The SMB- and entrepreneur-oriented web design platform Clover now supports list pages and provides a quick statistical view of a site's traffic. The do-it-yourself website builder offers nice options that do a lot to overcome some of the drawbacks of Flash sites.Clover is one of a handful of website design platforms based on Adobe Flash, joining Wix, SquareSpace, and Virb in the market. These platforms, including Clover, were set up primarily with creative professionals in mind -- some of the options are aimed at artists, photographers, and musicians -- but there's nothing to prevent any small business from taking advantage of them. They all rely on predesigned, customizable templates, and most have at least some suitable for business. Clover's template selection stands out, both in the number available and in their "professional" (not to say staid) appearance.
Clover also offers a lot of flexibility in the kinds of pages you can include in a site. When you add a new page, you get a choice of text, media, calendar, or list page, while other platforms might limit you to a particular kind of artist-oriented text or media page. The list page option is new and could provide a useful way to host a product catalog, introduce the staff, detail promotions, or add other promotional material. List items can include a name, description, and image.
The other new feature is the ability to monitor site traffic. The stats page lets you track number of visits to your site and view the days with the most and least traffic in the past 3 months, identify the five most visited days in the past month, and get a traffic breakdown by hour. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to see which page drew the most traffic. Clover also automatically generates a mobile version of your site and lets you track traffic there as well.
Flash sites in general have some drawbacks. For one, many of them are slow -- I've tried to visit sites hosted by one of Clover's competitors and given up because of the load time. Also, Flash content is generally invisible to search engines, but Clover optimizes the text and images on a site for searching. It also creates "real" URLs to a site's pages: many Flash sites use the same URL for the entire site, just loading new Flash content onto the same page, but Clover gives each page its own URL, increasing its optimization for search engines.
Clover's not the cheapest alternative in this space: building a site costs $1,000, and hosting and support runs $20/month. But for businesses that don't already have a website, that's a small price to pay for getting online quickly, easily, attractively -- and searchably.