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A Solopreneur’s Search For the Perfect Online Scheduling App

July 21st, 2010 by Larry Keltto | Posted in Client Relations, Coaching, Office

Last week I went in search of an online scheduling application. I thought I would find the perfect scheduling app for my business within an hour or two. Sigh. That was not nearly the case.

The Backstory

I needed a more efficient method for my solopreneur coaching clients to book appointments, because I didn’t think my “system” of setting up appointments via e-mail was adequate anymore. Plus, I wanted to give clients the ability to book online without leaving my Web site.

I signed up for and tested six online applications, and this my report. (Keep in mind that these aren’t full-blown reviews based on the use of the apps; these are the impressions of one person who is trying to make a buying decision for a solo business.)

All of the applications I considered have an impressive list of features, so my buying decision was based on these criteria:

• Ease of use for my clients and for me, the administrator

• An attractive user interface for clients and the administrator

• Customizable to fit my functions and match my Web site

• Ability to import iCal and Google calendars

I didn’t think I was asking for too much.

The Candidates

Appointment.com
The home page and introductory video make Appointment.com look great. I think it’s an extremely robust product, but I didn’t get very far. After I signed up, I went under the hood and immediately thought it was overwhelming and anti-intuitive. It felt like Excel, and Excel hates me. I didn’t know where to begin with Appointment.com; it’s way too much program for my needs, so I signed out and moved on.

AppointmentQuest.com
This is an application that I think a lot of people would like. Personal taste pushed me away from it.

Easy for my clients to use: Yes

Easy for me to administer: Yes

An attractive user interface for my clients and the administrator: Unfortunately, no. The interface looks like state-of-the-art, circa 1998. Its use of clip art and fonts is brutal. I did not want to subject my clients to that. Another sign of age: in the support section it gives instructions for use with Netscape, but not Chrome.

Customizable to fit my functions and match my Web site: I couldn’t bear to look at the user interface long enough to get to this point.

Ability to import iCal and Google calendars: I don’t know.

Tech support: A setup and user guide, plus online and contextual help

Cost for my uses: $14.75 per month

BookFresh.com
I wanted BookFresh to work for me, because it is so intuitive and fun to use.

Easy for my clients to use: Yes

Easy for me to administer: Yes, very easy

An attractive user interface for my clients and the administrator: Definitely! A beautiful, Mac-like interface

Customizable to fit my functions and match my Web site: Nope. BookFresh asks that the business list its services and prices. My clients already have purchased sessions, and they just want to make an appointment; I don’t need to list the prices again. There was no explanation anywhere online from BookFresh on how work around the price requirement. Maddening! So I sent an e-mail to support. They told me to use the words “Free” or “Varies” in the price box. That’s great, but why wasn’t that piece of information available anywhere? Also, the customizable-colors function for building my widget did not work, and I could not find a way to remove the “shopping cart” icon from the user dialogue box.

Ability to import iCal and Google calendars:
I don’t know. There’s no tech-support information online to answer that question.

Tech support: There is no real support built into the site. The FAQ and videos are only introductory in nature.

Cost for my uses: $19.95 per month

BookingBug.com
I found out about BookingBug in the comments of a BookFresh vs. Setster review.

Easy for my clients to use: Yes, but the calendar widget loads slowly (about 30 seconds) when used the first time.

Easy for me to administer: Yes

An attractive user interface for my clients and the administrator: It’s not the best I saw, but it wasn’t the worst either.

Customizable to fit my functions and match my Web site: This is where BookingBug shines. Its widgets are available in four sizes. You can customize every tiny element of the widget, which means that the calendar widget on my site matches the rest of my site. Plus, you can customize the text in e-mail messages. Multiple custom options are available for pricing and payment, too, including the option of not including any price information.

Ability to import iCal and Google calendars: It appears to be iCal only

Tech support: Fabulous! Dynamic help throughout the site, live online tech support, detailed how-to information at every step. There’s also an optional set-up service, which would have cost me $59.

