By Robert Lundberg
My first memory of a calendar is from my first year at school. I was 7 years old and my life had previously consisted mainly of playing with LEGO and watching cartoons on TV. Suddenly it revolved around something else: routines, divided into chunks of time. I had been introduced to a schedule.
Today, 25 years later, I find myself realizing how important the calendar is to me and so many of us living life in a society. I’m thinking of schedules, meetings, appointments, birthdays and all the other things it can keep track of to make our lives easier. Calendars have the great function of keeping people organized together with each other.
One problem I have with calendars on the computer and in smartphones today is the limitation as to the way I’m allowed to view the data. Most calendars only permits me to view events divided upon a day, a week or a month, and that’s about it. The possibility to view events in detail over a time-period of a year is uncommon.
But what’s the problem with this, you might think? Sure, most of us don’t care. We don’t question the way things work, because it simply just works. But I have had this nagging feeling that the calendar could be a much better tool, and it makes me think that it might be possible to improve it!
So, how can the digital calendar be improved?
The obvious answer is that there is a lot that can be done better. But I’m going to focus on the thing I would love to see realized in a calendar app.
In my profession, I use Google Calendar a lot, and I almost always view events in the month-by-month view. Every now and then I find myself getting a little bit upset with the month view when I’m trying to get an overview of events that happen close to the turn of the month. The flipping between months back and forth doesn’t give me the best experience for my purpose.
The digital calendar is designed around the same constrains as a physical calendar. In the physical calendar you view one month at a time, mainly due to the size of a calendar. (If you were able to write notes on a calendar with multiple months displayed the calendar would become quite large and we would be back to in history when we used scrolls!)
And here comes the problem. In real life you are in control of the page turn, and can quite easily go back and forth between pages. In the computer, the press on a button (or in some case scroll up or down) makes the page turn.
A solution to this problem could be an infinite calendar.
This design is based on Google Calendar. All the functions that you can see in Google Calendar isn’t represented here simply because I didn’t find that it had a purpose for me when I use my calendar. The design is made for showing so many dates as possible, based on the height of the browser. Instead of turning a page you simply scroll up or down to view events before and after the viewport. This could also work very smoothly and naturally on a tablet.
I’ve also added a list of upcoming events, positioned to the right of the calendar. This is an adjustment to the calendar that suits me personally. It gives me an overview of the upcoming events, but I don’t have to switch the calendar view to see them.
Just to be clear, this design is just a mockup and there is of course (always) more you could do to better demonstrate how this design could work. I hope you at least get a clue of what I’ve tried to convey, though.
While we’re on the matter of the calendar…
I should perhaps share some of my thoughts on the ugly duckling.
Apple is famous for lots of things and one part of that fame is because they are known for their attention to detail in design. Steve Jobs and head designer Jonathan Ive have been creating products and gui’s the last decade that really has moved GUI design forward and is often copied from other competitors. Altough Apple create magnificent things there is one exception – Apple iCal.
The design of the calendar application has been questioned ever since the release of Apple’s latest operating system, Mac OSX Lion. Most of this criticism concerns the graphic design, such as the leather texture and torn paper, details that are supposed to increase the authentic feel of the application. (Designers especially love to hate this skeumorphic design.)
Just as with Google Calendar you are restricted to viewing events per day, week or month. But wait, you can actually choose Year as well! That’s great! Or is it?
Personally I don’t have that many events in my calendar, but if we take a look at the Year view a couple of dates in January are yellow. So there is obviously something planned during those days. But what is really planned those days? Do I have several events on each day, or just one?
This view actually doesn’t say anything more than that there is something happening on a date. I have to click on the date to see more, so for me, this view doesn’t do any good. My point here is that the information provided in this view doesn’t help me with my desired wish to ha a better overview of my upcoming appointments.
I admire both Apple and Google, I really do. I do like their respective calendar apps, but as with so many other things in this world, I would like to see some improvements.
If you were to choose perhaps you would say that I’ve missed some function that you would have changed, given the opportunity. Another person might say that we’re both wrong and there is another thing that should be changed to suit his or hers need.
We are all different and can’t always get what we want – but we can always strive to make a change.
A special thanks to @Henrik_Eneroth for discussing my calendar issues with me!