Strikingly released it's first beta platform in August 2012 and raised a total of $1.5 million in seed funding from prominent venture capital funds including Y Combinator and Index futures.
In August 2017 Strikingly raised a further $6 million in another investment round of funding so clearly, some people think the five-year-old Shanghai-based website builder has something going for it.
This product is aimed at individuals and small businesses with the idea being that you can quickly showcase portfolios, digital CV's, events and startup projects without needing any coding skills to get the job done. Everything is displayed on a parallax scrolling single page split up into many sections.
Single page sites are great for those that don't have a lot of information to convey and they make scrolling up and down on a mobile device a breeze which is where this product excels.
Recently Strikingly added a "one click site builder" which will import your details from Facebook and Linkedin allowing you to quickly build a mobile optimised website.
The first site I'm going to make is a personal resume or CV site. Strikingly has a promising "Connect To Linkedin" button along with its one-click website feature:
I press the "Connect To Linkedin" button, wait a few seconds, see a "creating something beautiful" message followed by... a completely blank screen. Clicking on the "start editing" button takes you to a new page which lists the sites you have created so far.
This issue needs to be addressed as presenting a user with a blank screen, and no instructions is the opposite of producing an intuitive easy to use website builder. It's not a good start.
For good measure, I deleted the site I had just created and started again only to be met by the same blank screen:
Yes, there is a "start editing" button in green, but even an experienced user will look at it and think "edit what? There is nothing to edit". A default template should be loaded, to begin with, or redirect the user to their list of sites. It baffles me that $7.5 million of venture capital funding produces a fundamental user interface design error like this.
I click the "start editing" button.
Immediately I notice that the Linkedin image has been imported, but it has the little "in" blue image in the bottom right-hand corner. If I were showing anyone this page for the first time, they would wonder why it's there? After all, this site has nothing to do with LinkedIn. Pedantic? I don't think so, I mean if I wanted to show someone my CV I'd show them my LinkedIn page. I'll have to replace that image.
The next thing I notice is the omission of tooltips where the Add Image/Video and Add Button are placed top and bottom of the main text. Add button? Add button for what? It turns out these are supposed to be navigation buttons.
Next up is the main image background which needs to be replaced. What size is it? With no guidance, it's hit and miss, so I upload a 700x400, but then I realise that is only adding an image overlay over the background image.
On purpose I upload a 300x300px background image. There is nothing to tell me it's not OK to do this. Nothing that says "the minimum size should be".
The background image is grossly distorted which is precisely as I expected. But is it what the newbie user expects? They don't know they need to upload a larger image? The user that this software is aimed at won't have much design experience at all. I've worked at places where complete beginners have tried doing their own images and it nearly always looks horrible unless they are given specific guidelines to work with as in "this image needs to be exactly 900x400px" and so on.
I replace the image with a 900x560 which is still not ideal, but it looks much better now. Once I've uploaded the image I see the "stretch, contain, tile and centre" commands which resize the image correctly, and now it looks great.
And herein lies the inherent problem with this type of website building application, if you don't have any experience with images and image manipulation you can make something very ugly very quickly. All of the templates are graphically intensive and you'll need to replace all of the images with your own versions. This is commonly the most complicated factor of website design - where to source images and how to display them.
In my opinion, making something that has a simple header with more blogging and layout options is going to be much easier to use.
Rather than prolong the agony here I'm going to wind this up pretty quickly. In the next screenshot look at the bottom of the page. Yes, that's right, the copyright says 2017.
For all the rounds of capital funding, seed funding, A series funding or whatever you want to call it, Strikingly still haven't managed to update the copyright to 2018 in their templates. Yes, you can change it yourself but it is this lack of attention to detail that really grinds my gears. You'd expect more than that for the $7.5 million they have ploughed into this so far.
In short, there is nothing here that impressed me. We got off to a bad start being presented with a blank screen to edit and the lack of basic user helpers like tooltips compounded my lack of confidence that this software is really suitable for beginners.
Perhaps I'll revisit in a year to see if they have improved things.