Like most people in tech, I use Google Calendar a ton. A feature I and others commonly use is “other calendars” found on the left of the main calendar view.
Google Calendar’s “Other calendars” feature
With this functionality, I can add multiple calendars (people, resources or events), each with a different color, to see availabilities in one view. After seeing an availability shared by multiple people, I usually want to invite all the people whose calendars I’m viewing to the event I’m creating. However, when I create new events, I’m presented with a blank list of attendees. From there I have to manually re-add all the people whose calendars I was just viewing. This week I had to schedule a few 5-person meetings, and had to go through this multiple times. I thought that this was frustrating, so I started brainstorming some solutions to it with my friends/colleagues Harsh Patel and Marcus Phillips.
There are a few options available to solve this problem, but they can serve different use cases more effectively than others. As such, I present a few considerations.
- Some folks will keep other calendars consistently viewable, though these calendars may not be applicable to a new event they create. For example, some people keep company meeting or holiday calendars always on.
- Even in the scenario where a user doesn’t keep a calendar consistently viewable, they may have another calendar loaded up before they create an event. In that case, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would want to have other calendars loaded into newly-created events.
- Google Calendar already has a feature called “Find a time.” This feature looks at all the guests a user has added to as a guest to the event and shows all calendars as columns to find common availabilities. Unfortunately, in asking some friends and colleagues it seems that the “Find a time” feature has rather low usage. I claim that this could be due to a few things. It could be because the “Find a time” feature only shows up after you create an event. This implies you either need to click “CREATE” or click a time slot to create an event and view the “Find a time” feature. Relatively speaking, this is a high commitment level before you know if you’re actually going to create an event. Another reason for the low adoption could be that even when you’re creating a new event, the “Find a time” feature is still another click away, that’s defaulted to be grayed out. Finally, even to use the feature, a user still has to manually add all the people they want to view as guests anyways.
- It’s important to note that although the “Find a time” feature could potentially be improved, any additions to the Google Calendar product should still attempt to work in harmony with this feature. It could be even worse for the user experience to have two separate features that achieve similar goals or worse, detract from each other’s functionality somehow.
Google Calendar’s “Find a time feature”
- When a user starts to create an event, ask the user if they want to automatically add calendars-they’re-already-viewing as guests to their new event. This would add an additional prompt before a user creates an event. I claim this wouldn’t be an optimal solution because it adds friction to the standard event-creation process. However, it does help make it pretty explicit that the functionality exists and whether or not it will be used.
- When a user creates an event, place an “add calendars you were viewing” section above the “Guests” section of the event creation view. This section could list the calendar(s)-the-user-was-viewing and include options to add the guests 1 by 1 or to add them all. Once the calendar(s)-the-user-was-viewing are added to the list of “Guests”, the functionality remains the essentially same. However, if a calendar-the-user-was-viewing is added to the list of “Guests” then removed, where does the calendar-the-user-was-viewing go? Back to the “add calendars you were viewing” section? Is that section then a permanent fixture of the event-creation view? Only if the event-creation view included an “add calendars you were viewing” section in the first place? Or do all event-creation views get a “add calendars you were viewing” section by default? Does the “add calendars you were viewing” section get removed if all calendars-the-user-was-viewing are removed? To me it sounds like the best thing would be to leave the “add calendars you were viewing” section as a permanent fixture to create the most predicable behavior, and maybe even help increase adoption by increasing visibility.
- A user can change their settings to automatically add all people they were viewing as “Guests”
- This option is actually not mutually exclusive to solution 2. Meaning, that if this setting is off, solution 2 would work as described. If this setting is on, the user could interact with the ‘calendars you were viewing’ section as described in the edge case noted for solution 2.
As always, this is just a fun exercise for me. I don’t intend for this to be construed as some kind of smear on the wildly popular Google Calendar. Rather, I view this as some constructive criticism to make a great product better. Let me know what y’all think!