There is an abundance of invoicing web apps available these days, capable of meeting just about anyone’s needs. The difficult part, however, can be finding the invoicing app that meets your needs and works the way you want it to. With an ever growing selection of invoicing apps available to consumers, app creators are doing whatever they can to set themselves apart.
Blinksale brands itself as “Still the easiest way to send invoices online”, which I intend to find out for myself. Blinksale appears to be a no-nonsense, straight forward invoicing app with the right feature set to get the job done right the first time. But does Blinksale stand up to its claims? Read on to find out.
They say, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” — meaning, outwards appearances don’t define the quality of what’s inside. However, on the web, outwards appearances can actually go a pretty long way towards representing the overall quality of a web app. Blinksale does a decent job of making a good impression with its outwards design.
As a designer and developer myself, however, there are some elements of the design that make me a little leery of what may wait inside. The overall design has a few spacing and content alignment issues, which aren’t a big deal but can represent the design quality of the web app you may be paying for.
Also, notice that when you view the “Have a look around” thumbnails in their larger, overlaid view — there is no way to easily navigate from one image to the next. You must close the overlay and click the next image. This is a usability mistake so basic it could lead one to believe the web app itself may have similar usability issues.
Tour Image Overlays
One of the most important aspects of a paid web app, is the overall design and ease of sign up. Blinksale’s sign up page could, honestly, use some design improvements — not only to make it more appealing but to also help guide visitors through the information smoothly, leaving them at the objective (signing up).
Sign Up Page
Blinksale plays off one of its advantages — offering a free 30 day trial. This is the first thing you see, along with a very minimalistic sign up form and clear cut information on the terms of the trial in a way normal humans think. This is a good approach, but I think it could be done a little better with an improved design and the combination of the minimalistic sign up form and the paid plan options. Still, this isn’t a bad approach.
Sign Up Usability
Sign up usability is very important. It should be a breeze to sign up. Any small annoyance or problem will cause services, like Blinksale, to loose potential customers. Blinksale, does this right. Spot on.
Sign Up Activation
- Fill out the simple sign up form.
- Activate your account with the link provided in the email they send you (or just enter the code if the link doesn’t work).
- Set your password.
- You’re done!
Three quick steps and you’re in the application. The way it should be!
Notice that you didn’t have to provide payment information such as a credit card? Blinksale wants to get you in the app and is confident enough that you’ll become a paid customer. In my opinion, this is the right way to do sign ups!
Sign up was quick and simple. Now we’re in the app and my first impression of the app interface is very good. I’m not particularly a fan of the choice of colors and usage, but that’s just personal taste. The overall interface is simple and immediately navigable (vs trying to figure out where to start in some apps).
The important elements we see first is information explaining what you’re viewing (the dashboard) and our primary goal, the reason we signed up for the service — in this case, creating invoices.
Blinksale doesn’t appear to need any initial setup, but after quickly checking out the other pages (invoices, purchases, etc), I usually head directly to the settings page (link at the top right of the page) to customize whatever I can.
I’ve quickly edited my company information and uploaded an example logo. Setting invoice details and adding a payment gateway (currently only Paypal is available) only took a few seconds. Next I choose (or create) the invoice template. Several color options are available or you can completely customize the layout and design of the HTML-formatted invoice template using custom CSS. This is a great option to have available!
There are also several thank-you templates available to choose from, or the optional custom CSS styling. Next, you can enter customized reminder information or just use the default text. If you’re a Basecamp user, Blinksale can optionally integrate with that for better project management tied to your invoicing.
The last setup options are your Blinksale account and billing details. From here you’ll be able to subscribe to or change paid plans. Should you decide Blinksale isn’t for you, you’ll navigate here to cancel your account. It’s important to note that they make canceling your account easy. It’s easy to find and isn’t a pain to cancel, unlike many other services — a testament to Blinksale’s confidence and usability.
Account and Billing Options
An important thing to note here, is that the free 30 day trial is their Gold plan. Most service trials are the lowest level paid plan, but not Blinksale!
First, I’d like to point out that the Blinksale app uses very consistent navigation. Each page that allows the creation of something (invoices or clients), includes the primary function button in the same place. If it’s a page that only reports information (like purchases), the title of the page is displayed in place of the button. This is great for navigation and general usability.
The first thing you’ll want to do is setup the client you plan on invoicing. We’ll go to the People tab and click the New Company button.
Input your client details and hit Save Company Info when you’re done. It’s important to point out the navigational button placement here. The Save Company Info button is placed at the end of the form (as it should be), but there is also a Cancel & Go Back button included at the top right. Strangely, some web apps either don’t include this or don’t make it easily visible. Blinksale has made this simple and intuitive!
Once you’ve created your client, you’ll return to the People tab. Your client will be listed there, along with your information. The client information is clearly displayed and organized nicely for navigating longer lists of clients.
The most used function of Blinksale will be invoice creation. Click the New Invoice button (while on the Dashboard or Inoices pages) and instantly a form is displayed for selecting an existing client or creating a new one.
Once Create Invoice is clicked, you’re taken to the invoice creation page. Enter your invoice details as necessary and click Save Invoice.
The invoice creation interface is incredibly simple and easy to use, with information and elements placed in the right places (such as client information at the top of the sidebar). This is an overall solid interface that makes invoicing a very simple task.
Once you create the invoice you’re presented with an overview with a view of its history & comments (and the option to add comments). From here you can perform additional invoicing tasks like sending, editing, printing, etc.
Invoice Overview and Tasks
Overall, the Blinksale web app is incredibly simple and easy to use. If you need advanced functionality and ultimate flexibility, this won’t be the app for you. However, for most people, Blinksale is going to be a fantastic solution to choose for their invoicing. The app interface is nicely done — even though the main website needs some improvements. This is a prime example of the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Web app aside, Blinksale’s pricing seems a little awkward. In my opinion, PDF invoices should be a standard option and the price to invoice ratio could be adjusted. I’m a heavy user of Freshbooks so I’m more familiar with the concept of paying for the number of clients you can have while getting unlimited invoices. Blinksale reverses this concept and charges based on the number of invoices you need while providing unlimited clients.
Overall, the paid plans are still priced relatively competitively. In the long run, I have a feeling this pricing structure will need to be revised in order for Blinksale to continue being a competitive web invoicing app or if they want to become more competitive in the market as it is today.
I’ve chosen to give Blinksale an 8/10 which may seem a little high considering the main website’s design drawbacks and awkward pricing structure, however, the app itself is well designed, easy and intuitive. It isn’t the most advanced or innovative but it does exactly what it claims to do.