Outlook Brings the Noise

by on May 4, 2015

I feel the need for some cathartic adjustment of one of the more annoying interfaces I have to look at most days: the Outlook Meeting Invitation.

Outlook’s current offering is full of annoyingly confusing clutter. So here – more for my benefit than yours – is my re-take.

The current UI is mostly irrelevant noise:

  1. Did you think this was the date and time of the meeting? Nope. This is when the meeting was booked. Who cares about that, and why is it placed so prominently here in the first place you are most likely to scan for when it is you need to attend?
  2. Why should I care so much about who has booked the meeting? It’s the largest thing on the screen!
  3. While this meeting includes people in another time zone, it’s academic what zone they’re in. Just show me my time, not theirs.
  4. This is some organisational policy setting that is the same for all mail and invitations. There is no reason for it to be shown outside of some advanced “properties” screen.
  5. Why do I need to know this? Auto-confirming meetings are self-evident from the calendar view (and I can always decline if I want in any case).
  6. At last – among the most important things you need to know. But it’s tiny. And why on earth doesn’t it tell you what day of the week the meeting is on?
  7. Yet another date that looks like it might be the date you have to attend. Noise.
  8. You’re unlikely to want to manage your calendar from within the invitation, not least because you can only see a small window on your day here. That’s what the calendar view is for.
  9. Why am I being enticed to do something that has no common relevance to the task at hand?
  10. Do I need to see these all over again when they are at the top as well?

No. No. No.

Here is something that answers my primary questions: When is the meeting? What is it about? Where is it? Who will be there? Let’s leave out the useless stuff like expiry dates and calendar views:

A re-take, removing most of the noise:

New version

Ahhh. That’s better.

Comments

I agree with most of your complaints – that design is a confused mess. Pretty shocking standard of UI design, for a major Microsoft product.

Of course, more simplicity is not necessarily better – I criticised Gmail last year for the degree of mystery meat and obscurity.

I think some things you removed could’ve been put underneath the main text field, so that it’s reduced in prominence but not altogether absent. E.g. (1) create date, (3) time zones, (4), (5) and (7) .

I still can’t abide the ribbon toolbar and the all-caps tabs at the top.

I use Google Calendar for work and personal use, and I’d love to take the time to write about all its flaws. It’s meeting page is not as bad as this, though.

Agree I may have been too brutal in removing rather than demoting a lot of the noise. Also, I didn’t address the ribbon since that’s usability problem all of its own.

And yes, there is such as a thing as “complex simplicity” in UX :-)

One thing I missed from the original rant was the fact that the meeting notes panel doesn’t expand with the text, so that if you have an agenda or something longer than about 3 lines you have to scroll inside the panel – which is made tiny by the stupid calendar view in (8).

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