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Google Calendar Redesign: It's Goddamn Terrible (areallybadidea.com)
146 points by nathanh on July 1, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

I am aware that hyperbole is the best thing in the entire world, but does the definition of 'terrible' really stretch this far? How about 'Google Calendar has some design decisions that I disagree with, mostly on the basis of some colors being different."

A million times this. Apparently a few nit-picky small CSS issues (some of which are just the personal preference of the author) is enough to deem an entire cross-product redesign as "terrible".

In the realm of UI a few 'nit-picky' css issues are the difference between joy-of-use and customer frustration.

Luckily there's an escape hatch in this case: Cog Menu -> "Use Classic Look"

With a site called areallybadidea.com they have to complain about something..

Normally I'm with you, but this redesign reduces functionality and decreases legibility. That's an f'ing terrible improvement.

>>'Google Calendar has some design decisions that I disagree with, mostly on the basis of some colors being different.'

Pretty sure non of us would be reading it if he'd titled the article like that.

a good litmus test: if nobody would read your article without a sensationalist title, maybe you shouldn't write the article.

Text event color looks actually dependent on something like the value component (as in HSV) of the calendar color. I have both a few black-text ones and white-text ones due to my previous choice of color.

Listen, search on a calendar is the worst thing to happen to humanity. I don't use search in my calendar workflow, therefore no one should.

>How about 'Google Calendar has some design decisions that I disagree with, mostly on the basis of some colors being different."

The difference between a gourmet meal and a plate of vomit is simply the way it's arranged.

Edit: and the vomit takes a few more minutes to make too.

Well, that and the peptic acid.

Shouldn't that be "gastric acid"?

Google's new redesigns eliminate the separation between different areas of the window, and replace it with white space, while generally increasing white space through the design.

Overall you can see fewer things, and lacking anything to stop your eyes, the various areas of the screen blend into each other. It's much more WORK to use the calendar and Gmail with the new theme. The new Gmail "Dense" theme is less compact than the old Gmail.

Basically, any time your design is using ultra-light grey lines/text for anything, you've gone wrong. CONTRAST. It's important.

Yes, both redesigns appear to take massive steps backwards in terms of contrast and information density, and to add insult to injury, promote one random design element, Compose in the case of Gmail, to a giant non-standard ugly colored 'button'.

Exactly. I don't understand why so many love the idea of less contrast. On a Macbook, everything blends together and it's very hard to distinguish anything. I really can't imagine anyone over 40 liking this design. I've heard countless times from customers that "I couldn't see that" and 99% of the time it's because of low-contrast design issues.

You know what's goddamn terrible? When you design your site so that middle-clicking on an image doesn't open the full-size one in a new tab, it just shits all over the current tab.

It's a Posterous blog, and that's what Posterous blogs do. I agree it's rather dumb. (The giveaway is that annoying-as-hell semi-transparent bar at the bottom.)

Sidenote: Quora appears to have the same problem; I'm guessing it's something capturing click events and calling e.preventDefault() on everything instead of on just left-click events.

What's worse is when your "expand to takeover the entire screen" button looks a lot like a close or X button which as you can imagine would cause some frustration for someone trying to close the image I just enlarged (enlarge again? really?)

See anyone can be a sensationalist Internet douche!

Remember just because you're self-aware and apologize ahead of time doesn't make what you're about to do ... any better or less offensive. I would even argue that it makes it more.

I disagree. He's providing feedback to the designer, and his "douchey" criticism communicates his emotional reaction to the design better than any inoffensive feedback could. The designer would rather be exposed to his unfiltered emotions than read a detached analysis of them.

His feedback is great. The new design, even the so-called 'dense' one, is bland, spread-out and hard to read.

Standard lightbox image technique, pretty nice once you get used to it. Click image to expand, click almost anywhere to collapse.

That's the standard lightbox convention for a left-click. The grandparent was talking about a middle-click.

