Homestead is a Burlington, MA-based web hosting company. They offer WYSIWIG tools that help people build websites and publish them. The company was founded in 1997, at which point it provided free services. Over the years, they have added a wealth of services to their offerings, including ecommerce, SEO tools, paid search ads, and more. Through Homestead, people can build websites full of features, adding content as they see fit. The focus of the company is on small businesses, particularly ecommerce businesses. This includes online business directories, listings, and consultancy services. They have received a number of awards for their websites.

History of Homestead

The company was founded by Thai Bui and Justin S. Kitch in October 1997, when they opened the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Very rapidly, the company became known for its user friendly features, which were highly accessible even to novices. They created SiteBuilder, a proprietary drag and drop platform, which set the standard for may website builders since. Through SiteBuilder, even complete novices with no programming or coding knowledge were enabled to create websites for business, education, or personal use. The target audience, at that time, was nonprofit administrations, small business owners, hobbyists, and retailers. This is something that continues to set the company apart, as most others focus on casual users. In October 1999, just two years since opening its doors. Homestead had 2 million registered members.

In October 2003, the company expanded its offerings. They developed PhotoSite, which is a web hosting and photo sharing service. This was specifically targeted towards amateur digital photographs. However, PhotoSite was sold in 2005 to United Online and is now no longer part of Homestead.

Two years later, in December of 2005, the company was acquired by Intuit, a tax preparation and financial software giant, at a price of $170 million. This enabled Intuit to increase its ability to offer web hosting services. An announcement was made on August 16, 2012 by Intuit, which stated that Burlington, MA company Endurance International Group was planning to purchase Homestead.

Homestead’s Services

Homestead continues to be mainly a website builder. However, they also offer a number of other services, including SEO tools, paid search ads, and online marketing.

Features of Homestead

The features that Homestead offers include:

  1. The website builder, for which no coding experience is needed. The point and click, drag and drop interface enables even complete novices to publish a website.
  2. Photo albums, a remnant of PhotoSite, enabling people to showcase their images
  3. A range of custom menus that can be added, changed, or removed
  4. Facebook integration so visitors can like the website’s Facebook page
  5. Some 1.1 million stock images that people can use. New images are added regularly.
  6. Maps, targeted specifically at small businesses that want to direct visitors to their physical location
  7. Form integration, enabling ecommerce stores to collect their sales leads
  8. Polls, which help to increase overall customer engagement
  9. The ability to include a guest book, so visitors can leave comments about their experiences
  10. The ability to change the colors on templates, thereby creating something that is completely unique

The main feature of Homestead, however, is that it is so easy to use. New website builders can simply choose a template or a blank page, and customize it in any way they see fit. To help people go through the available templates, these have been divided in some 100 different business categories. Each of these templates is complete, having been designed by professionals specific for a certain business niche. That said, people can edit the page, for instance, by changing the text, integrating new images either from the library or from the user’s own stock, and more. These are all included as standard.

Those who sign up also receive a personalized domain and email address. Doing so creates a more professional look and feel to the website and also makes it much easier for customers to find it. Because Homestead has so many registered users, it is possible that the domain name you want is already in use. In that case, they have web experts on call to help make different, memorable suggestions. Those who already have a domain name can transfer it directly to Homestead. Alternatively, traffic from the old domain name can be automatically redirected. The email functionality is also very important, as it increases overall branding.

Homestead also offers a complete marketing suite, which is important for SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. It also helps people get found locally, on pages such as Bing Maps, Yahoo! Local, and Google Maps. This greatly increases visibility among local customers. Furthermore, websites can add forms that enable them to obtain their customers’ details. List building is very important in terms of converting leads to paying customers. It also helps in the creation of newsletters, promotional emails, and more. These can all be done through a third party provider. Lastly, Homestead enables people to add a blog to their site. In so doing, they can become more engaged with their customers, sharing information about special offers, hints and tips, new product launches, and so on.

An important feature of Homestead is that they are there to help you. All of their tools are designed to be completely user friendly, which means few people ever need support. However, despite this, the company has focused strongly on having support available, including through live chat. They also have the Website Community available, where various questions have already been posed, or where you can add new questions. These are all answered by both customers and professional Homestead Web Advisors.

Homestead has set itself apart from the word go, helping people create websites that look professional but are incredibly easy to build. They revolutionized the internet by doing so, and continue to be highly innovative in their offerings. This is despite having been acquired by Intuit and later being sold to Endurance International Group. It seems that the commitment Homestead has made customers from the word go is something that continues to be the company’s golden thread to this day.