The most popular group of posts in the history of my blog center around problems with and alternatives to Evite, the mostly famous online party planning an invitation service. Recently I stumbled across a new service, MyPunchBowl, which is a Web 2.0 take on this service. I’ve only started to play around with MyPunchBowl, so it’s very hard to say that it’s better or worse than Evite at this point, and as with any web 2.0 application, MyPunchBowl is surely ripe for the typical AJAX user experience issues.
However, after a cursory look at this new application, it does seem to solve two of the major problems that I pointed out in my initial review of Evite. My biggest problem is the way the Evite interface puts undue pressure on the user to come up with something interesting to say in the message field when responding. Although it does offer an alternative where the messaging area is not visible at all to guests, this takes away the ability to see who’s going to the party, which is at least part of the point of it in the first place. MyPunchBowl handles this issue in two ways: first, it separates the messaging from the response. Users who respond “Yes” can then view the message board and post comments if they choose. The beauty of this is that the person is not asked to make comments while they respond to the invitation; as such they are probably more likely to quickly answer without worrying about saying something witty or funny or deciding to come back later when they think of a good comment. Users who respond “No” to the invite never even see the message board; instead, they are prompted to pass along a private message to the party host. I love this because it prevents those incredibly awkward and mostly annoying decline messages such as “Hey Mike, thanks for the invite your party, it sounds really fun, but unfortunately, I have to take my cat to the dentist next Saturday so I’m not going to make it!”
The other huge problem with Evite is that the invite e-mails are terrible. They provide no information about the party, and generally just waste a lot of space. MyPunchBowl, on the other hand, still has a somewhat cheesy graphical display, but at least offers the ability to show the description of the event in the e-mail itself (so the user doesn’t need to click to find out what the event is). I especially find this helpful with people who are at work, who might not want to click. The best possible scenario, and something that Evite alternative DarkGuest offers, is the ability to respond directly from the e-mail, giving people yes / no / maybe choices directly in the e-mail body. Despite not having this feature, however, the e-mail from MyPunchBowl is definitely a step in the right direction over the useless e-mail from Evite.
I should also point out that Evite has recently been giving me a ton of technical issues. Last time I tried to organize something, I had to set up the invitation three or four times because for some reason, every time I tried to set it up, it ended up erasing all the data I had previously entered. Perhaps I did something wrong, but a user like me should be able to figure these things out relatively quickly; to have this happen several times shows some definite usability issues.
So, in summary, combining these issues with the intriguing features of MyPunchBowl, I’ll definitely be trying this new service the next time I organize a gathering of friends.
This post was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9.