By Top10 Staff
Impress.ly is a partnership between a big cloud computing provider, Endurance International Group (EIG), and Dutch developers AppMachine. It’s the latter that is the most visible partner, with Impress.ly claiming to automatically build app-like sites to serve mobile browsers.
Impress.ly is the “world’s first automatic website builder”. It looks very fresh and is easy and intuitive to use. Offering more than site-builders which promise a coding-free experience, Impress.ly will even find the content for you and can provide a workable site or app with just a few confirming clicks.
Impress.ly does what it says it will, charging around the web to build something pretty basic but workable at a hugely impressive speed. There’s a free package, and you can add extras for just $9-a-month, with the top price an attractive looking $14-a-month. Is that a good deal? Let’s find out in our comprehensive review...
Speed! It’s an extraordinarily quick way to get started on the mobile web.
It works on mobiles. Lots of builders promise this, but Impress.ly delivers in spades.
Apps are the future, and this is a standout service.
The template designs look great.
And customizing them is no problem, making this a genuinely powerful website builder.
Impress.ly comes from companies with an eye firmly on the future of the web. EIG expanded into email marketing just before launching Impress.ly and will be offering the services of Constant Contact to the users of its app designer soon.
Impress.ly looks great on all types of screen. With its focus on mobile users it’s no surprise that it’s right up to the minute with its own small-screen friendly look. The feel is also very mobile friendly, which doesn’t always work so well on an old-fashioned desktop. But that’s the idea – you use a touch screen to design a site for a touch screen – and it makes perfect sense.
The free package is limited, but you could certainly get a decent mobile web presence up and running for nothing. The rest of the packages seem good value too. The only small print attached to the transparent pricing scheme is that you must sign up for an annual contract to earn your free custom domain.
It’s worth visiting Impress.ly just to watch it make an automatic site from a Facebook page. You only have to choose your payment plan if you decide to publish.
The site launched in December 2015 and still has some bugs – as well as lots of features yet to come. Automatic compilation of content could also bring up copyright issues. Users must tick a box to say they have the right to use content, but will have to be careful if they’re uploading from their social media pages.
A mobile site in minutes.
The younger web user will instinctively understand what’s going on at Impress.ly. NO wonder they use a young hipster band in their main promo video and push sites for musicians as a big category.
Small businesses. All the packages are very good value, and a mobile site is really a must these days.
Site owners. If you’ve got your old site well in hand and just want to add a mobile version, there’s no easier way than Impress.ly.
Innovators. AppMachine already had a great reputation, linking with EIG’s cloud power and marketing muscle can only mean there are exciting times ahead for Impress.ly users.
Impress.ly call their templates “skins” and they are – as yet – relatively small in number. On signing up and allowing your Facebook page to be crawled you get a choice of 10 to choose from.
Skins are customized from menus, offering an array of choices to add new content and change design features like fonts, colors and photographs. It’s not the way most people are used to creating sites. Drag-and-drop works very well on a large screen and it’s a shame it’s not an option here.
Menus run down the left-hand side of the screen and there’s an always-on preview to the right that can be toggled from desk-top to tablet to smartphone shaped screens. It’s actually a really fun process and you can imagine getting quite lost in it.
There are some serious limits to what you can do though. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get really behind the templates and tinker with them. You can upload your own images, but they’re automatically cropped and processed.
It’s very slick, very mobile friendly and will result in a lot of very similar looking sites.
Wow! This is a step up from any other site builder. Sign up and give the site your Facebook page address and you’ve got a choice of 10 app-like sites to work from within seconds.
However, it is not a drag-and-drop builder, and that will put some people oFF. This system has been built with mobile end-users and mobile designers in mind.
Making simple changes and rewriting your content is very easy indeed. In fact, there’s nothing here that isn’t easy to do. It’s just that there’s a limit on what you are able to do. If you’re a free spirit you may feel quite constrained at Impress.ly.
The free package at Impress.ly is without catches that we can see. And the site seems to have learned the lesson that users don’t like being tricked or aggressively upsold while they play around and explore – a single pop-up occasionally suggests you publish your sites.
Impress.ly seems to be very transparent in how it operates and it seems to be very good value.
For free you get an HTML 5 site for smartphone, tablet and desktop, a free Impress.ly domain (if you sign up for a year), and your site will have Impress.ly branding.
The $9-dollar package adds basic analytics, social feeds and basic social info and reduces the branding. It also switches you to a custom domain but again only if you sign up for a year.
The business package at $14-a-month removes all branding, and allows you to use e-commerce and reservation (they seem to have restaurants as a major target market) software. It allows you to host music (musicians are another one). It’s also worldwide cdn optimized, which means that your site will get more quickly to international browsers.
|IMPRESS.LY STARTER||$9 monthly|
|IMPRESS.LY BUSINESS||$14 monthly|
Impress.ly takes a different approach to web design for non-coders. First of all there’s the automatic aspect – crawling your existing sites and social pages for content. Then, it takes the content it’s found and allows you to customize it via a menu system.
It’s very easy to use, and very good fun too.
Your site is previewed on the right of the screen on a desktop. Elements of your site are split into “content” and “style” menus to the left, with the work going on in the center.
You choose to add content items at the top of the menu. Clicking there opens up a list of “blocks”, “business” or “category” elements to be added.
Many are what older design sites would call widgets, some would be best described as new pages on a desktop site.
Some of the categorization doesn’t yet seem to make sense – why is a blog a “business” element rather than a “block”?
The “categories” tab lists elements by type. These aren’t always perfect either. The “social” tab lists Facebook and Twitter, but Google+ is listed under the (misspelled) “basis” category.
The style menu works in a very similar way. Opening sub-menus for navigation, background, header and title, colors, font, shape, and the desktop look.
Everything is done from lists though, so you’re limited as to what you can do. If it’s not been pre-approved by Impress.ly, it’s not a choice you can make.
The skins – as templates are called – are quite small in number so far and aren’t going to offer anything too exciting.
This is early days for Impress.ly. There are still a number of bugs in the interface, which crashed our browser several times. These and the menus and a better range of templates will no-doubt be high on the site’s to-do list.
|So fast it’ll take your breath away||Little design freedom|
|Mobile by design, straight to the app shop||Cookie cutter categories and templates|
|Incredibly simple to use||Support is not yet up to speed|
Support is always available via the triple horizontal bars of the familiar mobile “menu” icon. That offers you the choice of a support center or email contact. The articles in the support center are simple, well-written and more than enough to get you started. The community support that is promised will, of course, take a while to build up. When we visited the site, our email request for help bounced back.
Impress.ly’s owners have the pedigree to make this brave and different builder the start of a whole new way of designing sites for the mobile generation.
It’s incredibly fast and easy to use and promises great things for a brand new audience – people who want to use a smartphone to build a smartphone site. And this must surely be the fastest and easiest way to get online there is.
It’s early days for Impress.ly though and there are a number of bugs to iron out at the site. Support too will need to grow with time and a growing user base - who should come at these prices. AppMachine offers excellent back-up to its users so there’s no reason to think that Impress.ly won’t do the same.
Impressive e-commerce features and lots of social knowhow are also in the pipeline and will tempt business users to sign up. There are already a lot of third-party apps and widgets to use and these will surely grow in number.
The site seems to have been designed with certain types of people in mind as its first users – food businesses and musicians – and the templates/skins and menus have been built with them in mind. They are appropriate and smart, and promise a bright future for other user groups.
Impress.ly already has a world-beating USP, now it just needs to perfect the rest of its offering and it will be the first point of call for anyone wanting a mobile or tablet site in a hurry.