Monday, March 30, 2009

eParties: The invitations






reduced in size


I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the eParties invitation system.

Before eParties was a company with it's own management and people working for it, there was just an idea from Sky Dayton and Jake Winebaum to capture the market for party supplies online and provide useful functional tools for a party planner. At the time, we were combining the staff of Venu Interactive with the very small eCompanies staff and doing the design work out of the Venu offices in West Hollywood, while eCompanies was located in temporary space in Santa Monica.

eParties attempted to differentiate itself from other offerings by providing high-quality visuals. We were aware of Blue Mountain, which at the time had hokey little greeting cards, and then suddenly eVite was on the scene with a similar set of badly drawn invitations. In order to expedite the creation of the hundreds of themes required at launch, we created the card viewer, which allowed minimization of the invitation theme to two small areas at either side of the invitation message, while still providing a browser window full of colorful "invitation." The party information and RSVP tools were integrated into this viewer along the right edge, and just about that time, we began understanding the new power of the viral application, so every invitation came with a suggestion to "Throw your own eParty!"

The viewer itself was populated into 11 color schemes to coordinate with a variety of events - there was a silvery white one useful for weddings and anniversaries, and darker ones for evening dinner parties and more elegant invitations. Soon there were three groups of viewers; pale, bright and dark. I created layered Photoshop files with predetermined beveling values for each of the groups to make new viewers easy to create - you could just go in, play with colors and turn out something new and nice quickly, considering how graphic intensive they were.

For the party themes, you started by selecting one of the viewers as a base, and then created the theme with high-quality clip art illustrations or your own design. At first, we developed themes in house to develop standard and determine where we would want to go with them, then later we hired out huge numbers of themes. My friend Colm Ryle was brought in among other freelancers to create the massive number of themes that were needed.

From time to time, it was fun to jump out of the normal work you were doing on the eParties interface, and entertain yourself by producing a unique theme. I was fond of challenging myself to integrate the white "wedding" viewer ironically into other, unexpected event types.

Also on Ginormus: See the eParties application interface.

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