Adding a Family Calendar Feature to Google Calendar

Personal project.
Feature Design | Research

Addressing the Teenage Fintech Gap

Problem

Many individuals rely on calendars and planners, whether in paper or digital form, to organize their daily activities. Google Calendar stands out as one of the most widely used digital planning tools. However, it primarily caters to individual planning needs for the common user, leaving a gap in meeting the needs of families and larger households looking to coordinate and manage activities collectively. While Google Calendar does offer similar features for business and enterprise users, I believe that it is technically feasible to design a feature that serves the needs of common users in this regard.

Solution

Google Family Calendar is an innovative addition to Google Calendar explicitly designed for families and households. This feature aims to simplify the process of creating, viewing, managing, and sharing events among family members, including kids, older parents, and other household members, even pets!

TACKLING THE PROBLEM

Analysis

Study the most popular products among the user group and get insights into what works best for them and what they expect from a product.

User Research

Defining the user group, understanding its needs and pain points via interviews.

Design

Designing a feature that meet families’ needs in planning and managing events together and making sure the new feature is seamlessly incorporated into the existing design.

Iterations

Ensure the product complies with the best international practices of age-appropriate design, like a code of practice for online services.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM OUR COMPETITORS

YouTube

Discord

Instagram

Roblox

PRIMARY RESEARCH - LET’S ASK YOUTUBE.

I conducted primary research by searching “what is bad about Google Calendar” on YouTube and watched videos where people complained about their experience with this service. Here are some highlights:

Key findings from the videos include:

  • One user transitioned from Google Calendar to a bullet journal for adaptability in time management;
  • Alternative apps such as Plan, Timeblock, Cron, TickTick, and Accuflow were suggested;
  • Notion was favored for customization and multiple views, while Google Calendar excelled in recurring events;
  • Google Calendar was recommended over Apple Calendar for business users due to its extensive features, privacy, security, and integrations.

key features and user needs for planning

To understand what users need from a digital calendar or planner and what features are essential, I asked them in a survey about their favorite ways of planning and why they like them.

Efficient Meetings Management

Simplified Scheduling and Task Management

Integration with Multiple Platforms

Effective Communication and Coordination

Considering these insights, my primary focus should be offering options that allow users to stay connected while planning and managing events.

LISTENING TO THE USERS

To understand users’ needs and pain points, I interviewed 5 users. Participants are 24 to 34 years old, live in America, and actively use calendars and planners to manage their daily schedules. I asked them the following questions to find trends in what products they use, their current planning behavior, and their problems and needs with planning.

Interview Questions Highlight:

1. How do you typically plan and schedule events or meetings? Can you talk me through your planning process?
2. When it comes to finding suitable time slots that work for everyone in the household, what methods or tools do you currently use?
3. How do you ensure effective communication regarding upcoming events and activities among household members?
4. Can you share any experiences or examples where managing conflicting priorities and availability among household members became an issue? How did you address it?
5. Based on your experiences, what improvements or features would you like to see in a planning service that specifically addresses the challenges of coordinating events and activities for the whole household?

Analyzing the interviews

Analyzing trends in interview debriefs and affinity maps, I narrowed the factors affecting users' experience and expectations according to my interviewers to the most popular topics. It helped me articulate the HMW Questions to pinpoint critical problems to solve. I noticed how important the role of easy data input and automation is, how significant the issue of cross-platform accessibility is for users, and the desire for shared calendars and collaboration.

HOUSEHOLDS’ focus:

collaboration, customization, simplicity
There could be a better system for us to coordinate, but currently, we don't put everything in the calendar, especially for social events.
Notifications should appear not only in my gadget but also in the gadgets of all persons who are responsible for that.
It would be so nice if, maybe, on the phone, I could just take a picture of something, and then it'll just auto-populate on my Google calendar.

UNDERSTANDING THE USER

Considering the key insights of user research and a glance at the potential audience of the service, I moved on to creating a Persona. In my case it is Persona Family.

PRODUCT FEATURES

I began by brainstorming and exploring different ideas to find better solutions for family planning and implementing shared event management and personalized notifications to create a better user experience for households.

