SimDif iPad App Review

2015-03-09 09:28:58 (original review: 2013-06-04)

Ease for Beginners
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Features & Capabilities
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Some Websites Made with SimDif

New from SimDif

A few things have been added since we last reviewed SimDif over a year ago, including the name of the app. The transition looks to be a work in progress as there are still references to SimpleDifferent in places. New features include a quick access menu, password protected pages, many more fonts for Pro Site users, and a change to the way photos work so that all of a site’s images can now zoom on clicking.

Free Websites with Pro Site option for some unique extras

SimDif offers starter sites which are free forever. The only requirement is that you publish your site at least once every 21 days.
Pro Sites come with a range of additional features, which we’ll look at below, and the cost is $39.99 per year.

An intuitive way to make a website

The SimDif WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor is a highly intuitive interface. You work with a page layout that looks exactly as the published result will, and tap on text areas, page titles, image placeholders etc. to edit. Keyboard shortcuts also work as expected. My only complaint would be that some of the icons in the editor are confusing at first as they don’t have explainer text. The learning curve is very fast, though.

SimDif WYSIWYG Editor

SimDif on iPad has great usability

The app functions very well with some occasional waits for screen loading, but no noticeable bugs.

Support

SimDif Editor Bottom

SimDif has produced comprehensive written guides, not just on how to use their editor, but on best practices for making websites. From within the editor and on their website you can find tips on the kind of language to use on web pages, how to add elements that both website visitors and search engines will find and like, and how to set up and organize the navigation and links of the website.

For when you really get stuck SimDif have email support which is easy to find and use.

Free and paid Pro Sites with a wealth of easy to use options

Free Starter Sites allow up to 7 pages, with page types including Standard pages, Gallery, a Contact form, Links and Journal. The “blocks” that are used to build up the pages are one of the nicest and easiest to use of SimDif’s features. They allow effortless and varied creation of well laid out web pages.

SimDif Editor

The “blocks” that are used to build up pages are one of the nicest and easiest to use of SimDif’s features.

Every element of a page is tap and edit including the page title, text areas, media placeholders and menu tab titles. Navigation menus are always on the left, but there are a variety of styling options either using different themes, or for Pro Sites, you can create your own themes and edit background colors, borders, fonts and text styling independently of the theme choice.

The image handling is impressive. Just tap an image placeholder, upload an image, or import a Flickr image. The crop tool is surprisingly easy to use for an iPad, and much easier than you’ll find in other apps. Other than crop and rotate there are no other photo editing features, but this is not a major issue as there are a plethora of image editors for iPad available on the App store.

SimDif Media Add

Youtube Videos, images from Flickr, and Google maps are as easy to add as are your own photos.

The text handling is also very easy, and the page and block titles automatically become h1 and h2 elements to help with SEO. It would be nice if there were more font options for the various text elements in the Starter Sites, but overall the text styling options are pretty good, and include the easy creation of bullet point lists, something that I didn’t find in other apps. For Pro Sites, which allow styling of the text in the theme designer, the options are better. The recently added new fonts give plenty of scope for making your site distinctive.

The contact form is the only example of an actual fillable contact form, complete with spam protection, that I could find among the website builder apps.

Other features include social media share buttons, Google Analytics integration, Paypal and shopping cart features, and password protection for individual pages (the last 3 features are Pro Site only).

Plenty of themes to choose from but all with navigation on the left

SimDif Theme Select

SimDif has a number of pre-designed themes for use in Starter and Pro Sites, and Pro Sites users can create their own themes using the theme designer. Perhaps partly because of the left side only menu, and the fixed width nature of the elements of the themes, many themes don’t look particularly varied or distinctive at first.

Over 60 pre-designed themes and the ThemeDesigner in Pro Sites lets you create your own

Once you’ve added some images and other elements you begin to see the versatility. Small businesses can certainly express both their brand and display their wares. Visual artists perhaps won’t be satisfied by the fixed width formatting, but there are still far greater possibilities for multi device capable websites than for other site builder apps.

Themes can be changed easily at any time with no impact on the layout of the text, images, videos etc., that you’ve added.

You can create custom headers and footers (by using an image editing App or image editing software on a computer) and this can have branding. There are several apps available for iPad that can do it. Background images and favicons (the little icon which shows up on the tabs of computer based internet browsers) are some of the elements which are not possible.

Create multi-language sites with ease

SimDif makes this easy by providing duplication of entire websites (for Pro Sites) for translation. They also offer the first year of the translated pro site for free.

SEO

SimDif Guides

SimDif have obviously thought very carefully about how the websites their users create will actually perform, both for website visitors and for search engine results. There’s a Tips Book in the Editor, and several in-depth guides on subjects including writing for the web and SEO which can also be accessed from within the App.

Page titles, meta description, keywords and site author information can be added very easily.
h1 and h2 tags are partially automatic, as page titles and titles added to text in blocks are always enclosed in h1 and h2 tags, but because you can add multiple titles to blocks, you do have some control over the number and location of h2 tags within pages.

SimDif sites work well on all devices

SimDif sites display well on all kinds of devices, including on computer browsers, tablets and smartphones, but it would be better if there were some responsive themes.

The only genuinely multi-platform app

Work on your website on iPhone, iPad, Android tablet or Anrdoid phone.. and desktop. The only completely cross-platform app. Outstanding.

It’s here SimDif truly shines. It is the only website builder, to my knowledge, which can build websites from start to finish, on iPad, iPhone and Android apps and on computer browsers. Not only this, but each version works exactly the same as all the others and users can therefore work on their websites from any device using the same interface, and can even work on multiple devices at the same time, with the latest updates being saved. This cross capability adds a huge amount of fun to working with the app.

Conclusions

The major benefit of the approach SimDif have taken is that you actually feel like you’re making a website as you make it, and therefore the chances are that you will finish the site you’ve started. This is not always true of other apps because of the discrepancy between what you see in the editor and what you see on a published site, or else because of the limited possibilities of some of the apps. For website builders in general the percentage of users who complete a website is very low.

It’s great to see the website you’re making as you’re making it, and this feature will allow beginners to website design to jump right in.

A weak spot in SimDif in my view is that the themes require a good eye for design to get them to look their best. I did, however, manage to find some well designed sites that had been created using the app, proving that it’s possible.

SimDif provides a very easy method for complete beginners to make a website.  There is a learning curve, but it’s more than compensated for by the help guides and support. The combination of ease of use and the strength of it’s capabilities for creating websites on iPad, iPhone, Adroid, laptop and desktop are unmatched.

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