If you want me to attend, then I want to know what, when, where

It’s that easy in my opinion. The most important information you need for an event is the what, when, where. All else is metadata.

The theory of what, when, where

If I’m being invited to an event, the most important thing, no matter anything else, is to know what the event is. Is this an event that I want to go to?

No. I would not like to attend this event. I do not need any more information. Thank you.

Yes. I am interested. Please tell me more so that I can check if I can attend.

Next, you need to know when the event is, because it might clash with another thing you have planned. Or it may be too late for your taste. Or too early. Or too far ahead for you to think about. Can I make the date and time?

No. I cannot make that time.

Yes. I can make that time.

Things are looking good. You’re interested in the event. And you’re free when the event is happening. All you need to know now is where the event is. Can I get there?

No. Oh dear.

Yes. Great. Decision made.

It’s practically obvious. Logical at the very least. It’s how we mentally process the invites we receive.

Google disagrees

Here’s how Google calendar invites arrive in my inbox:

An Apple macOS Mail app email with the subject line "To hide the 'what' in the email subject line causes issues" and the body copy "This is the description of the event, but it's actually quite hidden in the interface where you create the invite. Why hide the 'what'? Especially after you squish the short form 'what' in the subject line with lots of other noise?

But what about the 'when'? Try and spot it in this email view. Roughly my most common email reading view. Any luck? No, because it's cut off at the end of the subject line, and only appears again in the area below this description.

Now, guess where the 'where' is... Yup, below the 'when', below the fold, while that massive Join with Google Meet button makes it look like a video call. Honestly, how can this have been designed without the theory of what, when, where?"

Note the body of the email: This is the description of the event, but it’s actually quite hidden in the interface where you create the invite. Why hide the ‘what’? Especially after you squish the short form ‘what’ in the subject line with lots of other noise?

But what about the ‘when’? Try and spot it in this email view. Roughly my most common email reading view. Any luck? No, because it’s cut off at the end of the subject line, and only appears again in the area below this description.

Now, guess where the ‘where’ is… Yup, below the ‘when’, below the fold, while that massive Join with Google Meet button makes it look like a video call. Honestly, how can this have been designed without the theory of what, when, where?

Hear the bottom half, hiding the when and where:

Bottom half of an Apple macOS Mail app email showing the date, time and location of a fictional event, plus two little calendar attachment icons.

And including those two annoying little attachments. Who actually uses them? Is it an accessibility thing that I don’t know about? Fine if so, but it feels a lot more like a messy legacy thing.

Rejigging invites

For the most part, I think Google calendar is good. I use it every day and it’s actually really powerful when working in teams with shared calendars. But I really do think they’ve overpack their invite emails as well as their invite creation windows.

A Google calendar window for creating a calendar invite. Lots of functionality for adding title, event type, time, guest, Meet video link, location, description, attachments, creator and notification options.

Spotting where to add the what, when and where in here feels too hard. Yes, ‘Add title’ is large up top, but what about the extended ‘what’? The word description, for adding the actual event information is a tiny grey word in what looks like a footnote.

‘When’ is fairly clear. And you generally get to this window after selecting the date and time in the calendar view. But again, the enormous Google Meet button draws the eye away. Distracting both from the ‘when’ and the tiny ‘where’ icon next to the little ‘Add location’ note.

To fix the email could be really simple. Some space to pull the important information out:

And similar with composing. While this is very crude, I think it’s just a case of reprioritising the elements:

Hey, Google. Need a hand with a redesign? Send me an invite.