WIREFRAMING

Based on the Research stage results, the next step was to sketch how I can implement the desired feature into the existing layout. This helped me to get a basic representation of the feature's layout and structure and visualize its overall flow.
After exploring some ideas and choosing ones aligned with my Persona goals, I converted my low-fidelity wireframes into a mid-fidelity digital format.

THE SOLUTION

Collaborative Family
Calendar Feature

The goal was to develop a family calendar feature that enables users to create a shared family calendar. Users can invite various participants, assign them specific roles, and control their level of access, either limiting them to viewing events and receiving notifications or granting them the ability to manage events.

Streamlining Family
Event Planning

Recognizing the challenges users faced in organizing diverse events for various family members and fostering collaborative planning around shared activities, I designed a feature that empowers users to effortlessly create calendar events and share them with selected participants.

Collaborative Task Management

In response to the difficulties users encountered when managing a variety of tasks and sharing them with multiple family members, I developed a feature that enables users to create tasks and share them with specific participants while assigning roles for each participant in the task.

TESTING. PRIORITIZING. IMPROVING

After completing the initial design approach, I tested it with 4 users, some familiar with the project and others not. I then organized and analyzed their feedback and discussed the results with my mentor. Based on this process, I identified three main UX issues that required further iteration.

3 key design improvements

Aligning with Google
Brand Colors

Initially, I crafted a pale color palette for coding events in the calendar, but I received feedback that these colors did not align with Google's brand color scheme. In an attempt to find the official Google Calendar colors, I searched for them on the Internet but couldn't locate any specific guidelines. Then, I opted to utilize the colors from my own Google Calendar, even though they don't personally appeal to me, as they at least conform to the official Google color scheme.

Enhancing Usability: Adapting Role Descriptions in Google Calendar

Initially, to adhere to Google's design standards, I refrained from adding role descriptions similar to  Google Docs. However, in Google Calendar, this approach proved to be ineffective. Users frequently raised questions about the roles and were confused during usability testing. Consequently, I opted to deviate from the Google standard in favor of usability and included role descriptions beneath the input field, successfully addressing this issue.

Optimizing
Participant Display

Initially, I experimented with various layouts for displaying multiple event participants, trying both vertical and horizontal arrangements to optimize space. However, usability testing revealed that users were often confused and unable to determine the number of participants in an event. Consequently, I made the decision to reconfigure the participant layout, arranging them horizontally. This adjustment not only accommodates greater flexibility for including more participants but also provides users with a clearer and more intuitive representation.

THE FINAL PRODUCT

REFLECTION

What I’d do differently next time.

That was my second solo UX project at DesignLab Academy where I focused on creating a feature for an existing product. I chose Google Calendar for my design project because I often use calendars and planning apps. Even though they might seem simple, there are tricky user experience problems to solve. With many people using these services for planning and scheduling in various ways, designers face the complex task of incorporating a diverse range of user needs into a simple and intuitive design. Here are some things I would have done differently:

1. Enhancing Design in Established Systems. Designing within Google's existing system was enjoyable, but I lacked official guidance and had to mimic their design approach. I'm eager to take on a role where I can work with official design systems and guidance, allowing me to contribute effectively and create user-friendly designs that align seamlessly with the organization's brand and vision.

2. Designing more functionality. As this was a study project, I had to prioritize the flows I needed to create to showcase my work effectively. I chose to design the most relevant flows for the project, specifically focusing on demonstrating creating a family calendar and shared events for a household members. I created only the main pages to showcase the future feature look. However, many other valuable and interesting flows were missing. If I had more time, I would have designed all the flows and prototyped their interactions. I hope to have this opportunity when working on future projects.

3. Designing cross-platform adaptability. Users have expressed a need for the seamless integration of products and features across both their professional and personal ecosystems. This presents an intriguing challenge that, in my view, represents the future direction of digital product development – the quest for cross-platform compatibility. Regrettably, this project didn't cover this broader goal.

Thank you for reading!

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