Overview of the system
The casual event planning solution we created lives mainly in Gmail, but also has integration points with other Google products like Talk and Calendar. The system revolves around “events” that can be planned from within Gmail. Events show up in your Gmail inbox, similar to other emails. The interface for an individual event consists of the following layout: On the left, there is a chat-style communication area with suggestions. The right side shows the attendance status of all participants in the event (Who) and the current status of the event details –What, Where, and When – followed by a Don't forget field.
When a user creates a new event, he or she becomes the initiator of the event. This means that he or she is in control of the event details. The initiator then invites friends (these can also be non-Gmail users) to collaboratively plan the event using the communication area and suggestions. Whenever something changes in the event, the event automatically saves, and participants receive the updated information. If the date of the event is set, the event participants will also receive a reminder before the event starts.
Friends involved in the event may need to contact each other or get directions while away from a computer. Our mobile features address these needs.
Integration with other Google products is key to the success of the system since we can leverage those products' user base to advertise the event planning system. Moreover, leveraging the strengths of multiple products with integration points makes the Fiesta system more powerful and useful. The majority of the system is integrated with Gmail, but we also designed ways in which users can plan events starting from Calendar and Talk.
Gmail inbox and events page
In the system, events live among the rest of the users' emails. Users can also switch to an event-only view (Events) to see only the events in their inbox. Events have a special icon that distinguishes them from emails. New events can be created from scratch or can be made from an existing email or conversation thread.
Event page layout
The layout of the “event page” (the representation of a single event) has a clear division into two sides. The left side contains the subject, the communication, and suggestions, while the right side contains the event details. The left side is the “planning part” in which all participants in the event talk and decide what to do, where to do it, and when to do it. The right side is the “detail part;” only the initiator can change this part. The details provide an overview of attendee statuses and the event information that is currently decided.
The communication area on the left side of the event screen is the central place for communication between the people involved in the event. While the event details are controlled by the initiator, the communication area is the place where the other participants can suggest, give opinions, ask questions, and just chat in general about the event. The communication area therefore satisfies the key need that “people need to negotiate event specifics;” everyone involved works together with others in order to successfully plan the event.
Suggestions are a way to help people “plan casual events collaboratively,” a key need for planning casual events. People make suggestions because they have preferences and restrictions. Different preferences lead to negotiation and a concerted effort to come to an agreement on event details. If people have restrictions, this sometimes leads to changes in the details even after they are decided because people usually want to accommodate friends for the enjoyment of all in casual events.
These important needs for collaboration, negotiation, and accommodation require a system in which all people involved in the event can help to define its details. The suggestion mechanism helps them to successfully plan an event together.
The event details area enables friends to quickly see what details have been decided and what is still up for suggestion or debate without having to read through the entire conversation. This also addresses the key need “to be able to plan the events at different levels of granularity.” The event details are set up in a way that allows them to maintain any type of information from vague (sometime next week) to specific (Thursday, August 2nd, from 3:00pm to 6:00pm).
Who widget and attendance status
The Who widget is the part of the interface that gives users the ability to invite friends and to see who is attending the event. Inviting friends can be done by anyone involved in the event, but the initiator can switch this option off in order to have more control over Who details. People that are part of the event can set their attendance status either directly from the inbox or within the event page.
The Where field, initially filled with “somewhere,” allows the initiator to specify where the event is going to take place. When an actual place is decided, the initiator can “Map it” to add the address of the place through an integrated Google Maps module. When an address is added, users can easily lookup direction by clicking “Get Directions,” which takes them to Google Maps.
The When field initially is a textbox with the text “sometime” pre-filled in, which indicates to the initiator that a vague time may be used here. As soon as the initiator is ready to specify the time, he or she can fill out a specific time using the “Specify date/time” button. This will remove the When text field and add two separate fields for entering a specific date and time. “Show my calendar” and “Add to calendar” allow all participants to show their calendar to check their schedule, and to add the event to their online or digital calendars.
Fiesta users can plan casual events with all of their friends who have email addresses. Friends who do not use Gmail receive a scaled-back experience that nonetheless supports their needs and their work; this increases the value of the system because it allows users to include more than just their Gmail friends in the Fiesta experience.
Gmail users receive event updates similar to threaded emails. When something changes, the event moves to the top and becomes unread again. In order to prevent “inbox flooding,” users who are using third-party email applications will only receive email updates when any of the event details change. In the preferences, users can change these settings and also choose to forward updates to an IM client or cell phone.
This project was part of a course at the Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute. The designs and concepts presented are ideas created by us, the students, for educational purposes, and do not represent any current or future Google product.
Google retains all existing copyrights.