There is an established convention for middle-clicking a lightbox thumbnail (open the larger image in a new tab), which posterous apparently breaks.

Middle click should never ever do fucking anything other than open the link in a new background tab.

Just another instance of my computer working for anyone other than me.

They're right, it is a Post-PC era.

It's not a personal computer, it's anybodys computer handing over control to anyone and everyone and hiding or removing it from me.

I don't have a witty name for the Era yet.

Google Calendar team, did you consider how people use calendars...We went from being able to see 10 items to about 3

Perhaps studies found most people have 3 or less calendars and your just an outlier? Would you design your product for the 90% or the 10% use case - perhaps your being slightly hypocritical if you were to compare your critique here with your previous entries about how to build software

He must not have noticed, but in the new UI you can minimize the "Mini Calendar" on the left side.

For someone with such a packed calendar the mini calendar is useless, and with it minimized you can view even more calendars than you could in the old UI.

Didn't catch that one, nice: I mostly use the month view, so that's a real space saver.

I agree. I would venture that a huge percentage of people don't use more than once calendar. However, if that is true, they re-design didn't solve the problem because its not as if they used the space more efficiently.

It's not hard to find people that want to have categorized calendar events but want to share their availability with other Google Calendar users. It's an absurdly simple request for CALENDAR SOFTWARE but users are ignored anytime they ask for it.

Allow for color-labeling on a single calendar, allow us to share an "availability" calendar that is a merge of our existing calendar. There are already privacy settings on the events.

Outlook has done this for 10 years? 15 years?

I actually quite like the new design. Primarily because it seems that all the google web apps are going to move to a more unified design (whereas before docs stuck out like a sore thumb).

I agree though that the calendar space could do with being subtly changed so the focus of the window is on it again. The greys are a little too light, and when surrounded by colour they fade away.

But in general it seems like this is very close to what I've wanted for a while.

I too like it very much, except for the one thing they did not redesign: the event input balloon, which already looked out of place before, but now feels even more dated.

I hate it too. Not enough contrast, except for (as pointed out) that big blue stupid search button. Too much white and light gray.

And on a small screen, the 'Other calendars' scrollbar disappears.

Even the copy is goofy - who decided that 'Create' makes more sense than 'Create event'? How about 'New event'?

If you don't like it, just switch to the old view. I don't understand these people.

I like calendar's new look. I love Gmail's new look.

Are you a Calendar power user though? Seem to me like they made it look nice, while breaking functionality for power users. If you're not a power user, then you just think it looks nice and lose no functionality.

If you mean "breaking [certain] functionality" then sure, but from what I've noticed the broken functionality is limited to being able to see/toggle multiple calendars easily.

Not saying that ANY functionality should be conceeded in an update like this, but I am saying that your comment can be read in a way that sounds like Google made Calendar useless for "power users." I don't find that to be the case.

On my 16.4" notebook I can see all 6 of my calendars. And I really disagree with his last point: I find the black text MUCH easier to read. However, the white text, being more difficult to read, meant that it was easier to focus on the time-blocks and not be distracted by details. Still, I prefer the black text, and maybe a toggle switch to hide ALL text would be helpful.

I do think it's silly what they've done to the highlight around the current date. And sure, they should have a way to bunch together more calendars for those users on a 13" screen.

But treating this as abject failure of user interface is way overblown and something that power users -- which I do consider myself to be -- will soon adjust to.

Also, for me, on Firefox 4, the calendar is faster now. Clicking an open time slot to add an appt used to have a noticeable delay, now it's instantaneous.

I'm sure they'll continue to tweak the new look for "power users" but they didn't actually "break" it if power users can switch to the normal theme. Breaking it would be forcing the update.

Am I the only one a little confused about how one can be a "calendar power user"?

Can one similarly be a "stapler power user" or a "Rolodex power user"?

