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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSr1dKYJy8A


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.


Conclusion

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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23 Comments

Posted

Great changes...

the only thing I dislike is the time-format. We don't use the "12hour"-format here and it's confusing as hell for some users.

Can't we make this a general setting to ALL the applications? In IP.Board I can change the time to 24hours (by default), in IP.Content I can't... this is misleading.

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Posted

I like the idea of the single form, and especially like the navigation changes as the present navigation is very stilted and, at times, confusion.

Sounds good ... it'll be interesting to test-drive the beta. :thumbsup:

Cheers,
Shaun :D

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Posted

This is so awesome! Believe it or not, these calendar updates have pushed me over into buying the entire IP platform! Thank you for actually taking the calendar and events functionality serious, it really helps for music scene based community websites...

Any idea on email updates? or email notifications for those RSVP'd (both system reminders and even organizer initiated)?

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Posted

These are all great improvements - with the exception of the time format. Please remember that IPB is also used outside the US, and AM/PM is not the norm in Europe. From Wiki:


"The 24-hour clock enjoys broad everyday usage in most countries outside North America and the Philippines. When a time is written down or displayed, the 24-hour notation is used in these countries almost exclusively. Some regions, for example, most German, French and Romanian speakers use the 24-hour clock today even when speaking casually. In other English-speaking regions, particularly former colonies of the United Kingdom, the 12-hour clock and 24-hour are used interchangeably in formal communications."


In the same context, I would also like to see week numbers added to the month and week view. These are also used widely outside the US. Check out google calendar where you can add week numbers.

But once again - great improvements and developments to the calendar.

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Posted

Oh, yes, and can the date format be universal too ... I have it set to DD/MM/YYYY (UK) in my ACP but there are still elements of my board that display MM/DD/YYYY - confusing and inconsistent ... :)

Cheers,
Shaun :D

KVentz, The Old Man, .Ian and 1 other like this
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Posted

The date format is a little tricky, because we have to use a javascript class to parse the date correctly from the calendar popup (thus, we couldn't realistically support just *any* date format entered in the ACP - it would have to be one for which there is an appropriate javascript class written). I will see what options we have there.

And I can look into adding support for 24 hour time format. I did not realize it was utilized or needed by some, given the number of complaints it has received since instituted into calendar initially.

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Posted

[quote name='bfarber' timestamp='1298388780']
The date format is a little tricky, because we have to use a javascript class to parse the date correctly from the calendar popup (thus, we couldn't realistically support just *any* date format entered in the ACP - it would have to be one for which there is an appropriate javascript class written). I will see what options we have there.


I was under the impression you switched to using *nix timestamps for all dates/times? Is this something different?


[quote name='bfarber' timestamp='1298388780']
And I can look into adding support for 24 hour time format. I did not realize it was utilized or needed by some, given the number of complaints it has received since instituted into calendar initially.


That would be good. My members would revoke any offers of beer (for giving them the lovely new 3.2 text editor) if the 24 time format were to be replaced with the somewhat less useful 12hr AM/PM format.

Cheers,
Shaun :D

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Posted

Let me first say that I like many of the change syou are amking, so thank you for those.

However, liek many others commented, we don't particularly like the 12 hour AM/PM thing. We don't use it here in mainland Europe at all, and we have selected not to use it on our board either, even though it is hosted in the US and about half of our members are located in the US.

If it is user selectable, fine, but please do not force us to use the AM/PM system.

As to the date system: again this is rather confusing. I honeslty think the same date system should be used throughout the system, and preferably user settable and selectable from the ACP. On an international board this is the only way to make sure that people are talking about the same thing.

Kind regards, Wim

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Posted

I have added a setting to use 24 hour time format instead, for those that prefer to do so. The setting is honored on both the submission form, and when displaying the time when you are viewing an event.

I will also look into support for a couple of different date formats (for the date picker javascript), if possible.

Daracon, Clickfinity, Hatsu and 1 other like this
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Posted

[quote name='bfarber' timestamp='1298402613']
I have added a setting to use 24 hour time format instead, for those that prefer to do so. The setting is honored on both the submission form, and when displaying the time when you are viewing an event.

I will also look into support for a couple of different date formats (for the date picker javascript), if possible.


Thank you :)

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Posted

[quote name='bfarber' timestamp='1298402613']
I have added a setting to use 24 hour time format instead, for those that prefer to do so. The setting is honored on both the submission form, and when displaying the time when you are viewing an event.

