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IP.Board 3.2.0 Dev Update: Calendar Improvements, Part IV: Simplification and Interface Changes

Hot on the heels of our blog entry detailing how RSVP-style events will work in Calendar as of IP.Board 3.2.0, we would like to take a moment to discuss some interface changes we have made in the next release of Calendar. Some of these changes are relatively minor, but we feel that they should improve usability and make it easier for users to understand how to use Calendar in 3.2.0. It is important to note here, since we are discussing changes to the interface specifically, that these changes are also subject to change. What you see and is discussed below should serve as an outline for some of the more important interface changes you will see in Calendar, however be advised that further changes may be in store, and what you see below is not necessarily exactly how IP.Board 3.2.0 will look upon final release. That doesn't mean, however, that we can't make you aware of the core changes now so you will be prepared when 3.2.0 is released.

Event Submission

One area we wanted to simplify a little was the event submission process. To start with, we have removed the three separate confusing button options on the calendar page ("Add Single Event", "Add Ranged Event", "Add Recurring Event") and consolidated this into just one "Add Event" button. No longer will users have to actively think about what type of event they are adding before they are even presented with the form to do so.

The event form has been overhauled to handle the addition of all three event types at once in the process. Javascript has been leveraged to show and hide fields that are not applicable to the type of event the user wishes to add, until they need to see those fields. The date picker javascript tool has been added to the form to make it easier for users to choose the date they are attempting to add, and times have been changed to a 12 hour format with an "AM" and "PM" dropdown menu, a vast improvement over the previous 24-hour format field previously used.

Because the options are all interlinked, I've taken a quick video to show you how these work. When you submit the event, calendar will figure out what type of event (single, ranged or recurring) automatically and save the event data accordingly. By figuring these details out automatically, we make it easier for the user to submit their event without having to actively think about all of the details before hand.

Getting rid of redirector links

Some of the links in past versions of Calendar where links to redirector scripts. This means that the link did not actually point to the final destination the user would arrive at, but instead pointed to an intermediary page that would do some calculations and then redirect the user to the correct location. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach, it means two page loads instead of one for the user from a technical point of view (increasing the time it takes the user to arrive at the destination page, and increasing the amount of work your server ultimately has to do to get the user to where they are going), and this is not an optimal solution from an SEO point of view. We have changed all such links in Calendar for IP.Board 3.2.0 to point to the correct destination page without using redirector intermediary pages, improving user experience, resource usage, and SEO all in one go!

Daily View

Receiving some of the biggest changes in it's general interface, the "daily view" as we call it has been completely changed in the next release of Calendar. "Daily view" is what I call the page that shows what is happening on a particular day.

As a reference point, you can view our current Calendar to see what the daily view looks like for a day that has both an event and some birthdays by looking at February 8th. In the current version of Calendar, you will see that birthdays are listed vertically at the top with a lot of wasted space to the right, while the more important events are listed at the bottom using the same exact template that is used when viewing the event itself. If you have a calendar where there is one event on the day, you ultimately end up with a "duplicate content" SEO scenario. The daily view looks (and indeed, has the same source code HTML) as the event view because both simply show the same event on the page. We wanted to make this view a little more useful than it is currently in the next release of Calendar.

Reminder: This screenshot outlines the direction we are taking with the next release of Calendar, however keep in mind that the interface is very much subject to further change before release. Consider this screenshot an early preview of the direction we are taking, rather than a final screenshot of the finished interface.

The first thing you will notice is that this view is more similar to our weekly view. You have the handy shortcuts and monthly mini-calendars in the sidebar that let you easily navigate to other areas of the calendar without having to return to the homepage first. At the top of the page we have added "Previous Day" and "Next Day" shortcuts to allow you to more easily navigate through the days in calendar as well.

We have moved the list of birthdays below the events, as we feel the user-generated events are typically more important to the community than an automatically-generated list of birthdays. The events, while similar to the full event view, are a simplified interface meant to give you an overview of the event, but not all of the details (which is more undesirable in this version of Calendar, given the new functionality available for events). The birthdays have been overhauled to provide more useful information than just the name and age (although both of these pieces of information are still available and displayed). All in all, this entire page has been overhauled to be more useful, less of a copy of the specific event view page, and to allow you to more easily navigate the system and get to where you want to go.

Navigation Changes

Similarly, we have touched up the navigation bar on every page in Calendar to make it easier to navigate back up the hierarchy to where you want to go. Most pages in Calendar in the current release will show "Board > Calendar > Calendar Name > Page Name" in the navigation bar. While this generic approach does offer some flexibility to move back up the chain, you cannot easily get back to the page you were previously on when you view an event, or a day, or a week. With the next release of Calendar, the navigation bar will be much more dynamic and natural feeling, allowing you to more easily return to your previous page without having to use your back button.

When viewing a week, the month and year has been added as a navigational bar entry to let you return back to the month. When viewing a day, the same has been done here. The most useful changes have been made to the event view page, however. The event view page now will attempt to determine where you are visiting from, so that it can better show you a navigational bar that is relevant to how you reached the page. For instance, if you are viewing the daily view and click on an event, you will now see the month and year as a navigational entry, as well as the day of the event. If you reach the event view page from the weekly view, you will have the month and year as a navigational entry, as well as the weekly view you just came from. This is particularly useful when you are viewing a ranged or recurring event, as it allows you to return to where you actually came from, rather than simply returning you to the month and year the event started in (which is not where you came from, in many cases). The end result should be a more useful navigation bar for Calendar in 3.2.


Many other tweaks have been implemented, and there are many more to come as our interface designer continues his work on the public interface of IP.Board 3.2. The end goal, of course, is to make Calendar easier to use, more useful to use, and more intuitive to navigate. We think the above changes work toward these goals, and we hope you find them to be welcomed changes in the next release of Calendar.

Feel free to comment on this blog entry below or, if you have feedback unrelated to this blog entry, start a new topic in our feedback forum. Be sure to check the What's New in IP.Board 3.2 topic for a running list of announced changes!

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