It’s 2017, and all across the world, more and more people are obtaining smartphones. Up to 60% of your traffic can come solely from mobile, with restaurants and food services in particular hitting 72%. That’s a big number! All sorts of businesses and website owners should be looking for ways to provide a decent mobile experience, or risk turning away traffic.
But what if you build your site with mobile users in mind before considering desktop users? This is Impress.ly’s goal, and they’re a far cry from the usual drag-and-drop desktop builders. With a service that could get you online in five minutes, an easy-to-use builder, and their mobile-first approach, this little program might just be the future of web building.
A Short History
The software behind Impress.ly is AppMachine. AppMachine was founded in 2011 and marketed as an easy-to-use app builder. Then, in 2015, Impress.ly was born. It re-purposes AppMachine to build websites.
The company’s relative infancy isn’t stopping it from creating inventive new ideas. In fact, its fresh outlook on an industry defined by very little innovation is bracing. It’s always great to see a little something new.
A Unique Premise
Impress.ly’s built something interesting here, but what’s even rarer is the company’s way of presenting it. You’re completely free to go in and poke around and see what templates there are to choose from. So you can easily see whether or not this builder suits you before you even provide so much as your email address.
From there, all the company requires is an account to tinker with it further. No credit card info, no purchases, no 30-day-exclusive-only-on-Impress.ly free trial. Just build the site, and if you like it, pay for it. Then it’ll be up on the web, and you’re done.
The way it works is fast and straightforward. You put in your Facebook business page and your website, and wait. It crawls the web and locates your social media profiles, finds your logo and brand name, and sticks it all into a custom-built site. It can even write your About page if it can find enough info. This all takes about 30 seconds.
Even if you don’t have an established web presence, you can still get a few simple templates for personal customization. It’ll be a little more work, but it’s worth it if you like the simplistic style.
On smartphones, the websites generated look like apps, with a few key colors and bold buttons. This fits the “mobile first” approach, though the desktop versions of sites still look quite clean and nice. Impress.ly recently released a one-page editor to further improve your desktop website.
Finally, if you’re happy with what you’ve got but want to do a little tweaking, feel free to. The range of customization isn’t as great as a traditional builder, and you won’t find a gallery of a million stock images, but all the basics are there. Backgrounds, templates, layouts — everything you’d expect.
A Nifty Store
As far as e-commerce goes, Impress.ly impresses. Its shop software looks simple, but it’s hiding a lot of complexity. The process of setting up a store is similar to how the website itself is made; it collects info on your company’s aesthetic, then generates a few templates to pick from and customize.
Then there’s inventory, stock, and all this checks out. Unlike other site builders, there’s no cap on the amount of products you can sell. And it’s easy enough to add color variations. Plus, you can easily use discount codes and temporary free shipping as great holiday gifts.
Finally, invoices are fully arranged by the company, shipping/tracking info is included, and a variety of payment options — even Bitcoin — are accepted. As the company says, “No Problem.”
You will need a higher-tier plan in order to use e-commerce features. But both options are about the price of mid-range shared hosting, and it’s just a couple dollars more. So it shouldn’t be too much of an issue even if you’re on a tight budget.
Pricing, Plans, and Perks
As stated before, this site doesn’t make you pay to build and complete your website — only to publish it. And no credit card details are required until that point, just an email address. There’s no reason not to try it out; if you don’t like it, don’t pay for it.
If you do decide to buy, you have two plans to choose from. Most features are in the basic plan; you get a phone, tablet, and desktop version of your site, a one-year free domain (and the company’s wording implies that you may not be restricted to standard ones like .com and .org!), HTML5, and social feeds. Both also get a free business (i.e. domain-based) email address to go along with the domain.
The second plan, designed for businesses, is required only if your site includes a built-in store. However, for restaurants, musicians, and other businesses, you’ll definitely want this plan. It contains a reservation feature, the ability to support music files, a blog, and a CDN.
Finally, don’t forget the app version of the builder. If you prefer mobile to desktop, much like your users, then you can use the app to create your site instead. It’s just as easy and there’s no lost functionality, unlike most mobile designers.
It doesn’t have a ton of features, but the ones offered are useful and interesting. The delivery and reservation services will serve restaurants, and the store is perfect for artists and other designers looking to sell merchandise. And worrying about hosting, domains, and emails is off the table no matter what kind of site you’re creating.
Why Go Mobile?
With many site builders having limited mobile functionality, this app is certainly breaking the mold. It makes sense. Mobile browsing is on the rise. So, too, developers must rise to the occasion and optimize for mobile.
