Agenda, a solid calendar app for iPhone and iPad by savvy apps, is beautiful and fast, and feels like a designer’s minimal dream date. But more than its “less UI,” Agenda is an important part of a design conversation that’s been unfolding for many months.
Please indulge my digression. You might have heard the phrase “The New Aesthetic” floating around design circles of late. I’ll not dive into its story in art, design and visual culture. You should read that for yourself.
A sanitized version of its design influence: flat forms, solid colors, simple graphics. You might say “pixels” is a key element, but in today’s latest displays pixels are imperceptibly small and, if visually abstracted, become either nothing or fields of gorgeous color. It's “digital,” but newly so.
Putting on my cynical designer hat, I’d complain that its influence feels like the Designers Republic making apps: the design-y-ness, the big UK contingent, lots of talk about style style style. That’s not a fair evaluation, though. This reduction of form and rejection of digital user interface’s glossy dimensionality for the last decade is, at minimum, a good design exercise. Now I’m seeing the effect of this movement in mainstream applications, tweaked for utility in addition to statement alone.
While Apple’s occasional extreme skeuomorphism doesn’t really affect my day-to-day work (I zoom right past it because the overall user experience choices are solid), I can get behind something that acts as an opposing force. Which brings me back to Agenda.
Agenda is a counterpoint on two fronts:
* Its flat, minimal user interface stands in confident contrast to common convention.
* It’s an alternative to the built-in Calendar app in iOS, and a solid one at that.
The lovely thing about Agenda’s reduction is not only its appearance, but the combination of that simple appearance with consistent behavior. There is utility tied to every visual element. Everything you see on screen is not only display, but also interface. What’s so special about that? Things don't need to look “touchable” if you can trust that everything can be touched. Smart.
There are two big, smart product choices savvy apps has made, too, and these shouldn’t be overlooked, as they inform the overall user experience in a big way. First, it uses the default calendar settings you’ve set in iOS. Setup includes downloading the app and that’s it. No entering Google calendar credentials or importing events. If it was working in the Calendar app it works in Agenda. As I like to say, the best UI is no UI. Avoiding UI for tedious minutia like settings is good design.
Second, Agenda’s taken common use cases and productized them. Want to confirm a meeting time and location? Need to say, “I’m running 10 minutes late,” or, “I’m here”? Agenda’s got you covered, and you can choose to send these prewritten messages as SMS or email.
Now, if only it could make my schedule more minimal.