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For example: The End time picker in outlook and google calendar allow to schedule a meeting/event for 0 minutes.

Is this a real use case? Why would anyone schedule something for 0 mins? Does anyone know the reason why this option is available?

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    For instance, I have a 'meeting' twice a week to water my plant. Zero minutes is by far the most fitting for this purpose. – Dan Oct 15 '15 at 16:20
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    @Dan do you list your plant under attendees for that meeting? – Michael McGriff Oct 15 '15 at 17:29
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    I do this too! I didn't realize it's so common to set zero-minute meetings that are actually tasks—things that don't have to happen at a specific minute. Questions I have: With over a decade to shape user experiences, Why did Microsoft Outlook fail to get so many of us to use tasks? Why didn't Outlook convert a zero-minute meeting to a task? Were we just satisficing? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing – JeromeR Oct 15 '15 at 17:51
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    @MichaelMcGriff I do now! – Dan Oct 15 '15 at 17:56
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    @pkr298 October 16, 2525 3:00 PM -- Check to make sure Voyager is still leaving the solar system. – called2voyage Oct 16 '15 at 13:52
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When you think about exactly what the user is choosing, this makes sense (to allow zero minutes).

What you're really doing is asking two questions of the user:

  • What time do you want to schedule this for?
  • How much time on your calendar do you want to block off for this?

The answer to the first is the start time. The answer to the second is either a number of minutes, or an end time - both have valid logic behind them. But either way, what you're really doing is picking "how long to block off". If the user does not want to block off any time for the meeting, that's a perfectly reasonable choice when thought of this way.

32

In this case the meeting can act as two things: a reminder to do something that is not constrained by time and a start of something with no clearly defined schedule.

It could also be an oversight; in Glasgow we have ticket machines for rail that default you to buy 0 tickets which is really dumb.

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    I have frequently observed people in offices using 0 minute meetings as reminders. They range from the business related "Mr Smith's plane has landed" meaning you can expect him to call after that point to more personal "Remember to buy mom's birthday card!" – the other one Oct 15 '15 at 14:13
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    @theotherone - these are reminders they book, not meetings (through the meeting feature). Why would you make someone book a meeting when what she want is a reminder? The two has many conceptual differences. Isn't it clearly a UX issue that people who wish to have a reminder, book a meeting as a work around for not be able to book a reminder? – Izhaki Oct 15 '15 at 14:46
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    @DasBeasto even if you can split them out, why would I want to have to learn how to use separate meeting and reminder features. Keeping everything together in a single interface and single calendar is simpler and more convenient than dealing with more than one of them. – Dan Neely Oct 15 '15 at 17:54
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    @Izhaki: In google calendar there's no such thing as "meeting" or "reminder" - there's only "events". And IMHO that's a much more powerful and useful UI than separating out meetings from everything else. – slebetman Oct 16 '15 at 3:16
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    @Izhaki: Why do you wish to arbitrarily limit the usefulness of your UI? Just because you can't conceive of a reason to use a <1 minute meeting, do you want to restrict all your users from the opportunity? If so, what should be the minimum meeting duration? 1 minute? 5 minutes? What harm would be prevented by allowing a 0 minute meeting, while defaulting to something else? What if my team all take vitamin C at noon? I could setup a meeting for all to get reminded to take their pill at noon, which takes exactly 15 seconds.... With a 0 length meeting -- no problem. – MrWonderful Oct 16 '15 at 16:00
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My answer is why not? Software is designed to enable users. Be cautious of making decisions, particularly ones that constrain users in ways you may not consider. There are many reasons why someone might use it: a reminder or a broadcasted note to others... who knows? (some research may find out)

In my experience, removing things like that because you ask (and don't answer) the question, "who would do that?" always leads to complaints. Also, the best software is able to provide utility in ways even the developers didn't see or intend. Scheduling is rife with such cases.

This relates to two maxims I work from:

  1. get out of the users' way

  2. Know thy users, and you are not thy users.

  • The broadcast is a good point, if you have an alarm notification for you only, but you want to advertise an event for everyone with a reminder, this would work. – Chris H Oct 15 '15 at 15:41
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    Exactly this. Don't make 0 minutes the default, but if a user thinks she a reason to schedule a 0-minute meeting, it's not your job to prevent that. – Guntram Blohm supports Monica Oct 15 '15 at 17:42
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    Broadcasting a reminder in the form of a meeting requires everyone to accept the meeting. That's busy work for everyone—not exactly a "get out of the user's (every user involved) way" solution Instead, the system could elegantly convert a zero-minute meeting to a task, which could appear on a calendar as an icon rather than as a block of time, etc. – JeromeR Oct 15 '15 at 17:56
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    True JeromeR but I am speaking of how someone might use a system outside of it's design specs. But the appointment remains in people calendars whether its accepted or not. – Itumac Oct 16 '15 at 0:00
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    @JeromeR: Also, some systems allow for automatic calendar update, so no user would have to manually accept... Most tasks don't allow for an attendee list (at least neither Outlook nor OS X Tasks do.) – MrWonderful Oct 16 '15 at 16:03
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Should a calculator allow you to add zero to a number? My answer: yes. What's the use case? My answer: it doesn't need a use case. You don't remove a capability that "falls out naturally" and requires no effort to provide, just because you can't think why anyone would want to do that.

