Background: Freegle allows people to give away things they don't need to other people nearby. Part of this involves agreeing a date/time for collection. People do this by messaging back and forth, but there's a lot of "can you do Thursday evening", "no, but I could do Friday morning", "That doesn't work for me, how about Wednesday afternoon between 2 and 3". People get bogged down in this, and because the system doesn't know what they eventually agreed, we can't send them reminders to help them be more reliable in turning up.

I'm trying to work out a way to improve this process. What I want is a web widget that is a bit like doodle.com, but just for two people to agree a date/time, probably some time in the next week, that works for both of them.

I don't want to ask both people to enter all the times they are available over the next week - that's too much effort and would feel too intrusive. So I need a way to reach agreement with the smallest number of iterations. For example, it could start off trying to establish whether people would prefer weekdays or weekends, daytime or evening, then move on to specific days and times. And it needs to feel helpful, not irritating.

Has anyone ever seen something like this done well?

  • 2
    Never seen this done before. Interesting challenge.
    – Confused
    May 19, 2018 at 23:29
  • Do users have alternative way to communicate rather than using your widget?
    – Serg
    May 21, 2018 at 10:07
  • They can message each other on our site, and that message gets sent out as an email if not read on the site rapidly. But since people aren't online all the time, there can be delays of hours or days before someone then responds, which means the process of agreeing a date/time can take many elapsed days. I'm trying to speed up that process. May 21, 2018 at 14:21
  • 2
    do you mean doodle.com?
    – Aprillion
    May 23, 2018 at 6:34
  • At work we use calendly.com which allows one person to set availability publicly and others book a slot. The UX is pretty good, but I'm don't think it would hold up for one-off availabilities. needtomeet.com looks like another alternative, but I don't have any experience of that
    – jymbob
    May 23, 2018 at 9:28

8 Answers 8


Combine quick input with clarifying comments

It seems a potential solution would be a quick method of input for general availability combined with the option of adding some clarifying comments.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups


If you're worried that users would feel that this is invasive, you could allow them to "Submit availability privately" and then have the system figure out the earliest agreed time. After both users confirm the proposed time, you're done.

  • This is looking like my favourite so far. Show something like this to a person making an offer, which will be optional. Then for people who reply either make them select from these (if present) or propose their own. It doesn't deal with the whole process, but this would probably deal with most cases. May 22, 2018 at 18:31
  • @EdwardHibbert True. It's a good starting point that helps to eliminate the majority of the boilerplate "well how about Tuesday morning?" "No, can't do that. How's that evening for you?" The additional notes can be as useful as your users would like to make them. For example, they could preemptively answer scheduling questions, point out their preferred time, or add any other schedule-related comments (e.g. "I ABSOLUTELY need to have it on this day at the latest."). After observing your users, you could even consider adding tips for writing useful notes: "Have a preferred time? Add a note!" May 22, 2018 at 18:43
  • maybe make the times on the left of the grid little sliders that change the 'Morning' and '8am-noon' inner html. That would make is slightly shorter, at the expense of a little added complexity. I will post a modified pic below. OK can't post! here's pic eldwick.org.uk/files/slider_01.jpg
    – paddyg
    Jun 5, 2018 at 10:52

As someone who's used freegle/freecycle in the past and knows no-shows are an absolute pain in the butt, how about making the person offering an item specify some times that others can pick up their item before they choose a preferred collector - even if it just "weekday evening after 6"? And anyone who can't make those times are just out of luck? Anyone who can picks their preferred option, and the offerer makes a choice. If no-one replies, then the offerer has a chance to expand the number of time slots offered?

This gets my vote but would add a collect/deliver option. Personally I'd rather deliver that wait for the collector to turn up so I can not have to worry about being in.

