Playing with Vox

Earlier this week I received an invitation to try Vox, Six Apart’s new “personal blogging service” (currently in beta). I haven’t delved into all the nooks and crannies, but so far I’ve been very impressed with it. I’ve heard some folks call it “MySpace for grownups,” but I think it goes beyond that and will appeal to all age groups (and besides, it’s a lot easier to use and explore than MySpace).

Here’s my Vox blog if you want to check it out, but you should stick with my Feedburner feed rather than subscribe to my Vox feed since I’m just kicking the tires. And I should add that there are some display problems when viewed in the Internet Explorer 7 beta, so use another browser to check out Vox if you’ve got IE7 installed.

I like how Vox ties into other services such as YouTube, Amazon, Flickr and (no surprise) TypePad. I also like how it enables building a “neighborhood” by connecting with other Vox users, especially since there’s a single page which shows new posts from friends and family. The ability to explore through feeds is also great, and they’ve certainly made it easy to edit existing content.

Of course, Vox isn’t perfect – for one thing, there’s not enough control over design to make it attractive to someone like myself. Now, I realize I’m not the target user, and I certainly understand why Six Apart doesn’t want the support headaches of something like the advanced template feature offered by TypePad. But right now I’m not sure how to brand my Vox blog with my personal style, and while the built-in themes are decent, they’re devoid of any real personality. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be willing to pay for more customization features, so most likely this is an area they’ll improve upon during the beta cycle.

One other thing I don’t like is how awkward it is to post pre-formatted HTML. I use TopStyle to write new blog posts, and I copy-and-paste the finished post into my blog’s composition page. Unlike TypePad, Vox doesn’t appear to allow posting HTML directly – so if you hand-code an image tag, for example, Vox will escape the angle brackets and show <img> instead of the image itself. As a workaround, I discovered that I can retain the HTML by previewing the post in TopStyle, and then copying-and-pasting directly from TopStyle’s preview into Vox’s composition page. Yeah, I know bloggers who hand-code their HTML are in the minority, and Vox is designed for non-technical users (as it should be), but it would still be nice if Vox made this easier.

All in all, though, Vox is an exciting effort, and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow over the next few months. The best thing about it is that it’s easier to use than other blogging packages I’ve tried (an impressive feat given the extra social features it offers). I’d say Six Apart has another winner on their hands with Vox.