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    Not sure that's always true. It would require little or no effort to allow meetings of negative length, too, but it would clutter the UI, confuse people, and provide one more way that people could make a mistake. "I can't think of a realistic use for that" is exactly why I wouldn't allow it. – Nathan Long Oct 16 '15 at 14:07
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    @NathanLong: Then what is the enforced minimum meeting length? 1 minute? Why not 5, 15 or 30 minutes? How would you schedule three 15-second meetings all at 13:05? – MrWonderful Oct 16 '15 at 16:07
  • @MrWonderful My point was that features aren't free - their very existence has a cost. If you allow something that makes no sense to you, there may be people who have a reason to do it, and for them, it's a feature. But there may also be people who do it by accident - eg, accidentally schedule a 0-minute meeting, and later wonder why that was even an option. For those people, it's a bug. – Nathan Long Oct 16 '15 at 17:46
  • @NathanLong The question is though is allowing 0 minute meetings something that requires work to be done or are they just normally there and preventing them that requires work? To say a feature always requires work isn't true when it could be a matter of checking if meeting length is positive versions more then 0 minutes. – Joe W Oct 16 '15 at 20:59
  • @JoeW The original question is "does this make sense as a feature?" Whether it requires work to implement is only one factor. Suppose we have a weekday input. It's more work to provide a dropdown than a free-form input, and a dropdown prevents people from typing a fictional weekday, which hey, maybe people want to do that for some reason I can't imagine. Absent a real use case, I'm going to do a bit more work and give the user a bit less freedom, because I think it will prevent mistakes and I see no downside. 0-minute meetings may be fine. But "no real use case" can be a good criteria, too. – Nathan Long Oct 27 '15 at 10:44
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Any sort of open-house event might be well-served by this approach: people can accept and have a reminder added without it blocking out their calendar. The event may also have an end criterion that's not defined in terms of time. For example:

  • Title: Birthday Cake
  • Location: My desk
  • Time 13:00 tomorrow
  • Duration: 0 minutes
  • Extra info: Come when you like, but when it's gone, it's gone.

To force a minimum meeting time is an unnecessary restriction on your users without helping them, and begs the question "what is the shortest meeting permissible?" If you set minimum 5 minutes, the next management fad will be a 1-minute meeting, standing up at your desk shouting what you achieved today.

  • I get your point, an event may not have a fixed end time. The Duration in that case could be softer, or in more user centered (like " About an hour or so") or maybe you dont even need to specify a duration. But the concept of having something as 0 minutes is not natural. What does 0 minutes mean ? Is there a time like 0 minutes? Does it mean time has frozen? Its ambiguous. – DB3184 Oct 16 '15 at 6:30
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    @db3184 a zero duration may not be natural, but defining a soft duration causes more questions than it answers: does it (by default) mark someone's calendar as busy? For how long? Does it break compatability between systems (not that there's much, but if your phone supports fuzzy meetings and Google calendar doesn't, what happens on sync? And the 2nd sync?) 0 is more intuitive than NaN to a user. – Chris H Oct 16 '15 at 6:59
  • I would suggest a useful and concrete meaning for "soft duration" vs "hard duration": a hard duration would block out a person's schedule for the entire time, while a soft duration would require that no other event completely cover it. If the sometime is going to be available from 1:01 to 1:29, one may need to ensure that one doesn't schedule a single event from 12:30 to 2:00, but could schedule an event from 12:30 to 1:15 and another from 1:15 to 2:00. On the other hand, I think 0 minutes has a useful non-soft meaning. One might have a "meeting" for a group picture which is... – supercat Oct 17 '15 at 14:32
  • ...expected to take less than 30 seconds if everyone shows up promptly. Saying 0 minutes would seem more natural than trying to guess the exact number of seconds. – supercat Oct 17 '15 at 14:33
1

UX is about human centred design...

Seeing as this is a UX form, one would hope that people will work interfaces from user needs, and no the other way around.

...which starts from user stories

If you collect user stories during the research/requirements phase, I doubt anyone would like to book a meeting that has no length - obviously if you meet, the meeting will take some time. A meeting with the length of 0 is not a meeting.

Senseless

You may have stakeholders asking to have reminders on the calendar, but using the event interface is daft - if the user wants a reminder, why would she have to pick the both the same date and time twice? It's senseless.

  • In a small window (e.g. mobile) it could be less hassle to access the appointment-setting dialog that the user uses all the time than to find the "alarm" dialog. – Chris H Oct 15 '15 at 15:39
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    @ChrisH but finding the "alarm" dialog should be less hassle than dealing with the extra (unnecessary) form fields. If not, that's definitely an issue that should be tackled, but it's a different issue. – Jacob Raihle Oct 15 '15 at 15:43
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    Any research like collecting user stories is only as good as the questions you ask. If you ask, "What might you use a meeting feature for?", of course people won't pre-emptively imagine creative meeting-esque uses of a feature. But that's not a reason to prevent creative use of your app. Read the other answers/comments, and you'll see lots of real-life uses of 0-minute meetings, from team reminders to <5 minute joint tasks to "as long as you like" open invites. Why stand in your users' way, just because your research questions barely scraped the surface of how your app might be used? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 15 '15 at 17:24
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    Reusing one feature to accomplish two tasks means not only does the user not have to learn to use the second redundant feature, but they don't have their UI cluttered up with something that only offers a marginal improvement. If it could offer, more than a marginal improvement, maybe that improvement could be incorporated into meetings and be useful there. – Rick Oct 16 '15 at 16:31
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    In this specific case, if you were the developer who made the decision to remove this ability, and I knew that you had done so, I would go out of my way to contact you and point out what a terrible decision that was. Many is the time I've wished I could contact developers and tell them "Stop it, you're making stupid decisions." – barbecue Oct 18 '15 at 18:50

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