Web party invitation and management service MyPunchbowl on Tuesday relaunched with a new look. While mostly a new paint job, the big, new feature is the invitation designer, which has been renamed as a "studio."
Where the service's former system had users simply picking colors, pictures, and some ready-made templates, the results of using the new tool resembles a real life paper invitation. Users can still select things like the coloring and background, but there are new flourishes like colored ribbons, textured backgrounds, and various form factors that mimic proper card stock.
All of this amounts to little besides the invitation page people visit. It doesn't show up (much) in the e-mail, and you can't have it printed and sent out, which would make the whole experience feel a little more fulfilling. Your newly designed invitation will simply sit alongside the party details. The company is pushing the "green" aspect of this, but it's a shame you can't get your handiwork turned into a real-world good. Like Moo.com's mini cards, there's something fantastic about quirky designs for everyday things that could make MyPunchbowl stand out from competitors like Evite, Facebook, and Socializr.
Speaking of which, I think the service is still running up against bad public perception. Many people I know simply go to Evite because it's what they've always used. Also, when MyPunchbowl first launched, one of its stumbles was the e-mail invites, which were promptly being delivered to people's spam folders. Since then, it looks like the problem has been fixed, as I tried sending out an invitation to Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and my work e-mail. All went through without a hitch.
The other big hurdle, which I've pressed on in the past, is the big competition from Evite and social networks like MySpace and Facebook which have integrated events management services. For many, including myself, this is just an easier option--even if it's not a better one. To its credit, MyPunchbowl has done a great job at letting people suck in contacts from elsewhere, then turn around and advertise it at those places from the very same tool. Going forward, it's simply going to be a question of whether or not people will be willing to go through all that just to have a better functioning invitation.
Here's a video of MyPunchbowl founder and CEO Matt Douglas talking about the new design tool. It's worth noting you can't use it unless you're a registered user.