It seems that every week a new content management system (CMS) or blogging platform makes its debut, despite the fact that there's little to differentiate them. You pay a small fee (or nothing at all if you don't mind ads being placed on your site) and they take care of your site's design, installation and hosting. Terapad is continuing the trend, allowing both newcomers and seasoned web developers to get an attractive site live in a matter of minutes. Only Terapad is different — very different.
Fully-featured WYSIWYG editing, CSS control and layout control gives full control of how your blog/site looks. One-click integration of other features like a forum, static web page, events calendar, image gallery, job board, as well as PayPal-enabled shopping basket — these distance Terapad from its competitors. The software also offers more than a dozen third-party plug-ins (including Flickr, Feedburner and Google Analytics) which integrate into your site with just a few clicks. True, these kinds of features are available on WordPress, for example, but they’re much harder to implement.
Setting up a site is simple and you can be online in less than five minutes (it's the tweaking that takes the time). The uncluttered and intuitive interface lets you choose a URL for your new site, such as 'http://smallbusiness.terapad.com' (you can point to your own URL later), pick a template and then go live. There really is no need to have any technical knowledge at this point because although all the latest buzzword technologies are present, you’ll be hard pressed to find any confusing jargon.
Setting up a basic site costs nothing. You can start with a free site, with all features enabled, forever. Terapad doesn’t ask you for a credit card and there's no 'trial period'. Those wishing to upgrade to Standard (no ads) or Pro (no ads, no branding and SLA) versions of Terapad can do so after signing up at any time. Moving up to Standard costs $14.15 per month (storage is also doubled to 4GB and monthly bandwidth to 40GB/month), whereas Pro is $49.15 per month (storage and bandwidth stays the same as Standard).
The Pro version reviewed here doesn’t display branding, and comes free of any ads. Without Terapad’s logo, your site can convey a professional image usually found only on expensive bespoke solutions, yet still cost just a fraction of the hosting fees such a solution would usually entail. The company has also added a Service Level Agreement (SLA) exclusive to Pro users, the details of which are listed in the terms and conditions. Of the Terapad options, Pro is definitely the preferred solution for small businesses and trade bodies. You can upgrade to this solution at any time via the Upgrade tab in the web-based control panel.
You can also purchase extra bandwidth and storage via the Upgrade tab. While both Terapad Standard and Pro already come bundled with an already impressive 40GB of bandwidth per month and 4GB of storage space, the new billing system allows you to purchase even further resources should the need arise. Even better, the company is charging these at near cost-price and passing on the savings (or so it claims). We also liked the new Contact Us module, which provides a contact form complete with built-in anti-spam system. Note: SiteJourney is the only CMS provider that doesn’t require an annoying CAPTCHA for the comment or contact form anti-spam system to function, demonstrating its commitment to accessibility standards.
Existing users will have noticed that SiteJourney recently updated Terapad to version 2.3. As usual, because Terapad is a hosted application, there's nothing for the end-user to do to start using this new version — it’s already been integrated on your site. One new feature allows you to reorder your sidebar containers without having to meddle with the style sheet. You can now also rename or delete any container and are free to add as many 'custom' containers as you wish. Terapad has also thrown in new container type called Latest News that displays the last three news items from your news feed. If you were making use of the 'blogroll' feature this has now been integrated as part of the container manager and is now called 'Site Links container'. Terapad has also doubled the list of supported ping aggregators for the News module.
You can now set your homepage to any module present on your site. For example, your homepage could be the contact page or the shop module. This brings decent flexibility on how to structure your site. If you wish to operate your site as a blog, for example, simply set your news page to be the homepage and select the 'display as blog' option under the news settings. Other small-yet-useful changes include the possibility to create site editors with all rights assigned by default, a single interface to set the number of items displayed per page on your control panel, an updated FAQ and instruction on how to use your own domain name, and improved account security that now features a timeout lock and displays a countdown based on the number of incorrect login attempts.
Let’s not get carried away, though. Many CMSs have been around for years now and still aren’t in a position to take over the development/design world. And while sites/services like Terapad are brilliant for customers who are not too bothered about a unique look and feel, they will never remove the need for quality web developers. Some companies will always need customised web sites with their own style and functionality. But with extra benefits like SEO tools already embedded and traffic coming from community pages, hosted solutions are the perfect way to get your small business online and noticed quickly — and cheaply. Web developers and agencies should be further interested in Terapad’s reseller product, which allows you to sell the Pro product to customers and put your logo on the web-based control panel for your clients to see.