We’ve got a lot to juggle over here at Ptype! We have people who want short Axure trainings, long Axure training sessions, and some companies want us to fly out for on-site Axure training. We also have phone calls to schedule and UX Walkthrough calls as well.
We also have to juggle lots of time zones. Debbie’s in San Francisco, but trains Axure students all over the continent live and remotely. To accommodate their schedules, sometimes she starts really early her time… 7:30am… sometimes earlier. And if you’re looking to book a full day, 8-hour Axure workshop for your team AND you’re on the east coast, then Debbie’s calendar has to show she can start at 6am California time.
We’ve looked at lots of scheduling and appointment options, and it was hard to find something that could really handle some of this complexity. I want to say a special thank you to YouCanBook.Me, who was our scheduling system for years. Nice people, great product. We just grew out of it, but it could be right for you so check them out!
Here’s our new scheduling system, dropped into our website.
Acuity Is Our Best Match
Acuity has a lot of great flexibility. It can understand multiple people and multiple calendars (especially in the paid version). You might be a salon with 2 locations and lots of staff. You might be a fitness trainer who only books certain blocks of time in certain locations. Or in my case, you need one calendar that runs 6am – 8pm local time for full day bookings and one calendar that runs 7:30am – 7pm for shorter bookings (and sleeping in a bit).
Acuity lets me build services that include time as well as padding. Optionally, I can have a 7:30am hour booking and then an 8:30am, or I can say please give me at least 10 minutes between appointments (which is nice).
I can charge for appointments or services, make them free, or charge people later. Not everybody wants an eCommerce checkout to pay for Axure training or UX consulting. Some people want an invoice and will mail a check someday.
Acuity also lets me sell products and packages. I could create a “package” for 10 hours pre-paid Axure training. You then get a certificate code. When you book your time, just drop in that code, and it’ll decrement your package automatically. A very cool feature is that I can sell this myself, say through invoicing and being paid by check, and then create a certificate code to send to the client. So the system does NOT have to charge the card or see the checkout process to make this work. Hooray!
Acuity IS integrated with Stripe, so if you want to charge people, you can. Easy enough.
I can also customise the form people fill out when booking, and I can create different forms for different services. Also hooray!
Of course, I couldn’t use an online booking system without 2-way Google calendar syncing. Acuity understands that in addition to my “open hours,” it should read my Ptype calendar (one of many Google calendars I have). And when something it booked, drop it back into the Ptype calendar.
Acuity also understands your clients. The people booking can create accounts. You can easily see them among your customers. Make appointments, move them, cancel them, and all kinds of emails can go out. It can even send SMS reminders. It’ll email those too if you don’t want to text people.
So I’m happy with Acuity and think it will have room for me to grow a bit.
What would I change about Acuity?
This wouldn’t be a UX blog without noting some thing that could be improved in the user experience. All in all, I have to say it’s pretty solid. The UX is pretty good! But here is what I would like to see them change:
1) Search by time. I have training clients who HAVE to meet me at a certain time due to their work and/or personal schedules. Right now, you click a date on a month calendar, and it drops down which times are free. It would be GREAT to let people say show me only the days when I can get Debbie’s 7:30am-9am block. Same would go for salons. Some people really need to get their hair cut after work hours. Which days can you give me 6pm?
2) I noticed when pretending to have bought a package and then pretending to use that package booking services that I couldn’t easily see how much I used and how much I had left in that package. Creating an account (as a customer) and logging in showed me a list of every appointment I ever made or cancelled. That’s a lot! That should be moved behind a tab or something… just show me my next one!
But I couldn’t easily see hey, you bought a package of 8 hours of training. You used 2 hours for a 7:30am-9:30am appointment on November 6, 2014. You have 6 hours left. Want to book some of that now? Click here!
3) Similarly, the place where you put in certificate codes was kind of hidden. After you pick your service, the calendar comes up. ABOVE the calendar is a link that wants you to click it. Clicking it reveals an input field where you put your certificate code. That’s an extra click and not totally obvious. I’d like to see any place someone is using a certificate or discount code to be really easy to find.
Acuity might even want to ask for the certificate code first. Certificates can be very specific. It could be you can have ONE hour for this type of massage with this person. Well, if you ask me for the certificate code first, you might NOT need to then ask me the service. It might be my only choice! Or I might have choices for my certificate (a nice feature) and then I’ll need to pick the service.
Also, Acuity knowing which certificate it is should help it only show dates with that service in that time block available. So perhaps that should be on the same screen as picking a service, and expose it. Don’t hide it under a click, especially since for some reason, links by default are grey. Grey is the official colour of something being invisible.
Acuity is still great with lots of cool features that I know will simplify my life and appointment scheduling. Acuity currently comes in three flavours… free, Professional ($10/month), and Premium ($19/month). I took the deal on the Premium level, which cost $209 for a year (buy 11 months, get 12). For what I bill in an hour, Acuity has to save me 1-2 hours my whole YEAR to have paid for itself. Yes, please.
I travel about a week a month, on average, so I use a lot of websites for planning and pricing travel. That means I am constantly choosing the dates I’d be flying or staying at a hotel. I also love Pollstar.com for seeing what concerts are coming to certain areas. If I’m travelling to a city, I’ll check the dates and see if any good shows are also on. But holy cats, some websites are incredibly frustrating when it comes to selecting the date!
The most amazing UI insanity has to be this scenario. I’m on the website in September 2010. I’m looking at travel for October 2010. For my first date, I choose October 11th. I pop up the calendar for my second date. It starts me in September. Really? You thought I was going to start my travel next month and end it this month? FAIL.
The second most infuriating UI insanity has to be when you don’t enter the date in a format the site likes. When am I travelling? 10/11 to 10/15. Or maybe I enter 10/11/10 to 10/15/10. The form processes, and red words come up to remind me I’m an idiot. No, we couldn’t look for your travel because you didn’t format it how we like it. We like years like YYYY not YY. Sure, never mind that most travel sites will only book 330 days in advance, 10/10/11 is about 380 days from now, and travelling in the past is not an option. Try entering the year again. We’ll wait while you do it, idiot website visitor.
The third most annoying UI insanity has to be an entire new browser window just for a calendar. With all the modern cool CSS and scripting, do we really need to open a whole new window for the date? I’m especially peeved with this one since I use browser toolbars that sometimes throw error messages every time a window opens. So even a TINY window opening for me is a whole bunch of dismissing error messages. A sub-frustration of this UI is that the dates are usually TINY, and only the number is linked, so you have to get your mouse RIGHT on the right spot to click.
Honorable mention of insanity goes to the sites that pop up one month, and make me page through months, one at a time.
One that does it reasonably well is Hilton’s online booking system. Once I pick 11 October, it chooses 12 October as a check-out date. I may not be staying one night, but they must have data that many stays are for one night. At least I don’t have to select the month again. They’re pretty close! However, if I click Hilton’s calendar icon, I get the new browser window with the tiny dates, one month at a time. 🙁
I think the best date selection UI would be to popup a layer that shows the current month plus two more. Most people book travel more last minute than months and months in advance, so 3 months would probably be great for many visitors. Don’t link just the numbers so I have to match my mouse with your 7 point font. Link up the whole box of that calendar date so I can click faster without worrying about precision. And if I want to type the dates, assume the dates I type are in the next 12 months. If I write 10/15, assuming it’s the next possible October coming around. Don’t assume I mean last year or over a year from now.