I will also look into support for a couple of different date formats (for the date picker javascript), if possible.


Yup +1 from me too ... :thumbsup:

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Posted

Maybe colors for calendars to differentiate each events (like in Google Calendar) ?

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Posted

I've seen some confusion expressed over my previous reply so I just wanted to clarify it.

Some people have told me that based on my previous reply they heard that IP.Board does not support 24 hour formats and/or that to change the time formatting in IP.Board you need to write a javascript class. This is not what I said, or intended to convey, in my earlier responses.

IP.Board itself fully supports formatting times and dates anyway you want. The timestamps we store are run through the strftime() function in PHP so that (1) you can control the formatting of times and dates, and (2) your locale is honored. Here is a screenshot of some of the date formatting options available in the ACP for IP.Board: http://screencast.com/t/NkbwScBKY . Further to this, times are parsed in the skin templates through a template plugin, so if you wish to change how dates or times display in specific locations you can do so by editing the skin only. You have full control in IP.Board over the way times and dates are formatted.

When I was discussing 24 hour formats and date formats previously, I was referring specifically to submitting events in calendar.

Calendar allows you to specify the date(s) for an event, naturally, and, when needed, the time as well. In IP.Board 3.1 you must specify the time in 24 hour format, which is unfriendly to American users who typically use AM/PM notations. IP.Board 3.2 will now allow you to specify times in either 24 hour format OR American format, just by toggling a switch in the ACP. This change is based on feedback from both American and international users, and specifically based on feedback from customers replying to this blog entry.

When I referenced writing a javascript class previously, this is ONLY in relation to our date picker javascript function. If you are not familiar with what I'm referring to, go to our advanced search page and click on the calendar icons next to both date entry fields. You are presented with a mini-calendar allowing you to click on a date to enter it into the search box. In order to change the formatting of the date that is entered into the search box, a small javascript file needs to be available to understand that date format. I only meant that to support different formats for the way this date is passed from the mini-calendar to the text input box, a small javascript file needs to be there to translate the date. That said, out of the box we have several formats available, and in the next version of Calendar you will be able to select between YYYY/MM/DD, MM/DD/YYYY, DD/MM/YYYY, and YYYY-MM-DD formatting.


My apologies to anyone that I may have confused with earlier replies. Please understand we care about our international users just as much as users here in the states, and this is evidenced by how quickly we acted upon your feedback here in this blog entry to give our international users the experience they are expecting and deserve. :)

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Posted

Ahhh ... okay ... I'll put my hand up and admit to getting it wrong. Sorry.

Thanks for explaining it, and by the sound of things nothing will change other than we will have MORE options to tailor the calander entries - which is great ... :thumbsup:

Cheers,
Shaun :D

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Posted

Does creating an event allow the creation of a "topic" along with it yet?

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Posted

All good improvements! :thumbsup:

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Posted



That would be indeed a much appreciated addition, because we can do it on all the other systems ( IPB and IPContent ) .. but not on the calendar :S

Does creating an event allow the creation of a "topic" along with it yet?

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Posted

[quote name='texterted' timestamp='1298642081']
Does creating an event allow the creation of a "topic" along with it yet?

I was really surprised not to find that feature already implemented. Huge amount of events alter vivid discussions between users.

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Posted

I am liking all of the new features thus far, especially the ability to add an RSVP option. However - our site has a whole country-full of event listings, and there are more often than not more than one event on several given days. I am looking for the ability to have an event list view like the one on this site (which is powered by Contao): http://www.mohawktrail.com/calendar.html Will this be possible, or is there a mod that can do this? We're building a completely new project, so I'm suffering from information overload, any assistance would be greatly appreciated. :)

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Posted

An option to disable a couple of categories would be nice. On one IPB board I run the calendar is used for people to place travel buddy request, nothing else. I do not need recurring events there, just single & ranged.

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Posted

An option to disable a couple of categories would be nice. On one IPB board I run the calendar is used for people to place travel buddy request, nothing else. I do not need recurring events there, just single & ranged.

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Posted

Even when I select that the week starts on Monday the JavaScript calendar when adding new event starts on Sunday!

Date formats of the Calendar are more limited than the date formats of the Board... isn`t it is possible to support the default date, time and number formats including the relative dates etc.

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