Thursday, June 23, 2011

Calendar: good features but UI wastes space


I already had a few items on my Google Calendar, so there was already stuff to fool around with. I clicked on an event, but... how do I edit it?  Here is what I tried:
X Edit button
X Hold down on event in the calendar view
X Hold down on date in the calendar view
X Hold down on anything in the detail view
Settings button!

Okay, it took me a moment to get the concept that the settings button is the equivalent to right-click for Android.  Now I like the idea - no screen real-estate required.  Still, after trying all of those items I expected something would respond like an edit screen.  Oh well, this is why one should RTFM.

Screen Layout

The screen has a ton of wasted space.  On my iPhone, all the calendar options appear on one screen.  On Android, I have to scroll down to see all the options.  Now granted, there are lots more options which is great, but I think it could fit much better.  Here I show the actual screen on the left, and my modified screen on the right:

By moving the labels to the left of the buttons instead of above, we eliminated lots of space.  A desktop publisher wouldn't like the lack of white-space (err... black-space) but for a UI this is just fine.  There is still plenty of room for a finger.  All this without decreasing the font-size (which I think is too big already).

The alarm options show the quintessential difference between Android and OS X.  My iPhone had 8 alarm options, and no ability to customize.  So if I needed the alarm to notify me 3 hours prior -- nope!  You can pick 1 hour, 2 hours, or 1 day with nothing in between.  That's ridiculous.  Android gives me some sensible defaults just like iPhone, but has that oh so vital "Customize" option.  If I push the "settings" button I can even add multiple alarms -- another obvious feature missing from the iPhone calendar.

My only complaint is that I have to scroll to see all the alarm options. This screen is the king of waste. Compare the iPhone (left) to the Android (right):

The iPhone has more options, on a physically smaller screen simply by eliminating unnecessary white-space.

There are a few other quirks:
  • Time Zone doesn't seem like something most people will use very often.  I think they should move that below Alarm, Repeat, and Location.
  • When adding an event for the first time, the option to specify which calendar it is on is disabled.  Once you go to the settings and view a different calendar, the option is now available.  Even if you restore the settings back to the way they were.

The Android calendar wins over OS X by far.  A friend of mine (An Apple convert, BTW) has long lamented that the OS X calendar isn't even as capable as the Palm calendar from long ago.  Despite my criticisms of the screen layout, the feature set is far better even if I don't include the wireless calendar synch.

Other screen shots

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