’t for statistical purposes; the service actually tailors the pages to the kind of website you’re creating. I selected the Personal website option and as a consequence, when I wanted to add a new page to my site, Virb showed me page suggestions for personal websites, as you can see in the screenshot above.

Personally, I felt that this was a really interesting aspect to Virb, because it really shows the consumer-orientated focus of the service. Sure, you won’t be creating amazingly powerful websites with it, but having a few page suggestions means you can knock together a website without too much planning or, more importantly, technical knowledge.

Widgets

Widgets are, in my opinion, a really nice addition to any website and the good news is that creating them with Virb is a piece of cake. There’s no complicated code to learn — all you have to do is click on the widget you’d like and it’ll set it all up for you.

Almost every single major social network is integrated into Virb.

Almost every single major social network is integrated into Virb.

An impressive feature is the level of social media integration baked into Virb. Here, you’ve got your standard offering of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and so on, along with Bandcamp (which I’d never heard of before), Dribbble (if you’re creating a website about your designs), Rdio and more. All in all, 23 social media services are supported, and I really admired the setup process — simply connect to the social network of your choice and Virb will do the rest. It’s really that easy.

Designing Your Page

Designing a page in Virb is, as I’d expect from a service aimed towards beginners, extremely straight-forward. Like I mentioned above, Virb suggests pages to you based on the type of website you’re creating and the good news is that there isn’t a single ounce of code in sight. Everything you need to customise your page to how you want it is quick and simple to use — a real plus.

What really struck me about the Designer view of Virb was the reluctance of the developers to clutter up the page with unnecessary features. AppStorm, for example, uses WordPress as its CMS — which is fantastic when it works properly — but even in the Editor view I find myself a little overwhelmed by all the unnecessary features. Even after using WordPress for over 3 years now, I still find myself having to Google certain features — mostly because I can’t find them.

Editing your page. Note the lack of code.

Editing your page. Note the lack of code.

The quick settings that run along the right-hand side of the screen are a real lifesaver. Here you can easily add sharing options (we mentioned widgets and Virb’s integration with all those different social networks earlier) to each page and, to my joy, there’s SEO (search engine optimisation) built in. For each page, you can give it a quick description — up to 150 characters — along with any keywords, plus you can easily select whether or not that particular page should appear in your site’s search engine index.

Virb isn’t just designed with simplicity, but also functionality, in mind. Unfortunately, nowadays, some designers and developers feel that the word “simplistic” gives them the perfect excuse to skimp on features. Au contraire, I hear the developers of Virb exclaim. I’ve got to admit these guys are a skilled bunch: they’ve got the balance between rich, useful features and a clean, light interface just right.

Themes and Settings

Virb comes with 20 professionally-designed themes built right into the service, which will lend your website a touch of class no matter what its purpose is. I’ve found that similar services often bake childish themes right into their product for free, with the more polished themes coming at an extra cost — but Virb includes them all for free.

"Apollo" — one of the professionally-designed themes within Virb.

“Apollo” — one of the professionally-designed themes within Virb.

The Settings section of Virb allows you to customise virtually every single aspect of your site, from its title to a custom domain (which costs no extra, unlike similar services). If you purchase a domain from Media Temple (the company that owns Virb) then it’ll automatically be set up with your Virb site. It’s also probably worth mentioning here that Virb also supports Google Analytics, so you can integrate the two really easily (all you have to do is log in to your Google account via Virb).

Final Thoughts

Virb is one of the most impressive online website designers I’ve ever seen, as every single part of the service reeks (in a good way, of course!) of thought, care and attention. I applauded the simplicity of the service and the fact that almost anyone can use it to create a simple, professional-looking website with very little effort required — all you have to do, really, is provide some interesting content for your website.

Compared to similar services, Virb is actually priced very reasonably. The standard plan will set you back $10 monthly but that’s everything included — unlimited storage space for all your files, custom domains, all those themes I mentioned earlier, analytics and so on. There’s no add-ons and no lengthy contracts — you get everything included for one price and you can pay monthly. There’s also a 10-day free trial so you can play around with the app’s features before committing to buying.

Virb therefore earns an extremely commendable 9 out of 10 score for its ease of use, its well-stocked cupboard of goodies and its clean interface. Sure, you aren’t going to be able to do everything with Virb but this isn’t what it’s designed for. If you’re looking to knock together a quick website with very little effort, yet still have those customisation possibilities available to you, then Virb is the perfect option for any budding website designer.


Summary

A fully-featured yet simple online website designer, allowing you to create a variety of websites.

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