In 2014, our team of Carnegie Mellon Human-Computer Interaction masters students partnered with Bloomberg for an 8 month capstone project to reimagine the transparent calendar.
Defining the problem
Bloomberg is a leader in global business and financial information with over 15,000 employees. They embrace a culture of transparency, which is evident in their glass-walled conference rooms to the ability to look up anyone’s calendar to see what they will be doing. This often meant that people used it a primary communication tool—resorting to the calendar for answers before bothering someone.
While Bloomberg had a mobile product for their customers to view stock information, they lacked mobile workflow and scheduling tools for their employees to look up others' calendars and book rooms away from their desks.
Working out of Pittsburgh, PA, we made five trips to Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York to receive training on the terminal, speak with employees, learn about the culture, and define their needs.
What we learned
We spent 5 months in our research phase gathering information from literature reviews, competitive analyses, contextual inquiries, and subject matter expert interviews. We also developed our own qualitative research method called Sensory Association to gather deeper insights on breakdowns and feelings about the calendar.
While we set out to reimagine the calendar, we found that people were using the calendar in conjunction with other internal applications (called functions) to gather information and achieve the following goals:
- Find out where someone is at, and when they will be free in order to catch them for a conversation between meetings
- Investigate if someone is available even though their schedule looked busy because they didn’t trust the accuracy of the information on the calendar
- Find and book available rooms that fit timing, size, and technology constraints for all parties
We modeled our observations using affinity diagrams and tensions maps to synthesize our findings and generate visions that led to the eventual design of Bloomberg Connect.
We uncovered several key findings:
- Managing the calendar was impossible to do on-the-go because there was no full-featured mobile app
- Information about people was scattered across multiple internal systems
- The calendar lacked the ability to fully describe the workday
- Individual workarounds resulted in unintelligible clutter on the calendar
- Inaccurate and hard-to-understand information led people to distrust the system
We saw people put fake meetings on the calendar in order to have time to do work, track their coworkers down to ask about their availability, and roam the building for up to 15 minutes searching for empty meeting rooms – all of which were the result of or contributed to their distrust in the system.
Our findings pointed to the fact that while the transparent culture was beneficial in giving people a way to be proactive, inaccurate information and difficult tasks led to a lack of trust in the system. This distrust meant that people were not using the “smart” tools available and putting more work on themselves to do manually, which introduced human errors.
In the last 3 months of our project, we took our findings and created over 100 ideas to solve the problems that we observed. We consolidated them into 15 storyboards and used a research method called speed dating with 15 employees and interns to quickly validate and iterate on our concepts. Our concepts were also designed to push the boundaries in order to gauge the comfort level of Bloomberg employees.
Our testing showed that it would be difficult to create change that went against Bloomberg’s culture of needing to be always available and transparent. We needed to find a way to embrace their culture as well as build trust.
From our speed dating sessions, we discovered prominent themes which we filtered into 4 design principles to guide our future decisions.
- Make it actionable
- Prioritize relevant information
- Keep it open and transparent
- Leverage the mobile context
Designing Bloomberg Connect
We designed Bloomberg Connect to address three main calendaring needs:
- Finding the people and available times and places to meet
- Keeping up to date with changes on the calendar
- Accurately representing your intentions
We iterated on our designs through 5 prototyping and testing cycles from a low fidelity paper prototype, 3 mid fidelity interactive Axure prorotypes, to a high fidelity Axure prototype.
Between each prototype, we performed usability testing with 5 participants using the think aloud protocol to fine tune our features and maximize our limited screen real-estate.
The final visual design and app branding was inspired by modern calendar applications such as Fantastical and Sunrise while still adhering to the familiar iOS8 design guidelines. The color scheme was inspired by Bloomberg's terminal color, but set on a light and friendly background to enhance in mobile contexts.
Our research and design efforts were incredibly well received by the Bloomberg staff. We presented Bloomberg Connect to a packed auditorium of executives, designers, and engineers who all felt that our findings resonated with the team. Bloomberg has since published a video highlighting our UX design/research workflow and its value to their company.
Interested in seeing more? Visit the Bloomberg Connect product page for a breakdown of each feature.