Cost for my uses: $19.95 per month

Lattiss.com
I didn’t go very far with Lattiss, because it appears to be better suited to businesses that serve a local clientele. My first clue was the site’s tagline, which says “Online booking for local services.” If I had that kind of business, I would have spent time with Lattiss.

Setster.com
Setster might have won this competition, if not for its cynical pricing structure.

Easy for my clients to use: Yes

Easy for me to administer: Yes

An attractive user interface for my clients and the administrator: Yes

Customizable to fit my functions and match my Web site: The only way you can set multiple availability times—beyond preset times—is to upgrade to a premium package that costs $29.95. I think it’s annoying and manipulative to not include such a fundamental feature in a base package. At $29.95, Setser is 50 percent more expensive than other apps. Is Setster 50 percent better? I don’t think so.

Ability to import iCal and Google calendars: iCal no, Google yes.

Tech support: Setster has a “Help Desk” that includes a forum, although there are several questions in the forum that have been up for months and have not been answered by Setster (or anyone else). Support is available 24/5 via e-mail, appointment, phone and Skype.

Cost for my uses: $29.95 per month

The Conclusion

BookingBug was the winner, even though the admin user interface isn’t as handsome as some of the others. I have one silly criticism of BookingBug: it bothers me that I’m using an app that has “bug” in its name. (That’s a bewildering marketing decision, to use the word “bug” in your software’s name.)

Here’s the end result: The Solopreneur Life Coaching scheduling tool. I never dreamed it would take so much time and effort to produce a little-old calendar!

Comments
What is your online scheduling solution? Are there any excellent apps that I did not find? If you know of one, tell us about it in the comments below.


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Comments

  1. Julia says:

    Nice choices, but as it was already mention, you are missing Bookeo, if you are interested you can take a look at a review of it on GetApp, a marketplace of business apps, and also a comparison table between it and other option you mentioned.

    http://www.getapp.com/blog/bookeos-marketing-and-scheduling-tools-help-smbs-grow-their-customer-base/

    http://www.getapp.com/compare/appointments-scheduling-software/bookeo-vs-sester

  2. Hung Le says:

    Awesome post Larry! I was searching frantically for an honest, in depth review of online scheduling software and am so happy to find what I was looking for. Thanks so much!

  3. Jonas says:

    Thanks Larry! Your post definitely helped to me, but at the end I decided to try http://www.BookerLooker.com basically because of great client support that is very important for us

  4. Larry Keltto says:

    Hi Jonas:

    I’m glad you found a solution! BookerLocker looks nice.

  5. Hi. I know this is an old post but just wanted to suggest our application MakePlans. You can sign up for a free trial at http://www.makeplans.net/. I think we have made a very simple booking process for the booking customer. Let me know if you have any questions :)

  6. Hi. Loved your reviews.
    My issues involved the scheduling of about 20 cleaners. But I’m in Montreal so I needed bilingual ability. And I need small endian format dates (dd.mm.yyyy) and Canadian or UK english (cheque not check). The main thing I need is repeating schedules, which Bookeo promises to have ready for Summer. (I needed to implement in advance as we were updating our sites–so I subscribed). BookingBug is also good from our limitted testing. Wish these people would design based on different date formats (afterall there are 1.9 billion English speakers that use the same format and 0.3 billion that use the USA formats.) And the language–looks sloppy when you spell colour or flavour without the “u”. Incorrect spelling insults the client. Just thought I’d forward my thoughts to someone who cares enough to write such good reviews.

  7. Hi Tim,

    Can’t say for sure, but reading this looks like http://youcanbook.me could help – we can certainly support two language versions of our scheduling grids and date formats (most of it is based on auto-detect) as well as repeating schedules.

    Drop the team a line team@softlysoftware.com or create a (free) account and we can add a trial period for you to test the features!

    best of luck finding a solution

    Bridget

  8. Kevin says:

    Setster has changed. I am personally happy to answer any subsequent questions, and dispel any of the untrue facts on this posting.

    best,
    Kevin Fink, Managing Director, Setster.com

  9. Zach Shivers says:

    Hello.

