Anyone logging into their iPage hosting account recently can’t help but have noticed the company’s efforts to push users towards Impress.ly, the website building tool which puts mobile first, and desktop second. For many beginners who are creating their first website for the first time then a website builder is a good start. I haven’t used many online builders so this is a first!
At a time when most users are making mobile their preferred platform of choice for getting online, the whole concept of Impress.ly sounds like a great idea, but, how well does it actually fair in creating awesome, mobile optimised websites quickly and simply? Why not simply use a service like Weebly, which puts the focus on desktop, albeit with templates optimised for mobile?
With curiosity getting the better of me, I decided to find out. Though Impress.ly does operate as a stand-alone platform, I gave into my hosting company’s urging, and used the version that comes included with the iPage essentials hosting plan.
What follows then, is real-time account as a first time user of Impress.ly mobile website builder, all the way from setting up my first site to hitting the publish button.
Pull Information from Facebook, an Existing Website or Start from Scratch
After selecting which domain to base my new Impress.ly mobile site, the next screen gives me the option to enter the URL of my Facebook business page. The idea here, is that the platform will pull information from Facebook and automatically build a website around it. All I need to do then is to select a design, and I’m good to go.
Already, I’m liking this new website builder. Could there really be an easier way to create a website than just importing Facebook data and choosing a few styling options to present it? Though there maybe more affordable ways to build a website, this certainly seems one of the most simple and efficient, and is something I’m likely to recommend to first time website owners who want to focus on mobile.
That said, I’m not going to choose the Facebook option today. It’s something I’ll definitely use in the future, but for the sake of this review, I thought it better to start from scratch and really get into the nuts and bolts of what Impress.ly can do for folks like me and you. So I skip that option and select ‘I don’t have a Facebook page.’
The next screen asks if I want to scan my existing website to create a mobile site, and I ignore that too, going straight to the option to sell products through my new app/mobile site.
Choose Which Type of Website to Make
Up next, I’m asked to decide on the type of website I’m going to build, and presented with the following options:
- Local business
- Health and Beauty
I choose ‘Local Business’ for today, with the guarantee from Impress.ly that I can ‘change every detail later’ if I choose to. There’s also an option to ignore every one of these and build from a blank template if I choose to.
Setting up the basics
Getting the basics of my new mobile website set up is very straight forward. Add a business name on one screen, a logo on another, and then choose from a number of gorgeous looking templates on the next. The platform then configures everything, and a few seconds later, you’ve got a fully working site that’s ready to customise.
First things first, I really like the user-interface employed by Impress.ly’s styling and content editor. It reminds me a lot of tools like Weebly, albeit even simpler to navigate my way around.
The interface is divided into three horizontal panels, with the sections of your site listed on the left, editing options in the middle, and a live preview of your site on the left.
By clicking individual sections, in the ‘Edit Content’ menu on the left, I can add text, images and even change the layout of individual sections.
One aspect of this web builder that I really like is that everything is divided up into small blocks, which not only makes for better navigation and a clean design, but makes the process of content editing actually enjoyable.
With the ‘About’ page for example, I have three separate blocks for general information, contact details, and opening hours, all within a pre-designed template.
By sticking within the parameters of this template, I can be sure that my site looks as good as possible and is going to provide the best possible experience for my visitors and customers.
If I decide that I don’t want a particular section, all I need to do is select it from the left-hand menu and turn it off in the central panel. In my opinion, that’s actually better than deleting it outright.
In my own trial run, I turned off the ‘Reservations’ section as this isn’t something I’m going to need. As such, it doesn’t actually show up on my mobile site, but if I ever decide to use it in the future, all I need to do is go back into the editor and turn it on again.
Add more content
Impress.ly continues to surprise with great features when I select the ‘Add more content’ button. I’m expecting it to give me a simple page to perhaps add more text or images, but instead it provides a vast menu of tools that I can build into my site, with everything from event calendars to F.A.Qs, social media integration and video content.
Restaurant and bar owners will especially love these additional tools, which also include a tip calculator, drinks menu, and discount coupons.
With all my content added and edited to my liking, I select the ‘Edit Style’ menu. Even though I think the pre-designed templates (referred to as skins) are of an exceptional quality, I’m pleased to note that I can change just about every aspect, from the background to the font style, menu layout and even the way my website looks on desktops.
The only disappointment here is when I come to customize the colours, and find that I’m only allowed to select from a series of predefined colour schemes rather than tweaking each aspect to my own liking.
That said, given how flexible and easy to use this tool is in just about all other areas, I’m willing to overlook this one small complaint.
How does Impress.ly look on desktop?
Though this particular web builder is optimised for mobile websites, it’s fair to say that it does a great job of responding to all screen sizes and devices.
You can preview your site on mobile, tablet, and desktop, and should find that your sites looks fantastic on each. The desktop version in particular actually looks better than many sites designed by the likes of Weebly and Wix, and by the time I hit publish, I have to say that I’d have no trouble recommending Impress.ly to first time website builders.