Sue posted about ExpressPlanner late yesterday. The beta was launched last week (Dec. 9th). Express Planner is - as of now - 100% free to use. Unless you need tech support, in which case you can pay anywhere from $95/hour to $10,000/year. But if their claims are right, you may not need help. But bet the farm you will.
Since Sue didn't, I decided I'd try it out. Registering for a free account was easy enough. I was going to start doing a simple survey which I'd post on the blog. Couldn't figure it out. The page for doing the survey offers all the familiar MSWord commands, but it was a strange design. Huge amounts of white space between forms.
At first I couldn't even figure out where to add my questions. Then I realized I had to scroll down the page - waaaaaay down the page - which seemed counterintuitive. I tried to grab my template from the blog for formatting. It worked. But it grabbed everything, including the last 10 posts... so that wasn't going to work for me. I looked for help, but this was all that was on the help page. No help.
So I backtracked. Figured I'd built myself an event. I fill out all the information on the event, then hit "save". I get back a message that my date format is incorrect. There was no key to follow for the format and I made the mistake of using the word "December". But instead of just having me correct that one blank, ExpressPlanner wiped out the entire form.
I start all over again. This time I save it without a problem. But now I don't know what I'm supposed to do next. I take a guess and click on "Manage Web Site". I'm taken to a page with four very undistinguished templates to choose from. I pick the only one with color in it. I note that every time I click something I generate a new window.
I complete the home page for the event, go to save it and am brought to a screen asking me to log in again. Now I feel I've lost all the work I just did. But I sign in anyway and am taken to a page showing that I did indeed save my work. It asks me to choose my entry (home) page. I realize I have to give that page an easy-to-remember name, so I choose "Merry Christmas". It immediately changes that to read: 36IGWTA4LOP0GZ38PW2HVM71R8CLO1EP. I make a note to remember that should I ever need it.
Now we move onto the fun part, building the reg page. I build a web page. I test it. It works. It's not pretty, but it works.
Next I go to integrate the registration with the home page. At least I think that's what I'm supposed to do. Hard to tell given the limited information available. I click on a link to integrate, I get a message that I MUST add another page. I have no idea why when one page would do the trick. But I go to add another page because they want me to and I get a system error for my effort. I go back and try to look at my entry page - another system error. More tries, more system errors.
That was two hours of my life I won't be getting back.
Sorry to report it seems there's a lot of work to do for ExpressPlanner. Too bad for you guys because the event I was going to launch was Christmas Dinner at my house. And had you registered, I would've taken you in. All in the name of science. But now you'll have to settle for your own shabby dinner instead of filet mignon and a cellarful of Aussie shiraz.
Maybe that's a good thing, since I didn't tell my wife about this experiment.
Seems ExpressPlanners roots are with MicroStrategy, which also supplied backing for Cvent. And that might explain the "from the team who brought you Reggie" headline. Although I think Reggie would've had this working better.
One thing ExpressPlanner does have is their own blog. I expect you'll see me there in the near future.