Rethinking calendar design

4 min read

At Venncal we set out to rethink the design of calendars to fit the purpose of adding plans to our calendars. This post outlines some of the design principles behind Venncal.

Think of calendar. Think of how years, months, weeks, days, hour and minutes are organised. That's how we all know a calendar. It has come to be a fantastic way for our brains to think and structure our plans in time.

More accurately, it's a fantastic way to read our own plans. In part, it works well, because we know all the events in our own calendar, making the calendar a simple structure to recollect plans from our memory.

However, when making new plans the calendar becomes a mess – especially when coordination with other people's calendars.

We either start ping-ponging gaps from our calendars or try to stack guests' calendars on top of each other in an overwhelming scrabble through plans that we have little knowledge about.

Joining calendars into one unified view

When planning with others, wether it's a workshop or a party, it no longer important what each individual has planned. What's important is when each individual doesn't have anything planned.

Looking for gaps the easiest way to identify a time that works for all guests is joining all calendars into one unified view. Visually it's like stacking each calendar on top of each other and then go looking for gaps.

The traditional calendar design is poorly equipped to join many calendars, because it desperately try to provide the reader with all the information of all the events.

However, since the focus here is not the events, but the gaps, there is no reason not just to consider a given period busy or free, collectively for the whole group.

Sure, it can make sense to know the context of the surrounding plans (before and after), but the prerequisite is finding a mutual gap — a time that works for all guests.

Inverting the view, highlighting gaps

Traditionally the calendar highlights the events in our calendar, those are the coloured items on our blank canvas. It serves the purpose of reading a calendar well, since the event and event details are what we're looking for.

When looking for our available times, the same view is not far from a deliberative obstacle course for your intended action. It's such a counterintuitive user interface.

Many solutions different apps have tried different ways to solve this, yet few has done it well. The solution is simple, really. Just inverting the colors would switch the attention-grabbing elements to align with the intended action. Lovely!

The most important design decision here is that we're keeping the calendar layout – the structure that we've tought our minds – that allows us to easily to read, scan and think of plans through time.

Most events looks the same, why start over every time?

Every time we create something in our calendars we have to consider quite a lot of details: the date, duration, time, location, title, calendar, guests, and more...

The result: a ton of input fields to complete every time we want to add something to our calendar. But more often than not, the things we put in our calendars look a lot a like something we've added before. So why start from scratch every time?

Obviously we need the flexibility to customize an event to its every detail, but there no reason why creating yet another 30 min. zoom call isn't a few clicks away.

What can we predefine? The duration, location, title, and calendar. What's left? The date, time and guests. Should be four clicks away, tops.

Further, when creating a new event to our calendar we fill out information in the order we read them, but often that's not the same that we think about them.

For example, it feels intuitive (to the developer!) that the event title is the first thing to complete. But who really ever considered the vent title before the date and time of the event?

Venncal is striving to design a creation flow that works the way you do.

Once we realize this, it becomes apparent that even in our own calendars, we're better off removing the noise of appointments and reducing the overhead of starting from scratch every time.

This is what we're building at Venncal. The best possible scheduling flow, no matter who and how many your guests are.

Sign up here