While recently creating an e-vite (www.evite.com), I was wanting to import my contact list from my gmail contacts. I won't get into how hard it was to export the right set of contacts and then manually transform the CSV columns into the right format that e-vite would accept. That part was understandable.

What I was disappointed in, was when I clicked "Import Contacts" on the "Send Invites" page [see diagram]. First, I was then taken away from this page and onto a dedicated "Import" wizard. The wizard itself had problems and it was not obvious what to do for simply uploading your own CSV file. A few clicks later, I uploaded the file, and then realized that I had to select every contact presented to me in a list in order to actually import them (just in case after you painstakingly created the CSV file, perhaps you then wanted to filter which contacts you really were importing...but how many users expect that to happen when they upload a big CSV file? Chances are they either: a) want to import them all, or b) already filtered out those they didn't want during the export or by messing with the file in Excel--this is what I did). So then what's the value of giving them that option when its probably already too late or they don't want it? Furthermore, I had uploaded 164 contacts, but the next page was showing me 20 in a list. I either had to "select all", then navigate to each page and "select all" on each page, or click a different link to "show all", then "select all", then finally "import." The first time around I simply hit "select all" and then "import" because it was not obvious at first that that wouldn't select ALL contacts (like the "select all" gmail provides in Spam and Trash, etc).

So at that point, two surprises occurred. First, I was taken back to the screen shown in the diagram, with all the imported contacts shoved into the text area. It seemed like a disconnect from the previous screen, and I wasn't aware that all the imported contacts would automatically be recipients, but okay no big deal. Secondly though, I noticed it was only the first 20 contacts that were in the text area. So that was when I realized evite.com had chopped off my other 144 contacts. Then when I went to the Evite Address Book, hoping maybe they were in there, I didn't have ANY contacts!

Turns out, the "import contacts" link in the diagram above is only for THIS ONE invitation! It is not importing contacts into your address book at all. So, I had to redo the process, but I knew that any people I didn't invite in this invitation wouldn't ever be added to my address book, in which case next time I was doing an evite I would yet again have to upload (assuming I wanted to change the recipient list at all).

Frustrated, I went out of the e-vite creation process, into My Account, then to the Evite Address Book management, then clicked "Import Contacts" there, and did the process over. The same confusing wizard. This time I first clicked "show all", waited for the page to reload, then successfully imported all my contacts. But so many steps of the process could have been smoother.

Lessons to learn:
* I often find that the user interaction for importing and exporting data (whether its contacts, emails, or other data) is not refined. It is usually either a feature thrown on at the end when a customer requests it, or just not given a lot of time because it's either seen as a "power user" feature and thus why spend time refining it, or simply because the number of people that user import/export is far fewer than say create an e-vite and type in some email addresses.
* When a user does want to import or export data, and they are presented with a hard-to-use interface, they will get frustrated. They will be unhappy with your software, and perhaps abort the import and thus be much less likely to further use your software.


TOTALLY AGREE! This is actually still a problem, and it is now APRIL 2010.

Plus, the integration with an Apple computer is completely non-functional. Evite is designed for a PC using manatee with 6 friends to invite to a party. Useless.