iClan Websites lets you build a gaming community website for free. In fact, its free plan packs tons of value, and it’s a great first choice for a small group that’s just starting out.
You get access to many of iClan Websites’ powerful, gaming-specific features, like its match reports and communications modules. You can even use a custom domain without upgrading from the free plan, though you’ll still have to buy and register that domain yourself.
Many premium features like premium themes and voice servers are also available for a separate fee, so you can take an a la carte approach and simply pay for the advanced features you need without upgrading wholesale to a paid plan.
However, all free plans display ads on your website, and they do come with resource limitations. You can only set up a limited number of custom pages, for example, and features like the Tournament Manager won’t be available.
If your community’s big (or growing!) and very active, it’s better to get one of iClan Websites’ premium plans.
You’ll have three premium plans to choose from. Each tier builds on the one before, so, for example, the Premium+ carries all the features of Premium with a few sweet extras thrown in.
Here’s a closer look at each plan:
|Access to paid themes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Voice server slots||Separate fee||Separate fee||50|
|Featured listing on recruitment boards||No||No||Yes|
Are iClan Websites’ premium plans worth it? Yes, especially if you’ve got hundreds of people in your gaming community.
iClan Websites is one of the most powerful and easy-to-use website builders in the online gaming niche, so you’ll find lots of game-specific features here that aren’t available with a general-purpose website builder.
Resource allocations are staggered across tiers, so you’ll need to get one of the higher-priced plans if you want a website that can support hundreds of community members at once.
At iClan Websites, form follows function. You’ll find dozens of themes designed for all kinds of games, from Clash of Clans to League of Legends, Minecraft to World of Warcraft. However, though they’re crafted for different communities, these themes are designed with the same functionalities in mind. As a result, though the visuals might change,most of iClan Websites’ themes sport similar layouts and carry the same overall feel.
This holds true whether you’re using a free or premium theme. Most of iClan Websites’ theme gallery is free, and for most cases, these free themes will do the job. A quick glance reveals little difference between a free and premium theme; at most, a premium theme gives you more elaborate visual assets and a layout that needs less tweaking. But the customizability and richness of your theme’s design is more dependent on the kind of account you have rather than your particular theme, so if you’re not averse to some elbow grease, you can get away with modifying a free theme for your site.
In terms of design merits, none of iClan Websites’ themes are spectacular, but they’re decent. Functionality is king here, so don’t expect the polished design sensibilities or sleek visual tricks (e.g., parallax backgrounds) of a typical website.
Here’s a look at some of iClan Websites’ themes, both free and premium:
iClan Websites is first and foremost a way for building and managing your gaming community’s online presence, and building an actual website is only a subset of that mission. Nothing makes this clearer than iClan Websites’ theme builder.
At first blush, the iClan Websites theme builder is limited and unwieldy. Clicking on an element can either open up a customization bar atop the page or redirect you to a different page entirely, as it does if you try to change the arrangement of panels/sections on your website’s pages. The experience is a far cry from the smooth, sophisticated experience delivered by other (general-purpose) website builders.
Of course, the iClan Websites theme builder isn’t all bad. The controls are easy to find and tweak, so you won’t have problems changing fonts, colors, or page elements. You’ll use a point-and-click interface for the most part, so there’s no need to fret about your coding skills. You’re free to change your theme’s layout, and if you get one of the paid plans, you can go further by using custom HTML and CSS on your website.
At every step, though, there’s no shaking the feeling that iClan Websites is a gaming group management system first and a website builder second. The theme builder will help you build a serviceable website, but your results won’t be as striking or as easily built as what you’d get with a more focused website builder.
Dedicated gaming features are where iClan Websites shines. There are tons of gaming-specific systems here that will serve any online gaming group well. Foremost are iClan Websites’ features for handling tournament organization and match tracking.
iClan Websites offers premium users a well-designed tournament manager that whips up elimination and round-robin brackets in a flash. Encoding participants, updating brackets with results, modifying match-ups according to specific criteria are all possible—and more importantly, easy to implement. No more mucking around with charts or fiddling with spreadsheets; firing up iClan Websites’ tournament manager streamlines tournament bookkeeping and leaves you free to handle more important tasks throughout your tourney.
Is your group feeling competitive? All tiers of iClan Websites’ plans deliver automatic match reports. These track wins and losses for players who sign up to record matches against other clans or guilds. Pair these with iClan Websites’ member ranking feature and you can have detailed stats that help your community members gauge their skill and performance over time.
Communication is the heart of any strong gaming community, and it’s another field where iClan Websites excels. The company’s got a pulse on all the popular channels for gamer interaction on the web, and it gives you the tools to add those straight to your website.
There’s the all-important activity feed, which keeps your members up-to-date on everything going on with your group. iClan Websites goes far beyond that, though, with support for other avenues of communication like:
- Member profiles, complete with option to link to members’ social media profiles
- Liking and commenting systems for website content
- Community forums, fully customizable with your own categories and boards
- Instant chatrooms and chatboxes
- Community newsletter
- Discord widgets
- Voice servers from TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, or Mumble
The voice services give you data center choices so you can reduce latency. iClan Websites promises both instant server setup and network redundancy so you don’t have to worry about configuring your server or failure-proofing your connections. However, unless you’re on iClan Websites’ Elite plan, you’ll need to pay extra to set up a server. Fees range from $4 to $160 depending on how many slots you need, with discounts offered for long-term billing contracts.
