Having Fun with Friends
For my capstone project at the Human-Computer Interaction Master at CMU, I was part of a Google-sponsored team investigating the field of event planning. In a Fall course and during the entire Summer semester, we worked on a potential extension to Gmail designed to support the planning of casual events.
In the fall semester we explored the field of event planning in its broadest context. Using diary studies and concept validation, we discovered that casual events provided an interesting niche market for new online tools. People felt that the Internet was not suitable for communicating about personal events involving professional planning (e.g. weddings). Although the Internet was suitable for other formal events (e.g. birthday parties), many solutions for this field already existed. Impromptu events were seen to be too ephemeral to be assisted by online planning.
Casual events, however, were a sweet spot in which good communication and collaboration could make a huge difference in the success of the event. These events usually start as a vague idea, and become more fixed over time through intensive discussion between the potential attendees. We decided to support the following key needs in our solution:
During this phase of the project I was the team leader, with a core task of coordinating the different design exploration activities.
During the summer, we started designing and implementing our solution. We created and tested paper prototypes, and implemented a Flash mock-up of our changes to Gmail. After several test-redesign iterations, we were confident that our final mock-up would be suitable for planning casual events.
Our solution named "Fiesta" shows an integration of chat and email, much like the later-developed Google Wave. Attendees can discuss event details, which can be changed by the event initiator. The event starts as a vague plan ("Let's do something, sometime, somewhere"), and the event initiator can gradually make the event details more specific. Attendees can update their attendance status, and choose to receive the latest updates on their mobile phones. In effect, the event email/chat-page becomes the hub of the event where all discussion, negotiation and notification take place.
During this phase of the project I was part of the implementation sub-team as well as the design sub-team, as my knowledge of both fields allowed me to smoothen the communication between the two groups.
Our mock-up uses a tabbed interface to simulate the involvement of several actors in the event. This idea was useful for both testing and demonstration. For our final presentation, Google flew us in to their Mountain View headquarters to give a Tech Talk on our ideas. In this presentation I presented the specifics of the new features in our solution. We also created a concept video showing how we envisioned that Google Fiesta would be used.
All project deliverables can be found on the Google Fiesta project page.