A startup called Heek wants to make building websites as simple as chatting over text and answering a few questions. Using a conversational interface, the bot asks you questions about yourself, your business and your site, then lets you click to see different designs you can customize to meet your needs. The bot will even prompt you to save your work, as you get further into the site creation process.
Many of today’s chatbots have fallen short when it comes being a more efficient way of interacting with a web service, and often lead to frustrating experiences due to their restrictive nature.
But in Heek’s case, the idea of turning website creation into something that can be handled conversationally could appeal to the small business owner who doesn’t have the funds for a professional designer, nor the technical chops to manage website creation – even via the more basic website builders that are on the market today.
Heek’s service is surprisingly easy to use. With a click to get started from the Heek website, the bot begins by asking for your name, your company’s name, the type of business you have, then presents you with a variety of site templates to choose from, ranging from e-commerce storefronts to sites for public figures, charities, businesses without products to sell, or those in the “media/entertainment” space, like news, food, music, sports, education, animals, and more.
You can then click through the available templates in your category by clicking the “Next design” and “Previous design” buttons the bot offers.
Instead of figuring out what sort of things need to be on your website, Heek will suggest items you may want to add. For example, it might recommend that you add your business’s address or a contact form, or a navigation menu for moving between pages. To accept a suggestion, you just click “OK.” To skip it, you’ll click “No thanks” and Heek will move onto the next element to be designed.
Depending on the site you’re working with, you can also customize the pages further, whether that’s uploading your own photos or adding product information and pricing, among other things.
However, not all of the site design is done via this text-based chat. Some things, like swapping out photos and editing the text still require you to interact with the web builder directly. (The right side of the screen shows you your site in progress).
Heek doesn’t exactly explain this to you, but it’s fairly obvious because when you move your cursor overtop images, a pop-up that reads “change image” appears, for instance. You can also click into the text areas and start typing, as well as adjust the text’s font, size, look (bold, italics) and more.
The templates themselves are not entirely rigid, either. Like most WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builders, you can drag and drop various elements around the screen to customize the design.
But with Heek, you don’t really have to – out of the box, the site offers placeholder text and stock images to make site creation less of a hassle.
The service costs $30 per month, or $25 per month if you opt to pay annually. This fee includes the site creation, your custom domain name, search engine optimization, and customer support.
However, what’s great about using Heek is that you don’t have to commit to a plan or even create an account to try the service for yourself. By clicking the button on the website to get started, you jump head-first into site creation. If you’re still unsure after your site is finished, you can keep using the service for 14 days before entering your credit card information to keep the site live.
Heek was founded late last year by Nicolas Fayon, previously the co-founder of a Facebook Page customization tool called PageYourself.
“We quickly realized that [small and medium businesses] almost all had the same problem with their online presence: the lack of time, and the lack of knowledge,” explains Fayon as to why he built Heek. “We worked on how to solve that problem and realized that the solution was to give them the same level of service as an agency would, at a very affordable price.”
Fayon notes also that the chatbot will get smarter over time, as more people use the product.
The startup is now one of several focused on making website creation even simpler than via more traditional drag-and-drop editors like those from Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, Squarespace, and others. Instead, it competes with newer tools like PageCloud, which aims to make editing sites as easy as using Powerpoint, for example. The Disrupt NY 2016 hackathon winner AlexaSite also came up with an idea around editing sites just by using your voice – but it was a hackathon project, not a business you can use today.
Heek’s service was previously only available in private beta, but since the launch of version one last week, it has seen around 2,500 users test it out, Fayon says.
The startup is a team of 10 based in Paris, and is backed by €700K from French fund OK Invest.