Wednesday, July 15, 2009

High WASP Entertaining, Yes, The Online Invitation Is The Way Of The Future

The online invitation is the way of the future. There. I've said it. But, we aren't there yet.

The state of online invitations is currently defined by Evite. To the point where people use the word "Evite" to mean online invitation. Like Kleenex meaning tissue stored in a box to blow your nose with. People will often say that they don't like online invitations when they really mean they don't like Evite. But let's not be harsh. Evite was the first. Evite defined the space. They developed the concept and ironed out the bugs. Problem is they didn't end up with a good user experience. And technology has evolved to where it could be better and other companies have plans. For all I know, Evite has plans.

For now, let's take a quick look at why Evite hasn't been able to convert wedding, birthday, or fabulous cocktail parties over to online invitations. I say quick because I will spare you a full-fledged User Experience analysis of the site. You can thank me later. So. The goals of what we might call premium invitations are to a) brand, communicate, convey the spirit of your party b) honor and delight your guests c) give you a creative outlet d) manage attendance. Evite focuses on managing attendance. Everything else is secondary. Just take a look at their landing page. Targeted more to "event management" than "fabulous invitation design."

And customizing the design? You can't really. You can insert a couple of images into a few slots.

Your guests don't have a much better experience. They receive this in their email. It's not dreadful, but it's not inviting...get it? It's not deluxe.

When guests land on the invitation, it's a static page. A real invitation might have confetti, might have a pocketfold, might have an RSVP card. It's what we call in Web 2.0 design, "the progressive reveal." And Evite's underlying design around managing event data becomes clear at this point. You fill in a form. Like a shopping cart. Where's the romance, the mystery, the allure of a great event?

It's not their fault. Evite was first. Back when data ruled the world and HTML meant that each page had to be a form to "submit." But we don't want to be data when we go to a party. And the world doesn't reveal itself to us in a series of static pages. In the world of real, lovely, paper invitations, you have texture, crinkling, movement, surprises. My prediction is that these will come to online invitations too, that the wave has already begun. It may move beyond self-serve, have to involve talented designers, just like custom paper invitations do.

In this case, my tech career trumps High WASP regard for tradition. I believe that the higher goals of the invitation tradition can be brought into the virtual world with no loss of interest. I'm not alone, in fact. Which is the code word for More To Follow.

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Anonymous Jan said...

I love doing everything electronically - I'd give up speaking all together in favor of email and instant message if I could. I only have a cell phone so my kids can call me in emergencies and so I can check my blog when I'm away from my laptop (which isn't often).

I wouldn't do a formal invitation electronically (like I attend functions that are anything close to formal), but I send out PLENTY of Evites. And, because of the reasons you cite here, I hand code each and every one of the buggers.

It's the personal touch that means so much, you know.

July 15, 2009 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Bride in Exile said...

LPC, I completely agree about Evite -- the concept is great, and Evite gets a bad rap because it came first and has had some bumps in the road. My friends and I use them all the time for BBQs and other grad student gatherings, but the designs tend to be clunky, and many friends have expressed annoyance that no useful information is conveyed in the original e-mail you receive from the site. (On the other hand, if they were not forced to click through to the Evite, many would forget to RSVP. But I digress.)

July 15, 2009 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Lipstick said...

Great post...I totally agree about Evite, but I am grateful for them. I have used them for the kid's b-day parties with much success. I love the reminder email feature.

July 15, 2009 at 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Maureen at IslandRoar said...

I love traditional paper invitations for all the reasons you said. But no doubt there will be a way to get that electronically, when some clever techy person figures it out, before long.

July 15, 2009 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger The Mrs. said...

So interesting! I bet you're right!!!

July 15, 2009 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Can't stand Evite, or any other on line invite. I believe that a party BEGINS WITH THE INVIE. I put lots of time picking out an invite, writing it out, adding special touches, and then mailing it. As soon as that envelope hits a mailbox, the party has begun! I like to read it, mark it down on my calendar, hang it up where I can SEE it. Do you know how many parties I have forgotten about because they send an Evite? After I read it, and walk away from the computer that evite is as good as gone from my memory.

I also don't like the on line Christmas card. Come on people. Get up and buy a flippin' card!

July 16, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

begins with the INVITE..not INVIE...can't stand typos either

July 16, 2009 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I get the managing attendance aspect, and even the environmental 'no trees died for this invite' thing (and thank god they didn't die for such ugliness...)

But there will never be a time when I won't adore paper invitations. There's something so lovely about receiving one that shows so much effort and time.

So maybe it's just group emails/facebook instead of evite and paper invitations for all else?

July 16, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

I think certain kinds of people have a particularly strong preference for paper. People who are good with their fingers. Let me confess. My small motor coordination is not good. As in, even braiding my hair used to be a lot of work. So when I read descriptions of paper that has to be measured, folded, scored, cut, in fact it makes me cry. This is probably why I have so few objections to the online versions. Especially if the online version could show craftmanship.

July 16, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

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