    I am having issues where the widget calendar doesn’t appear on the page.
    I contacted support and they resolved the issue.
    I created a new widget and the same problem occurs again.

    Has anyone else experienced this with bookingbug?

  10. zach shivers says:

    Hello everyone.

    I finally found the perfect combination of plugins to configure your site with the following requirements.

    Completely mobile responsive ( from choosing the appointment, to paying for service appointment. )

    Customer self service scheduling and payment process.

    Customer not required to create account or login.
    Customer is given the option to create account and login.

    Customer can select a service.
    Customer can select an available service provider. ( staff member )

    Customer can select an available service appointment date.

    Customer can select an available service appointment time.

    Customer can enter name, address, contact number, email address.

    Customer information can be stored.

    Customer can pay for service using Authorize.net gateway.

    Customer can pay for service using PayPal.

    Customer email notifications.
    Staff email notifications.
    Customer/staff reminder email notifications.

    Notification intervals can be set in hours before service appointment date.

    Business hours can be set.
    Staff member working hours can be set.
    Exclusion days can be set ( holidays, etc. )
    Staff break hours can be set.

    This solution is the most affordable and value packed solution I have found.
    I have spent a large sum of money, buying plugins, testing them and finding out they had some of my requirements but not all.

    Here is the fruits of my labor.
    Please share with as many People as possible.

    WPMU DEV Appointments+ plugin $19
    WPMU DEV MarketPress plugin $19
    ThemeForest AVADA theme plugin $47
    WordPress FREE
    Authorize.net payment gateway
    PayPal express business account.

    The only issue I have with my setup is: I would like to integrate a form to post data to PayPal instead of the customer being redirected to a PayPal page. Note: this solution provides a mobile optimized PayPal page so it does meet my requirements.

    Note: I consulted with web developers and both companies quoted $2000 to $5000 dollars to develop a solution based on using WooCommerce and woocommerce appointment booking plugin, or using appointy.com scheduling system integrated with iFrame in my website.

    I hope this reaches the folks who are looking for an awesome, simple solution to allow customers to schedule a service appointment, choose the service provider, pay for service , all online.

  11. Thomas says:

    This post dates a while back, but for the new readers where’s another site to consider http://www.findjoo.com. I believe all your requirements are answered Larry.

    I tried a couple of the others sites mentioned here and I landed on Findjoo and found it to be the most intuitive. There’s information provided for every section and setup field. Also all I’ve had is positive comments from my clients who book online.

    Plus Findjoo only cost me $5 per month since I use the client management feature. You only pay for “extra” features if you need them.

    Definitely worth taking a look.

    Regards
    Thomas

  12. Sasha says:

    I would have to agree with Thomas. Findjoo is great and they have everything you need. Plus the fees are very low. Here the link for more details: http://www.findjoo.com/appointment-scheduling/learn-more

  13. Ned Smith says:

    I’ve used Genbook for 3 years or so. It’s been a good tool. But, the jump from my website to Genbook might be a killer. Genbook offers no data on what my drop off rate is once somebody gets to genbook.com. So, I think BookingBug (horrible name you’re right–but Genbook? That’s a lame name too) would really help people just go for it right on my site.

    I have a question, about the following text from your BookingBug review above, “Easy for my clients to use: Yes, but the calendar widget loads slowly (about 30 seconds) when used the first time.” Do you mean my potential clients will be waiting 30 seconds for BookingBug to open for them? If yes, then I’ll stay put. Modern users can’t withstand a wait of more than a couple of seconds. The drop off rates are incredible, now.

    Hopefully, you meant that the management console that your clients never see takes 30 seconds to load. It’s spooky programming or a bad hosting situation that BookingBug should fix ASAP, regardless of whether it’s the management console or the customer facing interface.

    Thanks, Ned

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