Blinksale Notes

This evening (one week since my first attempt), I was successfully able to sign up at Blinksale.

During the week, I received two e-mails from Blinksale support:

  1. “Sorry, we think this is our problem. We’ll have someone get in touch.”
  2. “Actually, the problem is with your credit card.”

Since I use this card quite regularly for all my business purchases, I’m quite sure that the card is fine. Additionally, it did work when I signed up on today – so I’m guessing they must have fixed something internally. Blinksale support never let me know that anything had been changed mind you, I just decided to give it one more shot before I gave up – and it worked.

I was pretty much willing to forgive the sign-up issues. After all, I know how hard it can be launching a web based service that becomes rather popular. Once I was in, the first impression was pretty good.

Unfortunately, as I explored the application for a few hours, I ran into some things that will likely cause me to cancel my subscription before I ever actually send an invoice. Here are the notes I took during my exploration:

  • Application layout is clean and simple – good use of web standard navigation in a web application.
  • Where are the recurring invoices?
  • If I can’t create a recurring invoice, surely I should be able to duplicate an old invoice – right? That doesn’t seem to be an option either.
  • Why do I have to make up an invoice number for each invoice? Isn’t that something software is supposed to do for you?
  • Why can’t I choose from previously entered line items when creating an invoice?
  • Blinksale offers RSS feeds and iCalendars (yay!), but these are only :scare: protected :/scare: by the obscurity of a random 11 character string (boooo!!!).
  • It only took me about 2 hours to add my customers and customize my templates w/ my colors and logo – pretty good job they did with this stuff.
  • How do I export my data for my own archives/records/tax purposes/etc.? Not very “web 2.0″.
  • If I cancel my account, all of my data will be immediately deleted:
    Your account and all of its invoices, client records, and other information will be deleted immediately.

    um, I’d really like a copy for my records first.

Do I think Blinksale has the potential to be a great application? Yes, I do. They’ve already made it elegant and enjoyable to use – that is the often the hardest part of building a web application.

Unfortunately, the current feature set is inadequate for even my meager invoicing needs1 (I do ~5/month). Combine that with the lack of security for my data (public RSS feeds and iCalendars) and the inability for me to own my data, and I’m just not comfortable actually using the service.

As a mentor of mine once told me when I showed him a project I was working on (and thought I had completed):

Looks good… I look forward to seeing it when it’s finished.

My opinion is that they’ve come to market a little before they’re ready and created a classic “going to market too early” situation.

In a way, they did the hard part. They convinced me that I need to improve my invoicing situation and that I’m willing to pay a monthly fee for that service – they turned me into a customer. But since I’ve decided I have a need for this type of service and they aren’t meeting it, I’ll probably go ahead and sign up with another service instead in the next week or so.

Unless my experience with that service goes very badly, I probably won’t give Blinksale another chance2 because I will have committed my data to that service instead (even though I like the Blinksale interface better than any others I’ve seen).

  1. Because it took so long to get a response to my previous e-mails, I didn’t bother e-mail them to ask if/when these features would be available. [back]
  2. No matter what Blinksale does to improve their service in the future. [back]