It’s been a while since I looked at personal dashboard/site building tool ZooLoo, so when I recently had the opportunity to speak with the folks from the company about its new features, and how they have scaled things back to focus on the core product, I jumped at the chance.
When I last wrote about ZooLoo I mentioned how ambitious a product it was, and how that could make it overwhelming, especially for the small business audience it was trying to attract. The new release seem to have addressed a lot of my concerns; quite a bit has been removed from the product and the interface has been spiffed up. Gone are the confusing calendars and tasks, while more emphasis has been placed on social media services, the site creator and a new “Graffiti” microblog feature.
At its core, ZooLoo is still two separate products: a dashboard and a site creator. The private dashboard allows you to create a start page for your browsing experience (similar to iGoogle) but it can also capably work as a front-end or aggregator for your email, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Posts and status updates can be added from the dashboard page and each can also selectively be cross-posted to all of these platforms as well.
The dashboard area is functional and does a good job of bringing together the various services that folks are using. It is much cleaner and easier to manage than the prior iteration and the customization options are plentiful for those who want to tweak it to match their mood. Power users who are already hooked on third-party apps may not find the features rich enough, but it performs nicely.
One of my favorite parts of ZooLoo has always been the site creator, and a addition of the new Graffiti microblogging makes the option even more compelling. Working much like Tumblr, a bookmarklet grabs content while you’re out surfing and lets you quickly share it on your Graffiti page. You can link all of this to your own domain, which makes it a compelling option for small business folks and others who want to a site online but who don’t have the technical skills, time, or resources to build it, or deal with hosting and such. It can also move into the next level of sophistication, with some advanced options for theme creation and styling. For the really technical folks who want ultimate control over their site, using a self-hosted CMS would be the better choice, but if you’re looking for a no-fuss solution that you can get out there quickly then Zooloo is worth a try.
In my original look at ZooLoo I was thrilled with its granular permissions system that allowed for the control of sharing and viewing of pages on your site. I’m glad to see that it’s still in place.
Along with the site refresh is a new “choose what you use” pricing model. I particularly like the way add-on options are broken down so you can select only the ones that you need. For example, to remove adverts from your site is a $1.99 per month option. Other add-on options include additional storage, advanced SEO, stats and even the ability to manage your own adverts if you are looking to monetize your site.
I’m still keen on ZooLoo — actually, even more so following these recent changes. While I’ll stick with my stand-alone self hosted site, I’m comfortable recommending it to friends and family who are looking for a simple yet powerful way to manage a web site.
Could ZooLoo’s all-in-one approach work for you?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise