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SimpleSeating not yet ready to make you a better host

SimpleSeating not yet ready to make you a better host

Note: This post has been updated from the original. The third and fourth paragraphs have changed.

I finally got access to SimpleSeating, the Web 2.0 application that helps you create seating diagrams for parties. It's free for guest lists with fewer than 50 people, but the creators plan to charge if you want to use it for larger events. The site is still in private beta but should launch soon.

The site has received a fair bit of press (including on CNET). Why? Because it's cute. It's simple. And it's a great example of what Web 2.0 is all about--it's a cheap and easy way to do something online that previously had to be done manually or with installed software.

I hate to be grumpy about everybody's darling, but the current beta of SimpleSeating is more glitzy than useful. You can't print your seating charts, and since the charts you create don't get static URLs, it's unclear to me how to even share your charts with others, for example, your caterer. The service doesn't do the job you would expect of a computerized version of a seating chart product. It does not automatically juggle seating assignments, placing people important to you in premium seats while simultaneously keeping the right groups together and also making sure that other groupings (such as your divorced parents) don't take place. If I'm going to use a computer for a seating chart, I want it do a better job than I could do myself. If the product would just follow simple dinner party guidelines, I'd be more impressed. SimpleSeating's Steve Swedler told me that the company plans to add printing, sharing, and autoplacement before public launch.

I love Web-based applications, but I think utility is more important than flash. SimpleSeating is a good idea, but it needs the features I mentioned above to make it actually useful.