I’ve been writing corresponding how-to articles about each of these tools for eHow. If you are interested in exploring these sites from a personal use prospective and want to see screen shots and step by step instructions, visit my eHow page.
To summarize the free online tools, I found Weebly to be the easiest and most beginner friendly. Weebly has a huge array of widgets to add Google maps, RSS feeds, Flickr images and other content to a page. I found the site for today, SynthaSite (still in Beta), to also be very easy for a beginner. But SynthaSite has some features that would appeal to someone with a bit of knowledge of both HTML and CSS. Therefore, it was my favorite among the four. None are perfect and none come close to achieving results anything like you would expect from a professional designer and developer.
SynthaSite is free for everything. It uses a drag and drop interface. You drag text areas, images, and columns into a page. There are many page designs to choose from. The pages are posted free with a URL leading to a subdomain at synthasite.com. Or you can choose to download the pages and publish them elsewhere.
Each thing you add as a widget to a page opens up a Properties panel where you can do some CSS if you like. Right now it’s only setting top, right, bottom and left margins for text and images. Although I think the Properties panel should offer a way to add alt text to an image, it does not. To be fair, none of the other sites I tested let you add alt text either. But SynthaSite’s more sophisticated options with its Properties panel would work well for this, and seems like a logical addition to the interface. SynthaSite has an HTML widget that will accept any HTML (and inline style rules) you might want to add that way.
Since I went ahead and published a demo test site, I was able to do some testing. SynthaSite did much better on HTML and CSS validation tests than the other sites tested in this series.