[This is another post where I was writing a book-length comment somewhere and thought I'd just publish it in case anyone else cared. I should keep stats on things like this].
About a month ago, a new startup called Coordinatr announced their launch on Hacker News. I didn’t try it out at the time but I filed it in my mind for later use. Now that I’m the DFGL (de facto group leader) for the new Chicago Lisp User Group, I thought it would be a great way to cut down on the bajillion emails it takes to organize a group of people (combinatorial explosion is not an organizer’s friend). I gave Coordinatr a spin and was quite pleased with the results. I also reread the comments in the discussion on HN and found that the team had incorporated much of the feedback given. Then, when I offered some feedback of my own using their slick collapsible feedback sidebar, I got a response from the team within less than 10 minutes. There are a few rough edges left, but these guys truly care about doing a good job and who knows, half these things might be fixed by the time you read this!
The basic pitch for Coordinatr is “Easy planning for spontaneous events”. These are the “What should we do this weekend?”, “Where should we go to dinner?” type discussions that everyone hates and are irritating enough that it’s almost not worth hanging out with your friends because no one can make a decision. It’s based on real life, so it includes SMS notification for a variety of events (lots of people aren’t always checking email and not everyone has an iPhone). I’ve just setup a few events for the Chicago Lisp User Group that I’m now organizing and setup was a snap. The event is a few weeks away so I haven’t seen it in action yet, but I’ll follow up when I do.
Here’s the basic workflow:
- Signup (email and password, that’s all, confirmation email comes later but you can continue unconfirmed)
- (optional) Update profile (name, cell number, etc) – all optional
- Create event – all you need is a title; location, time, notes are optional. You can invite Friends or groups already in the system, or send out invites to email addresses directly from the event creation page.
That’s it! There are screens for managing settings, notification options, profiles, pictures (with a built-in cropping tool), Friend and Group lists, and a feed of events you created that your friends can subscribe to. Events are private, invitation only – you must be logged in and invited to an event before you can view it, even if you have the URL (feeds are publicly viewable).
I like it so far and would recommend it to anyone looking to organize even a single event (although the benefits would be greater for a recurring event or for a group). However, I do have some feedback/recommendations for the Coordinatrs to make the site even better:
- Too many dropdown menus on top. There are 13 items in 3 dropdown menus, when there only need to be 6 buttons total: New Event, My Events, Friends, Groups, Settings, and Login/Logout. All of the items under Settings should be tabs on a settings page (like Gmail). Having Login/Logout be a fixed button (and putting Registration on the Login page) makes the interface consistent across all pages. Also:
- Create and View Events are the two main actions so you shouldn’t have to go through a menu to get to them. You should be able to go to those two screens from anywhere in the app.
- The Friend and Group pages are too much like a database schema. This is great for the developer since it’s laid out exactly like the data, but making things dead-simple requires some redundant paths. Here’s how I would change it:
- Friends should be one page. The Add widget should be at the top (maybe collapsible?), with the list of Friends and Fans below. In the Add Friends widget, there should be a Group entry box below the email address box, where you can select groups or create a new group to add the newly added friends to. The Friend list below should have the option to view as a list (no pics, like a detail view), and you should be able to add checked Friends to existing or new groups, like in Add Friends.
- Groups should also be one page. The View Groups list is fine (maybe include a comma separated list of users in small text below the group name), except Edit Group should just expand the widget within the list (like in Backpack). Add Group would then be below the list, and it’s fine as-is.
- On the homepage, it’s not terribly clear that there is a demo (very nice screencast demo, btw) – just a very small window with the Play triangle on it. It’s worth drawing some attention to. Some screenshots on the About page (or maybe on the home page below registration?) would be nice too for people that don’t want to sit through a 4 minute video.
- Please, on the homepage (which you never see again once registered), put a picture of friends at dinner, a pool party, a road trip, something to let people know in one nanosecond that it has something to do with having fun! People like fun, and it tells your story better than the most finely crafted words.
Please don’t think I’m being critical of this service. I love it, and I took the time to write this to the world (well, the very small world that encompasses my blog readers) because I like this site! I think these changes will make the site simpler to use, and therefore more likely to succeed, and therefore more likely to still be around the next time I want to use it. Between the couple minutes I spent using it and the hour or so I spent writing this review, I now feel a little more invested in this site. I wish the best of luck to Dan and Jeff and I pity the fool who still tries to plan something using email!
UPDATE: Looks like the Coordinatrs appreciated the feedback!