B12 is an up-and-coming player in the website-builder space. Their unique platform leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to build professional websites in just 60 seconds, and they’re already trusted by over 100,000 small business customers in the US and Canada.
In addition to their speedy turnaround time, B12 sets itself apart with its New York-based support team that is able to assist with everything from customer onboarding to ongoing content optimization. B12 offers a level of service that is more typical of what would be provided by an agency – not a website builder service.
If you are looking for a website builder for your small business that uses the latest technology to build your website and continue to improve it over time, you should consider B12. But is their use of AI the real deal or just another marketing gimmick? We put their platform to the test to find out.
Getting Started with B12
Getting started with B12 begins with filling out a quick form that captures your name, business info, and social media account names. It starts to set itself apart when it asks more qualitative questions such as which words you’d use to describe the personality of your brand or website, or which type of website would best suit your particular need (single-page or multi-page).
The following questions are asked by B12 in order to create your custom site:
- What’s your email address?
- Do you have a website? B12 will collect relevant text, images and video from your old website and implement it into your new one.
- What’s your business name?
- Where is your business located?
- Select the most appropriate category for your website. Your selection helps B12 curate a relevant collection of content and images for your new site. Categories include Arts and Entertainment, Business Services, Community, Food and Restaurant, Personal Website, Technology and Startups and more.
- Are these your social media accounts? B12 scans the internet to find your social media profiles, or you can add them manually.
- Select at least 2 words that describe the personality of your brand or website. This helps B12 define your website’s design, including fonts, colors and images. There are over 20 adjectives to choose from. We selected ‘luxurious’ and ‘imaginative’.
- Choose a website structure. Select from a single-page or multi-page website setup. You can also let B12 decide.
Those questions help B12’s AI not only learn who you are, they help it learn how it should design – in just 60 seconds – your free AI website draft.
Once you’ve gone through the sign-up process, you’ll be presented with your free AI draft in B12’s online editor, which they refer to as the Design Suite. This is where you’ll manage and edit all aspects of your website, from design to the domain name. As with any other website builder, you’re always working with a live preview, and so it’s important to remember to save and publish your changes whenever you want them to be deployed to the world.
While most website builders lead with themes, B12 instead leads with the business information, keeping the theme as the next step. B12 lets content lead the design process, because, no matter how attractive a website may be, nobody will be able to find it without relevant content and strong SEO.
So what do B12 websites look like then? Well, generally, fairly similar. And we were able to notice that themes do in fact exist after poking around a bit on the platform. Our eventual count was 11, but after immediately launching our new website, we were presented with 6 different options.
Once you’ve completed the signup form and you’re presented with your free AI draft, you’re in B12’s editor, which, in B12 lingo, is called the Design Suite. This interface is very much a drag-and-drop style, with the emphasis on visual editing over code-based changes, and is easy to work with right from the very start.
After confirming your website’s theme, you will be presented with a few extra steps to finalize the design of your site. These include:
- Choose another header image (select from the options presented or upload your own image)
- Choose different site colors
- Choose a different font combination
B12 also asks you to define goals for your website, such as ‘advertise my business’, ‘sell products or services’ and ‘publish content’, just to name a few. You can also input other websites which you would like B12 to use as inspiration, add integrations and decide on the types of content B12 should add to your website. At this stage, you can input your contact information and one of B12’s design consultants will follow up to confirm your new website’s design.
Your website, which you’ll always see as a live preview, will take up the bulk of the screen, and you’ll find two navigation menus on the left and top of the screen, with the left being the one you’ll use most of the time. Everything on that left menu is very neatly broken out into sections, with your pages on the top, your website’s functions in the middle, and then business features on the bottom.
To edit any section of your website, simply click the area, image, object, or text that needs editing, and the left menu will change to reveal the fields you can adjust. Then, when you’re done and ready to publish your content, click the blue “Publish” button on the top right. You’d also be wise to click “Preview” next to that to give one final check before setting your content loose for the world to see.
You can integrate a number of 3rd party apps with your B12 website, including:
- WordPress blog
Bookings is B12’s tool that allows service-based businesses to take appointments and meetings straight from their site. And, best of all, it’s a free feature for all paying users. But if B12 Bookings isn’t your thing, you also have the option to seamlessly integrate with Calendly as well.
B12 Email Marketing is a service that is available to all paying customers for a flat rate of $45 per month. It offers all the features you’d expect of any of the major email marketing tools, without the limits. As there are no restrictions on how many emails you can send or to how many people, B12 email marketing tool really is good value.
For an additional fee of $75 per hour, B12’s copywriters can do anything from small copy tweaks to monthly blog posts, all in the spirit of keeping your site’s content fresh and improving your SEO.
Custom CSS and HTML
Unlike many other website builders on the market today, B12 allows for the code of your site to be fully adjustable, catering to the needs of both advanced web developers, as well as those just getting started.
B12 offers a proprietary blogging solution as well as support for popular third-party platforms such as WordPress and Medium. But if blogging is your website’s primary function, we’d recommend looking elsewhere, as it’s not an area B12 excels in.
Premium customers of B12 can have their business added for free to up to 40 local directories and search platforms such as Google Maps, Yelp and Foursquare. This can be a huge jumpstart for any small business and can eliminate a lot of busy work any business owner would likely rather not be bothered with.
This is where B12 really begins to showcase the future of AI and humans working together. Their SEO service is powered by a homegrown, open source platform named Orchestra, which uses AI to set the foundation and assign tasks, and humans to complete the tasks. One thing to keep in mind with SEO is that it can frequently take a few months for the results to kick in, especially for a smaller site, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see your business on the first page on Google from day one.
If what you need is a new eCommerce website, B12 is not the way to go. They can only support Ecwid, but Shopify and any other platform you might need to integrate is a no-go. That said, given B12’s track record of acting on the requests of customers, it might not be long until they begin to better support eCommerce clients.
It is fair to say that B12 offers one of the most robust customer support offerings of any website builder available today. Every paying customer has access to chat and email support with B12’s New York-based team.
Customers of B12’s higher tiers (Premium, SEO, and SEO Pro) are granted access to phone support. The caveat with phone support is that there is no inbound number available, meaning that all calls must be scheduled in advance and someone from the B12 team will need to reach out to you.
All premium plans come with free domain name registration, and all plans, free or paid, come with free hosting. All B12 websites are hosted on their servers and there is no added cost for that. That said, B12 is not a hosting company in the traditional sense and can only support B12-built sites. This means that should you ever wish to cancel your website builder plan with B12, your website will no longer be accessible online. It’s also important to note that your website cannot be transferred to another website builder and/or hosting company and that it cannot be downloaded for modifying or safe-keeping.
As for domain names, B12 purchases them for all paying customers. While they do not share the dollar amount they’re willing to spend on a domain name, it does seem to exclude any premium domains given the typical asking prices.
B12 advertises four main pricing tiers on their website, ranging from $26 per month to $224 month. It should be noted that those prices reflect annual billing options. If you wish to use B12 month-to-month, prices increase slightly, from $29 per month to $249 per month. There is also the option to add an email marketing feature to any paid plan for a flat fee of $45 per month.
There are additional costs to using B12, including the one-time setup fee and Design Hours. The one-time setup fee is just what it sounds like and will typically amount to a few hundred dollars, though it is dependent on the amount of human help that is required. As for Design Hours, those are essentially credits that can be purchased for phone consultations with B12’s team, and those are billed as a flat rate of $75 per hour. These costs should certainly be considered before joining B12.