Pages on Facebook can be incredibly useful tools for small business, bloggers and entrepreneurs alike. Although they take a bit of skill to manage properly, if you get the magic formula right you can see that magic “total reach” figure for each post shoot through the roof.
Managing both a website and a Facebook page can be a bit of a chore, though, so Sitefly, which is currently in open beta, allows you to create a simple website using your Facebook page, no matter what it is you do. This sounded really interesting to me, especially as I use the iPad.AppStorm Facebook page quite extensively to publish our posts so I signed up to see what the service could offer. Here’s what I found out.
As Sitefly uses any Facebook Pages connected with your account, you’ll have to sign in and authenticate it to access and manage any Pages you are the administrator of. Once you’ve done so, it’ll prompt you to click on the relevant Page (if you manage more than one) in order to start building your site.
Your imported Page will then appear in Sitefly’s Dashboard, as you can see in the screenshot below. Here, you can easily preview your new site and customize various aspects of it, such as the title, the colours that appear on the pages, the logo and the cover photo. The last two are imported by default from your Page, however you can always change them if you wish.
Within the Dashboard view you can also add a custom domain in addition to the default domain that Sitefly assigns to your new website, which is usually http://xxx.sitefly.co (where xxx is the URL of your Facebook page). You can add your own domain domains; however, you’ll need access to your domain host’s DNS management settings in order to create a new record.
The Settings view allows you to add a Google Analytics TrackID, so your site shows up within your Analytics dashboard and also gives you the option to customize the “Contact us” e-mail address that is displayed across your website. By default, this is the e-mail address that is saved into your Facebook profile (not your Page’s), however you can change it from within the Settings view.
Editing Your Website
Unlike other online website designers, Sitefly unfortunately doesn’t come with a whole slew of tools to help you build your very own custom site. In fact, there’s actually very little in the way of editing your website, apart from the titles, colours, logo and so on. Clicking on the Customize link from within the Dashboard accesses the editor, and I prefer to click on Show/Hide Options to hide the toolbar, which gives you a bigger view.
By default, your Sitefly page contains your most recent posts (this appears in the News section) along with any photos you’ve shared on your Facebook Page and an About Us section (the information here is lifted from the About section on your Page). There’s also a contact form, which lets visitors send inquiries to the address you saved in the Settings section we looked at above. There’s unfortunately no way to add or remove pages or customize the layout of each page and you cannot remove or add posts manually — once something has been posted to Facebook it’ll automatically get cross-posted to your Sitefly page.
One feature that I did find useful, however, was the ability to view your website in either mobile, tablet or desktop view. Within the mobile view, there is a drop down menu allowing visitors to access the various pages of your website.
As I mentioned above, Sitefly is currently in open beta and it feels very much that way — there’s still a lot of work to be done before this can become a groundbreaking concept. I’m very much in love with the idea of being able to create a website from your Facebook page, as I can imagine it will save people an awful lot of time, and Sitefly certainly does approach the concept well, but a few improvements do need to be made. I would welcome the ability to customize the look of my site further, with different layouts, themes and so on, as well as being able to choose which posts from my Facebook page appear on my Sitefly page.
I have therefore rewarded Sitefly a generous 7 out of 10 rating, mostly because I love the site’s idea and I’m hoping that more features will be added when the final version is released. Currently, there’s no word on the developer’s blog about when this will be — the last feature update was back in May (and since then there have been no improvements), however development does seem active and I’m looking forward to the final version. If it does include the features that I mentioned above, then I can see Sitefly becoming a very useful weapon in the arsenal of web masters and developers alike.
Otherwise, it’s unfortunately going to become another online white elephant — useful in theory but impractical in most situations — and I certainly don’t wish that at all.