Application Critique: Business Calendar

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While the idea of using an application that is specifically catered for business usage might sound attractive, like what someone mentioned during the presentation, does the Business Calendar app have a chance in a market that is predominated by enterprise solutions;MS Outlook and the popular Google Calendar?

Syncing of Tasks

One of the points that was strongly highlighted was the ability to easily synchronise tasks on the calendar across different emails or accounts. Implying from the presentation, this was the differentiating factor of the Business Calendar.

Foremost, it is indeed a powerful feature. As we proceed with our work nowadays, we switch across different accounts, different devices and sometimes even different applications. Therefore the ability to create a task and sync it without worrying about forgetting to update something else gives me a peace of mind.

However, that said, I also believe such a feature is one which is derived from using the application in the first place. Prior to the presentation, I would not have known what syncing of task really meant as there was no common use of it. Users of Google Calendar would share calendars instead to ‘sync’ their tasks. Whereas, users of MS Outlook keeps everything to Outlook itself sometimes due to company standards. Therefore, I doubt users who are already using either Google Calendar or MS Outlook would not see the potential of syncing of tasks and be enticed to switch over to Business Calendar instead.

As for a new user, syncing of task would probably not be a ‘must-have-feature’ right off the bat. I feel that the need for such a function only becomes apparent after a certain amount of usage of calendars. Thus, such a feature albeit is powerful, doesn’t really contribute much to differentiating the application from other Calendars currently out there.

Lack of Supported Platforms

As pointed out in the presentation, Business Calendar is only available on the android phones. To me, that is a big problem for it to be termed as the “Business Calendar”. When working in offices during part times, internships etc, we usually have a work station and sometimes (more often that not) when work gets busy, we have to rely on mobile devices to keep up with assignments and tasks. Therefore the business individual would be constantly working from both the phone and the desktop and the inability to view the calendar on the desktop would definitely be crippling.

Although Business Calendar allows you to still export schedules and provide limited usage outside the application, you will definitely be missing out on the familiar interface when using it on the phone (unless you boot up an emulator but that’s another story).

The lack of supported platforms is therefore a rather serious issue for business usage. As pointed out during the presentation, the name of Business Calendar could be misleading as the presenter himself uses it often and is a student. However, I feel that the application could actually be more suited for non-business users instead who don’t mind not being able to enjoy the application on the desktop and just looking for a better phone calendar.

Complex vs Intuitive Usage

Lastly, I believe the application prides itself as a complex calendar that can suit your business needs. However, concurrently, it also prides itself of it’s ease of use and intuitive controls. Indubitably, it has a ton of customisations and features however, at the same time, I believe complexity compromises ease of usage.

I would prefer mobile applications to be simple as after all, screen space is hugely limited and controls are limited to the touchscreen unlike the desktop where you can have large monitors, (or multi-monitors) a keyboard and a mouse. Therefore, I never really learn to appreciate complexity such as being able to view the entire month’s schedule as shown below, in a small screen space except to admire how extensively I have used the app.

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On the other hand, I would have appreciated more if I was just given a simple calendar with big CTA numbers of the date where I can click to view the popup box. Flooding the screen to provide the schedule at a glance would have worked better if it was a desktop web application as there’s more screen space to display nicely. I might even want to be able to add more coloured labels to the calendar than compared to if I was on a mobile application.

Verdict

Current leading calendar applications, namely Google Calendar, would still be the standard choice for most users. That said, I certainly do not doubt Business Calendar is in any way lacking in features and customisation options compared to Google Calendar. However, it would be very difficult to top Google’s ‘all-encompassing’ ecosystem that we are trapped in and simply their popularity. With a pay-gate on top of the list of why not to use Business Calendar, I certainly do not see myself escaping Google’s clutches.

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1st Checkpoint

Recently, mid-term submission for assignment 1 was due and it had been rather smooth, all things considered. We came up with a rather bold idea called NUS Reviews.

You may visit us at nusreviews.com

As the name suggests, it is a one-stop site for module reviews and our main selling point being making reviews fuss-free and quick. Currently it is still a proof-of-concept stage with no actual functionality. We’ve got back-end server issues settled and deployed with much confidence. Front-end was handled with relative ease thanks to the large amount of help available on the net.

While database is still a work-in-progress, we don’t foresee much difficulties in hooking it up with our current application. Thankfully, we have someone who could help out with the styling of the application and everything is gluing in place nicely.

That said, with assignment 2 starting to pick up steam, (and so do other projects from other modules) we will have to plan our next milestones carefully to avoid over-promising which would lead to compromises. Nevertheless, we did plan to start small and iterate for extensions instead, thus I feel that the workload should be still manageable.

In the next update for NUSReviews, we would be nailing down the core functionality and link up with Facebook APIs. After that we plan to nail the UI before proceeding to add extensions. So stay tuned!

What I want to learn in CS3216

 

After working in a startup (sort of), Gametize, during my internship, I realised the appeal of web applications in the Singapore market. There are many organisations, large or small, here that are always looking for new web solutions to fulfil their myriad of needs; be it to hit their KPI or to revamp legacy electronic processes or even to just kickstart new modules to enrich the employees in the company. Furthermore, Singapore is considered a technologically savvy society thus, I would expect neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia is have even larger demands for web applications in the near future. Thus, CS3216 being a course on developing web applications, is exactly the thing I should and want to learn to make myself relevant in today’s industry.

When I first started working, I have close to zero experience of the programs and processes the tech team uses and I have to study their code base to understand the flow of the code and coding styles they employ. I would also have to experiment with the tools and services they rely on to fully understand their workflow and thus be able to then contribute to developing and enhancing their web application. Likewise, I feel that CS3216 also features that style of self directed learning and throwing you in the woods kind of situation. I managed to learn to understand how to develop web applications from the capabilities of the tools rather than how to just make things work with my tools. I also learned how I might do things better and propose improvements to the team (not all improvements are necessary improvements however) rather than follow the same way of doing things which I would have if I was spoon fed to follow their examples blindly.

Therefore, I hope to learn more about web application development with that sort of value-added component in CS3216.