I mean, you’re not going to Google the nearest ice cream shop while sitting at home on your computer — you’ll be driving around after a hot day. With GPS and search you can find businesses nearby. And you’d probably do some work while on the go, too. That’s why Impress.ly’s interactive, clean design is so appealing.
From WordPress themes to site builders, it’s not worth its salt if it isn’t at least responsive. It was reported that 60% of searches come from a mobile device. Forty percent means that it’s a good idea to continue designing for desktop users — but if you run a business, perhaps you should be pushing the mobile version first and foremost. This makes sense for many businesses like downtown food trucks, attractions, bars, and more.
Reasons to Avoid
Impress.ly, for the most part, is an interesting and nifty little app. However, the fact it serves a niche means a large number of people may be alienated. Whether you find issue with its over-simplicity, its lack of control, or if your website doesn’t fit its design, there are a few problems to contend with.
Obviously, there are just some sites that don’t work with this sort of design. A builder like this is made for information and business sites, with its utility limited to features like stores and reservations. If you’re creating a web game, a forum, file sharing/archiving, etc, it goes without saying that this isn’t what you’re after.
And the nature of some kinds of websites dictates a desktop-first approach, either because mobile can’t support its functionality or it’d be too difficult to try. If you’re not interested in a primarily mobile audience, or you’d rather design for computers instead of phones, you’re better off using a different site builder.
Keep in mind that there is a one-page desktop builder, but of course, this design doesn’t fit every sort of site.
Not Enough Power
As far as control goes, Impress.ly doesn’t always give you free reign. It states that it supports HTML5, but it’s not clear if you’re able to directly modify the code or not. For programmers who like to give their sites a personal touch, this could be a big deal.
A lack of options may also be an issue. It’s a simplistic program — and therein lies the appeal — but not everyone is happy with the amount of customization you have. For what it is, it works well.
Same Templates, Few Options
It doesn’t seem like there’s much variety in the ten templates you’re provided with. You can end up with three choices featuring the same lighthouse as a background. And some of them are very similar, with the only difference being the button layout.
It’s a very new launch, only two years old, so some leeway can be given. Even so, it’s a valid criticism. If a lot of variation, templates, and layouts are things you value, this might not be the right choice.
Why Choose Impress.ly
If you can get past the problems and see through to the nice design, Impress.ly makes a great choice. It’s new and still ironing out the kinks. Even so, it’s an impressive little app with a surprisingly nice output.
Simple, Fun, Fast
Perhaps Impress.ly’s greatest feature is how entertaining it is to use. Site builders can be a hassle to work with at times, either because their UI is too complicated and confusing to work with, or they provide a lot of customization options to the point of overwhelm.
But this builder works really well, with little to no frustration involved. It’s easy enough to use and looks pleasant, too.
Another great feature is how fast and simple the whole process it. Site creation can take days, hours at least. But with this program, you can be done in five minutes. There are no confusing elements, and everything is easy and makes perfect sense. Yet, unlike what you’d expect of a less complex builder, the output is high quality.
Providing for mobile browsers is extremely important. In fact, not having a mobile site, or having a badly optimized one, can significantly limit your sales potential. So why not build with mobile in mind in the first place?
A lot of site designers put mobile on the sidelines. Some may have responsiveness or a separate builder, but their main priority is building sites for desktop computers and not much more. Impress.ly knows that the world is shifting to handheld devices, and it’s time to start putting mobile first. Your users will thank you, as will your revenue.
No Extra Fees
When looking for web hosting and site building services, you need to be very careful about extra fees. Unless it’s clearly stated, you can never go in expecting freebies. This company is upfront: you only need to pay for the plan and nothing else.
Except for the domain expiry in a year, everything is taken care of: hosting, domain costs, the CDN on the business plan, etc. And paid add-ons? You don’t have to worry about them.
An Interesting Approach
If you want a fresh outlook on design, Impress.ly delivers. It’s something new, that’s for sure, and it’s so fun to tweak and play with that you should definitely try it out, at least. The company sure makes it easy, and its stylish, colorful designs are hard to resist.
This tool may not provide the extreme range of customization that desktop site builders do, but it does provide a mobile-centric design, a super-fast generator, and a clean look that would otherwise take hours to achieve.
Unlike some site builders, this one isn’t hopelessly out-of-date. It’s an active project staffed by dozens of talented programmers. This builder is already of very high quality, at a reasonable price. If you enjoy the aesthetic, it seems like a good investment.