  • This is initially similar to @mentallurg's suggestion. That's a reasonable opening gambit (though you need nice UX for that). It makes sense for the person making an offer to get to indicate their preferred time (if we can persuade them to do that). If none of those work, I'm not sure that then going back and expanding the slots is the right way to go, though. When do you decide to change it? And for many items there are small numbers of replies, so the emphasis should be on easily finding a time that works rather than finding another person who can make the time. May 21, 2018 at 15:06
  • 2
    You have to measure the slight UX discomfort of making a user enter an additional parameter against the raging frustration of waiting in 2 hours for some s*d who never shows up :-) I'd go for the first. I know some people will agree to whatever time/place and then say they can only make the shetland islands during a solar eclipse and there's only so much you can do, but honestly, that behaviour put me off free-sites. Using google recaptcha to filter out possible "gimme" bots might be another thing to add to the site. Again, a bit more up-front hassle, but saves a lot more further down the line
    – mgraham
    May 21, 2018 at 18:05
  • As an occasional Freegle giver, I like this suggestion best. Basically I want to be rid of this thing, without it going to landfill, at the least inconvenience to me possible. So "It's free if you collect it from me at one of these times" is the deal I want to offer. However the UX needs to allow for givers with attitudes different to mine too.
    – slim
    Jun 5, 2018 at 15:28

Forcing users to answer questions is worse UX comparing to Calendar view. Consider Doodle one again.

With Doodle you can also agree about the time. To make it easier for your users ask them not for all possible date/time slots, but say for a 3 slots on different days with duration of at least 30 min each. Then create these 3 Doodle slots automatically and send them to the 2nd person.

  • Asking people to specify a small number of slots which would work for them is a possibility. If one of those slots works, then that's fine. If it doesn't, then need some UX flow for counter-suggestions. What should that look like? May 21, 2018 at 14:23

The system I use is when I have chosen the freegle user for the item offered I give them my mobile phone number to contact me to arrange collection. That way I get their number so I can contact them when they forget to come and that is about 40% of them. Simple and works fine for me, don't make things too complicated.

  • Most of my Freegle arrangements work in this way: a) Agree to hand over / collect b) Exchange address and phone details c) Wait or make a phone contact to arrange availability. It doesn't all have to be done in Freegle and I've not been disappointed so far. May 23, 2018 at 13:19
  • I agree because the messaging system on Freegle at the moment is not great one of the first things I do when making contact with collectors is to move communication to my phone which is far more reliable and instant.
    – ProNotion
    May 30, 2018 at 7:02

The system has to be convenient and user-friendly. When I worked in the selling industry calling on private houses we set up appointments by offering to call at a couple of times i.e. "would a morning appointment be suitable or would you prefer tomorrow afternoon/evening?" This gives the donor the opportunity and flexibility to be available at the choice across 2 days - and it always seemed to work well. In personal calling sales environments, we had to make appointments across 3 time zones i.e. 11:00 a.m. -- 14:30, or after 18:00. etc. might be suitable. In the Freegle movement, a donor could state that "I am available in the morning or tomorrow afternoon/evening - thus a choice of 3-time slots become available.

  • Look at how doodle does it
    – paul
    May 23, 2018 at 16:57

It would shorten the message offer and counter cycle if the initial offer message format prompted the offering party to identify some time slots when they could pick up. Normally I get an " is it still available" message with no pick up time. Likewise if the acceptance of offer prompted for pickup slots the cycle of agreement would be shortened. It would also help filter potential takers if the road distance between taker and giver was presented to the potential taker. I have had a number of takers silently drop out when they see the distance to my rural location.

  • What you're saying isn't clear. Could you take another look at it?
    – Mayo
    May 23, 2018 at 14:20

I think rather than two way tangled communication at later stage, give choice to the person posting advert so they can set the expectation and at their leisure.

They should have more control up-front to decide what time best suits them during advert posting process, additional field for user to fill though, this will save time for later communication (in most cases).

From viewers perspective, when item is listed they can precisely see the availability of choices (times) and can make informed decision for pick-up.

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  • The reason for not doing it at this stage is that more questions we ask people before we've got the basic information about the post, the more people drop out because they think it's too complex. Bear in mind this may be their very first encounter with Freegle. So we ask this after we've got enough information to post the offer - then it is not such a problem if they give up. Jun 14, 2018 at 15:02

Doodle is ok and simple to use. I have used it for meetings, but would not be happy to have this available for two many people for security purposes. So even though exchange of messages can be a pain, I would rather stay with that system for privacy and security reasons.

  • Just for clarity, I'm not considering using Doodle itself. I'm just mentioning it as an example of something which already deals with scheduling. I'm wanting to implement something which simplifies the scheduling process within the messaging system on the site. May 21, 2018 at 14:20

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