Maybe I should have said "Google Calendar power user?" Setting aside the features, people that use Google Calendar heavily to schedule things vs people that use it to schedule the occasional dentist appointment probably find different aspects of the UI annoying.

Same. The design needs a few tweaks here and there, but it looks very nice overall. I like the direction Google is taking.

It's not like the old view is going to be around for a long time though.

Not really. For me, the design of the calendar is really ugly (in terms of usability not aesthetics).

I can switch to the old view. But if people don't let Google know that their design sucks, then sooner or later, Google will just shut down the old view.

How does one switch back to the old view?

Click the gear (top right), then click "Use the classic look"

Much appreciated. So straight forward but I still missed it a couple times going into Calendar settings.

The worst usability loss is showing multiple events on a day in calendar view. I like to see a calendar view to get an overview but now most of my events have been replaced with a useless '2+ more' or '3+ more'. The real sore point is that the '2+ more' takes up exactly 2 lines of space so they had just enough space to show me my 2 appointments but have decided I'd be much more interested to see this useless '2+ more' link. Outrageous!

Yup. As seen on my calendar: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3118244/2011-07-01_1853.png


I get the overall sense that this post is intentionally sensational to get some HN traction being that anything pro/against google+ is popular right now...i.e.

search button is a big blue button in the middle of your field of vision

Your being slightly nit-picky because hands down it is more aesthetically pleasing then the previous mis-aligned textbox and ugly submit button that was a constant distraction.

> Your being slightly nit-picky because hands down it is more aesthetically pleasing

It is more aesthetically pleasing, but it's also pointless (because searching a calendar is a minor task) and distracts from the main calendar view, especially with the new pastel colors: you see the search button more than your calendar data.

It's a severe case of form over function.

There were two other legitimate complaints - you can't tell what day it is (yes, you already know, but now you have to read the labels to find the column), and the multi-calendar view has 3 instead of 10 items.

Those items do interrupt workflow, they are meaningful degradations. And one can speculate that they were made to improve the look at the expense of functionality which does suck.

see my other comment regarding Perhaps...most people have 3 or less calendars and your just an outlier?

As far as not telling what day it is, fair - thats one issue that if affects many, will likely be fixed. Definitely doesn't warrant an extreme "It's Goddamn Terrible" flame - that is unless your trying to get some HN attention.

>As far as not telling what day it is, [...] Definitely doesn't warrant an extreme "It's Goddamn Terrible" flame [...]

// I think it's that this is indicative of poor testing or poor understanding of the needs of a calendar interface.

Being able to quickly locate the current days listings and being focussed on the pertinent info and away from the chrome (like "look at me"-style search buttons) is key in the writers opinion (and mine) to having a good calendar.

What's so terrible is that with all the money they must spend on usability experts (hopefully?) these glaring issues still make it through to the final product. I expect they did the 5s testing type UI analysis - "what day was selected" "what from the interface stood out" and would be amazed that such analysis wouldn't return answers like "didn't see the day names anywhere" and "giant blue button for something".

I think Justin needs calendar intervention, there's way too much info there no matter how you slice and dice it. There's always iCal or Fantastical on the Mac for nice and crisp colors.

PS I don't care for Google's new designs so much either

I think Justin needs calendar intervention, there's way too much info there no matter how you slice and dice it.

and way too many things entered in duplicate and triplicate...

> and way too many things entered in duplicate and triplicate...

It's not duplicate or triplicate, it's the same event from different coworkers. If they're coworkers, it kind-of makes sense that they'd have conference calls or meetings at the same time no?

Blame google for being unable to dedup or have a better UI for joint events.

I rather like both the new Gmail and Calendar themes.

The only thing I don't like is the spacing: they both waste way too much space. Even on 15", my browser window isn't maximised. And on 10", both UIs require zooming out.

Sounds like the complaints are visual. (As it was a visual change, that makes sense.) Google should provide a skinning mechanism like GMail already has. And some proper skins, of course.

