August 28th, 2008 | Published in Gmail (Google Mail)
Seemingly small improvements can make a surprisingly big difference to people who use our products every day. Take Google Calendar, where over the past few months we've made a bunch of little improvements in direct response to feedback from our most active users.
We've long offered the ability to email meeting attendees, which can be extremely useful for sharing last-minute details or distributing meeting minutes afterward. But it was an all-or-nothing affair -- if you wanted to email only those people who hadn't responded, for example, you needed to manually fiddle with a list of email addresses.
In response, we made several improvements to the email guests dialog. You can now select guests based on their response status or pick-and-choose them individually with checkboxes.
Adding a friend's calendar
Displaying another person's calendar used to be a many-stepped process. It wasn't such a big deal if you only did it occasionally, but many of you do this numerous times a day, especially if you manage co-workers' calendars. It's much easier now: you simply start typing a name in the "Add a friend's calendar" box and we'll match against your address book. Click the name, and the calendar will be added.
Dragging to create new events
Making a new event from the Day or Week view is really easy -- you simply click on the time, drag the duration and enter a name. But if you have a busy calendar (and who doesn't?) you probably bumped into some problems. If an event is already scheduled for that time, there was no way to click and drag without messing up the other events on your calendar. You told us you often worked around this by creating the meeting in an open slot and dragging it to the desired time. Lots of extra work.
Here's proof that little things really do matter -- in this case, just a few pixels. We added a "gutter" to the edge where you can click-and-drag no matter how many events you already have at that time. Here's a before and after:
Flexible reminder times
We got lots of feedback about our event reminders, and particularly the limited number of time choices. One Googler actually asked for the ability to set eight minute reminders. Why eight minutes? He found that 5 minutes wasn't enough time to get to his meetings and 10 minutes was so early he tended to ignore them. Not everyone needs such precision, of course, but everyone deserves more flexibility. As of today, you can now set a reminder for any time between 4 weeks and 5 minutes before your event.
Perhaps big launches and shiny new features get most of the attention, but little things matter too. Even just a few pixels can turn "arrghh!" into "ahhhh!"