Let’s get rolling with the first review of the RSS to Email services!
Our first contestant…. Feedblitz!
We all know that Feedburner is one of the best feed management sites out there, and in October 2005, Feedburner started to partner with Feedblitz to help their publishers enable subscribers to receive content updates via email.
Feedburner later launched their own RSS to Email service just in April this year (but we’ll talk about that some other day)
So the point is, if one of the best websites out there wants to team up with you, you must be pretty good right? Let’s check out what Feedblitz offers.
For standardization’s sake, I shall do my reviews according to these few points
- General usability of site
- Setting up your feed to be published and capturing subscribers
- Subscribing to feeds
- Managing subscribers
- Other features and upgrades
1. General Usability of the Site
Here’s what the Feedblitz site looks like. Feedblitz just launched version 2 less than a month ago, accompanied by a revamp of the look and feel of the site.
Navigation: I personally feel that the web navigation is pretty confusing. There are six buttons at the top, each with a drop down list of thing – and I felt that they could better phrase the menu titles. For example, instead of using “My Syndications”, they could use “My Blog Feeds”, or “My Feeds”, and I say this from experience, because there was really once (when I was still a newbie to blogs) and I really wondered “WHAT is all the syndicating thing about?”
I would guess most of the features used by most of their users can be accomplished with the first button and its sub menus… so why not expand it and put the REST of the buttons under one button? Hmmm… well, on a second thought maybe they have a private agenda for that. 8)
Also, I feel that they can improve on their use of graphics. Just as an example, what is your first thought when you see something like this?
Does that instinctively mean its loading? Would you wait for the thing to stop spinning? Well, in fact, the peeps in named it “loading_green.gif”, but the graphic continues to spin even after the page is fully loaded. Its kinda misleading.
So web usability wise… for a top grade site with PR8 and Alexa Ranking <10K, I feel that they can really afford to polish it up a little.
2. Setting up your feed to be published and capturing subscribers
So, setting up your feed to be published is termed “Add a New Syndication”.
Setting up seems pretty easy. Enter your feed address, any passwords, and hit “Publish Feed”. Wallah! Upon adding, it provides the codes to add to your page to capture subscribers.
It also provides alternative means for subscription using a URL, which is great if you intend to send out emails asking people to subscribe…. and there is also code for you to add your feed chicklet to your website!
Nicely done!… and if you decide to revamp your blog template, you can always head back to My Account > My Syndications > View and Manage > Click your feed > Syndication Setup > HTML forms and Signup Code to get back to the same page.
3. Subscribing to Feeds
Once you put the code into your site, your readers can subscribe pretty easily. Enter email, enter a CAPTCHA challenge, and then a verification message will be sent to the subscriber.
It seems that you cannot use general email addresses like “info@…. ” or “support@….”. They say:
Generic addresses like info and sales are not permitted as they are often used by spammers, automated mailers or address harvesters. Please use a different address for your subscription.
And you can’t have your email like firstname.lastname@example.org! This IS irritating because the email I use is exactly in that format!
Unfortunately, addresses used by spammers often have the text before the ‘@’ sign included in the text after the ‘@’ sign, like the one you just entered. Please use a different address.
Haha.. well… a bit too strict?
4. Managing subscribers
Subscribers lists can be managed by going to the My Account > My Subscribers > View and Manage. Feedblitz allows you download your subscriber lists as text or OPML files.
You can also import subscribers to your list by going to My Account > My Subscribers > Import
5. Other features and upgrades
Feedblitz seems to offer quite a lot of other free features, like autoresponders (have your entries emailed to your subscribers at predefined times), broadcasting a newsflash, pretty good statistics displayed in drill-down-able graphs, and customizing the sign-up email. All these can be found in the My Account > My Syndications > View and Manage page.
Upgrade options are available. There is a Pro Plan which allows you to customize the emails sent out with your own branding, graphics, ads and layouts, and a Turbo Plan which allows you to change your syndication’s delivery schedule, so that you can choose to send more than one email a day.
There is a breakdown of the features supported with each plan here. From the breakdown, it seems like the Pro Plan is not a subset of the Turbo Plan :?, so do note.
The Pro plan cost $4.95 per month and the Turbo plan is $9.95 per month. Each plan also comes with a “Plus” edition that allows you to upgrade all your syndications together. This price seems to be quite reasonable to me, but I’ve not compared it to other services, so I shall not comment too much 🙂
I’m pretty amazed with the features supported for free by Feedblitz, especially the autoresponder features and the nice graphs, as well as the simplicity in process of getting your feed added and getting started with capturing subscribers.
I may have been a little overly critical in terms of web usability in this review, and perhaps with more experience and familiarity with the interface, doing things will be more intuitive, but I am really quite annoyed by the interface of the site.
Ken has also reviewed on Feedblitz in his blog just four months ago, so do check it out too. Note that Ken’s review was version 1, since version 2 came out only in October this year.
Would an experienced user like to comment and share your experience with Feedblitz?