Am I the only one that thought the screenshots looked almost identical? Reading the article led you to believe it was like stepping back into the 90's when in reality it looks like he just needs to turn off some calendar views since everything is repeated 4 or 5 times and looks like a mess. I'm all for dissension but angry tirades with no substance and all opinion is not something I'd come to expect to be on HN front page...

The redesign doesn't bother me, what bothers me is that they have let issues with the calendar sit for so long that effect functionality.

Ical and other calendar feed changes will not appear in Google calendar after days or possibly, weeks.


Yes. I'm fine with the new look but what I actually need is something like RSS for Calendars. Every time I attempt to connect my Calendar to something else I end up adding things manually instead because it's so much hassle. There are some huge economic opportunities going to waste in this area; with a few changes Calendar could be as successful and prominent as Google Maps/Earth.

I know this is essentially what us geeks do - we think about minute details, obsess about them, and hope that this ends up mattering. Usually I find this kind of compulsive preoccupation inspiring, but this article was so out of touch with reality I found it uncomfortable to read.

Suppose we grant the author that his criticism is objectively valid from the point of view of a UX designer (obviously a huge concession). Still, you're left reading an article in which a person complains that he perhaps prefers reading white letters to black, that a piece of software takes away the ability for him to tell what day it is, and that he cannot find his calendar on the page because he's so distracted by blue buttons.

On top of it all, looking at the screenshot provided it's pretty clear this person is not an average calendar user. Designing a usable calendar for someone with this many appointments each week is a completely different challenge to designing a usable calendar for me.

Perhaps a deep breath and some perspective acquisition is in order.

You can choose to turn off the new look by clicking the gear icon and choosing Use the classic look (you can turn it back on by going to the gear icon and choosing Try the new look).

from http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answer.py?answer=...):

How many times are we going to see "Look! They changed their site design, and the new one is awful!" The archetype is grousing about the new Facebook design, but it seems like any change gets a bunch of complaints.

I know: it drives traffic, and for some reason that madlib isn't quite "oh, linkbait" yet.

Yeah, that's becoming quite usual. Change one thing and you have self entitled UI experts all other the place to explain that it's awful because their personal taste doesn't allow for change.

But apparently it works. After all, I clicked the link and I'm here commenting.

Are people really that distracted by the blue search button? I've seen it mentioned a couple times now about how the search button draws their attention away from what's actually on the page.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I tend to look at the middle of pages, and have no problems with the button.

What distracts me the most is the red text on the left. Whenever I see red on a result page, it makes me think I misspelled my query and it's doing a "Did you mean...?"

Not really sure why they went with red and not just... black or light blue.

Yes, red button in calendar and "red compose" button in gmail distracts me, way more than the blue ones. I think they should make them some shades of silvery or grey. The calendar and gmail logo's are enough for color

I noticed that it does not work correctly on Firefox 5 on either my or my wife's MacBooks. I think that it looks OK on Chrome and Safari, but not a big deal.

I'm sure they are doing usability testing on it and so your opinions that it is "bad" are really useless unless you have access to the same usability data

Frankly, I think the new design is long overdue and has a strong sense of usability and sleek, elegant design. Instead of making a change to only one of its online properties, Google used Google+ as an opportunity to revamp its entire ecosystem to provide a consisten and clean UI. I like it a lot, and am glad Google is finally using its designers.

I still want to see a workweek view (five columns), but with the current day wider so that you can more easily read what is going on. Especially with so many simultaneous events, like the author of the OP has.

I didn't find it particularly difficult to identify what day it is but I don't have nearly that many items in my calendar as he does. I suspect for the average user that it's not going to be a problem.

What we see here is a power user that doesnt represent the general google calendar users. I love the new design.

I just hope that the google teams dont take only the buzz noise posts over the net and do anything silly.

I love the new design, its less agressive with the colors and everything is much more clean.

Im just hoping that the Reader redesign will come soon...

Yeah? Well, I like it.

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