Several months ago, I evaluated a number of evite alternatives out there. It's a crowded space, and lots of new sites have popped up since. Here's a new one that contacted me via a blog comment: BRADvite. Without looking at the comment again, I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say his name was Brad.
BRADvite.com pops up with a loading screening. Literally - the background says "loading" all over it. It's sort of distracting. And then in the center, there's a picture of a guy talking on his cell phone. Brad, is that you? Why are you hanging out in the middle of the screen?
The various background images load relatively quickly in the background. Options include waterfalls, oceans, leafs, classical music sheet, etc. But my party is a toga party. On a boat. With a DJ. And drinking. As beautiful as a waterfall is, it has absolutely nothing to do with my party, nor does it express the "fun party" vibe. A picture of a keg would be more appropriate.
Tucked away in a corner is a little button to change the main image: a rose, secret service cartoon drawing, asian-style flowers, a man fighting off an elephant, aliens, etc. And, of course, a picture of our new friend Brad on a cell phone. Again, none of these match "toga party". Or even, say, a birthday / Christmas / Halloween party.
At least registration is fairly painless. It just asks me name and email address. The registration email didn't actually work, but they fixed that for me pretty quickly.
I can't specify the time for the party. 'Nuff said.
At least the email invitation is clean, elegant and provides useful information: host name, email address, date, location, and invitation details. To open the invitation, I see three links: View Comments | Click here to RSVP | Click for Map.
Yikes. I just want to open it. Shouldn't I be able to view comments and RSVP at the same time? And why not put "Click for map" next to the address, where it's most relevant and out of the way?
After the Invitation Is Sent
Host options are limited. I can edit the text of the invitation after I've sent the invitation, but not the background or main image. I can't export the guest list. I can't see when people RSVPd. There's no integration with Google Calendar or Outlook. I can't message guests.
The limitations of BRADvite are fairly significant, so I won't reiterate them. There is a more interesting point to be made.
Brad of BRADvite is clearly focusing on high quality images. Good. Far too many websites underestimate the importance of their user interface. The issue is that while the images are high quality, they don't very well match what the user wants to do. Brad needs to create user scenarios, such as the following:
- Mary: 50 year old mother who is creating an invitation for her husband's 50th birthday party. It's a dinner party for 20 guests at their house.
- AEPi: Fraternity which is inviting a sorority to their winter formal
- Jake: 20 year old boy, soon to be 21. He's throwing a party for his 21st birthday in Las Vegas.
- Gayle: throws large monthly parties with thousands of invited guests. (Hey, I had to throw myself in there.)
If Brad walked through these scenarios, he might see that as pretty as the background images are, none of them match what Jake or Gayle is doing. He might notice that AEPi, which is hosting a party as a group, might want to let multiple people edit the invite. He might notice that Mary needs the ability to message all the guests to tell them that they don't need to bring gifts. He might notice that if I'm throwing parties regularly, I need the ability to grab my guest list after each event.
Issues like this aren't limited to BRADvite, of course. Websites of all kinds need to stop thinking in the abstract "I am a website which provides [invitations, job listing, etc]" and start thinking concretely about exactly what problems they're trying to solve.