You can also broadcast different Twitch channels, giving your members a quick, centralized portal for catching all of your group’s live gameplay streams.
Do you have a multinational gaming community? Right now, iClan Websites only has full support for English and German. However, website translation services for a variety of languages are currently in beta, so you can test automatic translations of key website sections into the following languages:
Bear in mind that the translations are fairly basic right now. iClan Websites has a list of the common phrases used throughout your website (everything from automatic notifications to section or form labels—there are almost 1,500 right now!) and provides the corresponding translations, which you can also modify manually.
iClan Websites pours most of its attention and efforts into delivering a powerful gaming community management system, and the best proof of that is in your Admin Panel. This is your website’s command center, and there are tons of options at your disposal. The interface itself isn’t messy or cluttered, but it’s certainly busy. You’ll find sections for:
- Membership management
- Content management
- Finance systems
- File and domain management
- Event and recruitment settings
Common among all these sections is a drive to simplify the website and community management process while still giving you fine-grained control over everything. Under membership management, for example, you’ll find tools for automating membership screening and acceptance; setting custom criteria for catching infractions and meting out penalties; modules for handling member and admin privileges; custom group settings for your members; and more.
As for populating your website with content, iClan Websites puts a comprehensive editing and publishing interface at your disposal. You can create custom pages or fire off quick posts via the “News” module to keep your community updated.
iClan Websites also offers modules for pop-up announcements and custom scripts for your website, plus the option to create an unlimited number of pages. However, you’ll need to get one of the higher-priced plans to use these.
iClan Websites gives you several tools to raise funds through your website. There’s a donation system that makes it easy for community members to chip in towards a custom fundraising goal. iClan Websites uses PayPal to funnel donations into your community’s accounts.
Take note, though, that the donation widget has a weird quirk: you have to specify a currency (like $/USD) for your goal, and any donations made in other currencies won’t add to your fundraising progress. They will still get credited to your PayPal account, though!
Other financing models supported by iClan Websites include subscriptions or paid memberships. You can set up different tiers and charge members for access to your content or customized membership packages. You can also sell items, merchandise, or game services on your website. You’ll need a PayPal Payments Standard account to use these features, but once you’ve got that set up, iClan Websites takes care of integrating your PayPal account with its modules.
A gaming community needs members, but how do you find interested recruits? When it comes to the usual avenues for increasing website visibility, particularly SEO, iClan Websites provides only rudimentary support. You can set custom titles and meta descriptions for your pages, but that’s pretty much it.
Getting good listings in iClan Websites’ recruitment boards is a better bet. You can fill out a recruitment profile that lets potential recruits know about your community and the games you play. Elite account users get featured listings, but users from other tiers can boost their visibility by participating in iClan Websites’ activities.
Accepting and screening applications from interested players is a breeze, too. As with its community management features, iClan Websites lets you set up recruitment forms that automate the process: from providing a template for applicants, setting rules for application evaluation, and even sending notifications of acceptance or rejection.
With the growing popularity of mobile games, more and more gamers are spending their time on their mobile devices. However, iClan Websites has yet to follow this trend. You won’t find any options for optimizing how your website displays or performs on mobile devices. Nor will you get dedicated apps for iOS or Android that will let you build, edit, and manage your gaming website on the go.
This is a disappointing oversight, especially with the rising cachet of mobile in the gaming world. There’s been lots of clamor in the iClan Websites userbase for more robust mobile support over the past couple of years, but we’re all still waiting to see how iClan Websites responds to the mobile boom—if it does at all.
When you create a website on iClan Websites, you get free hosting as part of the deal—even on a free plan. You get an iClan Websites subdomain as your default address (yoursite.clanwebsite.com), but iClan Websites also gives you the option to switch to a custom domain (yoursite.com/.org/etc) for a more polished look. You can register this domain directly through your iClan Websites Admin Panel or through a separate domain registrar. The best thing is that even free users can switch to a custom domain: you don’t need to get a premium plan just for the privilege of using a custom website address.
iClan Websites offers a fairly extensive FAQ section for users plagued by some common problems. There’s also the option to consult other iClan Websites users via the service’s community forums, though you’ll have to register for a separate account there before you can start posting.
iClan Websites also offers more direct assistance via its support ticket system. You can file a ticket straight from your Admin Panel, or you can shoot an email to iClan Websites’ support team. If you want speedier responses, you should get a paid account, since premium users’ tickets get bumped to the top of the queue.
Will Your Community Thrive at iClan Websites?
iClan Websites offers tons of features designed specifically for online gaming communities. Whether you play Minecraft or Overwatch, League of Legends or World of Warcraft, or any other game, there’s something here to help your group grow.
There are some snags. iClan Websites’ theme selection isn’t as extensive or sophisticated as a general-purpose website builder’s, and your customization options are similarly constrained. The system’s interface has its rough spots. Some modules only unlock if you have one of the paid accounts, and you might need to pay more to get a freer hand when it comes to resources like storage or number of website pages.
Despite all that, though, iClan Websites’ plans remain incredibly attractive for any and all kinds of gaming communities seeking to build an online home.
The gaming-specific features on offer are just that good: donation and fundraising systems; recruitment and community management automations; integrated communication channels, be it Discord, a dedicated group forum, voice servers, or live chat.
For all its aesthetic shortfalls, iClan Websites still delivers almost everything you need to power up your online gaming community. Give it a shot today!