Site creation startup Weebly opens up to user-designed themes

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Today, user-friendly web site builder Weebly is launching what it says has been its No. 1 most-requested feature: The ability for users and third-party designers to create themes for Weebly web sites and have them listed in the general catalog for any one of the service’s 3.5 million users to choose.

Not only can anyone submit a theme to the Weebly listing now (as long as it is approved), users can rate and comment on themes, provide feedback to their creators, and vote up the most popular selections. In this way, Weebly’s theme catalog will be similar to Firefox’s listing of applications and personas, making it easier for others to sort and decide between them.

All designs, sent as .PSD files, will be approved individually by the Weebly team. But this opens up the site to much more public participation. The company hopes that it will create a sense of community among its users, instead of having them all working on their own individual projects.

In order to make a splash with the launch of this new feature, Weebly is hosting a theme design contest. The grand prize winner will receive $10,000; second prize will get $2,000; and third prize will get $1,000. The deadline for entries is April 30, 2010.

Submissions will be judged by a panel of six celebrity designers, including Michal Cronan (the man who named Tivo and the Amazon Kindle), Scott Thomas (official designer for the Obama campaign in 2008), Jason Putorti (former lead designer at Mint.com), and Andrew Wilkinson (founder of MetaLab).

This is the second big development for Weebly in the last two weeks. Late last month, the site launched versions of its services in French, Italian, Spanish and Chinese to give the company a wider global presence.

Weebly has raised about $670,000 from Ron Conway’s Baseline Ventures and Y Combinator.

Here is a short video demonstrating how the new theme tools work:


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