I have read all the previous posts with great interest, as we have also had some of the issues raised here in our own ward. In fact, more than a few times during our PEC it has been mentioned about the (supposed) disparity between the ward calendar and the resource calendar, and I continually have to explain to them how it is meant to work.
In our ward, we are now successfully using the ward calendar and the resource calendar to handle scheduling among the three wards assigned to our building. The success of it has been down to the administration of the calendars by the various administrators involved (of which I am not one). I cannot help but think, however, that a few modifications to the Submit Event page could save some headaches that our administrators have had to go through, and at the same time make the very user-friendly Submit Events page a little more so.
Failing a more full-featured scheduling system, which has already been proposed in this thread, and which we might well be affecting with our discussion here (via Tom I imagine), here are the major issues for us in our ward.
1. The ward calendar and the building calendar are separate calendars.
Now, don't get me wrong, I perfectly understand that they must be separate calendars (for instance, you might have a ward activity scheduled at someone's home, or a non-ward scout activity scheduled at the building - they have to be separate to accommodate both), but the problem with this is that it is not intuitive enough for the end user. My RS President did not understand the concept of adding her activities to both of the calendars until (I think) the third explanation, and she's a smart lady! IMO what we need is a more intuitive interface when adding and editing events on the ward website.
My suggestion to accomplish this is that the Submit Ward Calendar Event screen should have the extra fields to allow adding that same event to both calendars. These extra fields should be there for the express purpose of making the process more intuitive for the end user. I recognize that the first piece of text under the Schedule Ward Calendar Event heading is:
- " Submitting an event does not automatically schedule a resource such as a building. If you want to schedule a resource for this event, click Resources (on the left side of this screen)."
...but it appears that this text is not actually being read and understood intuitively by our members.
Consider perhaps the following changes:
- A checkbox to indicate that you wish to also add this event to the resource calendar (called "Schedule building for this event?")
- A drop down for the desired building resource (if you can default it to the building that the user attends, then great, though it appears that type of relationship is not there)
- Start and stop times for the resource schedule event that default to the ones chosen for the ward calendar event, with perhaps "Include time for set up" to the right of the Start Time control, and "Include time for clean up" next to the Stop Time control. Perhaps even "Be sure to include time for set up". This would hopefully remind them to make the times for the resource calendar a wider range to allow for the appropriate set up and clean up. Again, this small addition should make it more intuitive for the end user.
- The regular Make this a repeating event link. You could either include this link again for the new resource event, or simply use the same repeating rules specified for the resource calendar event, being sure to use the times specified on the new resource event time input fields.
- The regular Do not show on Home Page checkbox.
- The regular Details field that would normally appear when scheduling a resource. This allows the user to enter all current codes or regulations in place set by the local Stake and Ward Administrators, such as entering rooms required, ward name, contact name and number, etc.
- Perhaps a drop down list to select the Scheduling Ward. This specifies which ward the event is for. If you could default it to the ward the user is in, that would be good. This is in relation to issue 2 below. Naturally this would supercede the necessity of training our members to include the ward name in the comments field, and make the table more relational in the process. I recognize that this is a much larger change than the others however, as it requires adding a field to the events tables and a relationship to the unit that does not currently exist.
You know, there's almost enough room to include all of these fields in a second column, side by side on the Submit Ward Calendar Event page. The checkbox could go next to the Title input field, the various date and times fields would correspond with each other, and the new Details field could go to the right of the existing one also. That might be a possible solution, although it probably wouldn't work for the smaller screen resolutions...
The only thing this method does not allow is the ability to schedule multiple building resources for the same event from the same page, such as what happened with our Ward Christmas Party event, where we scheduled various rooms in the building as well as the Stake Laptop and Stake Projector resources that we wished to use as well. As an aside, having the Stake Laptop and Stake Projector as stake resources, each with their own calendar was quite intelligent on the part of our Stake Administrator I have to say, and seems to have worked splendidly so far. My point here was that the above suggestion does not allow you to easily schedule multiple resources from that first Submit Event page, but I would imagine that it is not necessary to actually code this extra complexity right now as it is not a common occurrence. Food for thought for later though...
2. Color coding
The current resource calendar is all in green, which helps greatly in distinguishing it from the ward calendar (a truly great idea by the way, that would likely have caused a lot of confusion had it been black, red or blue). Perhaps though we can use the other colors as well, or the old trick of distinguishing text by using different text styles like italic or bold, or by different background colors. Personally I think that the different colored text on the ward calendar works great and we only need to use more colors to distinguish requests from different wards rather than italics or background colors.
The idea is, allow an administrator to set a particular text color for a particular ward. Then, when a resource is scheduled for an event for that ward, use that specified color to display it on the building resource calendar. This would mean that we definitely need to add the Scheduling Ward drop down to the Submit Event screen (for instance, 4 list items "1st Ward", "2nd Ward", "3rd Ward", "External" - where External handles non ward activities like scout leadership trainings and wedding receptions, etc.). Then, the building calendar can show items for all three units in the building (and Tinman, I think that the events for three wards plus external events would not actually become unwieldy although it might present a lot of information - in fact I think it's better to have the improved data visibility and to show it all together), with the events from each ward appearing, for instance, in a green, purple and gold respectively, and external items in black or orange (kudos to Tinman - same idea). Clearly, the colors themselves are not important, but that it is possible to make the calendar display a little more intuitive with very little effort.
Again, these ideas are intended to constitute a "first-step" towards making the current process more intuitive. I welcome the idea of a building map to schedule different rooms, and possibly allowing the extra URL parameters to allow IT savvy administrators to create shortcut links for their ward members (interesting idea). My proposed ideas here are intended to make the current (excellent) system a little more intuitive so our members will actually use it to schedule events on both calendars.
I also recognize that what I am proposing will take some man days or weeks to code and then have to go through QA testing and so on, but I think that it is a minor enough modification that it can be done fairly quickly. The programmer will have to still handle the email notifications for both ward calendar event and buidling resource event, and so you'd probably get two different emails for the same event if it's scheduled on both, but that is probably what should happen anyway. At best you could get just the one email notification, but you would still need to see the information that the event was now on both calendars on that one email. The programmer would also have to handle the repeating event possibility, but I don't think that would be too much to handle.
I welcome any improved or different ideas gladly. Thanks!