MyBookingWizard has just been through a bloody large pivot… allow me to explain:
MyBookingWizard is NOT a diary management system, we never set out to build a diary management system, and we have been constantly vigilant in avoiding diary managing activities. What we wanted to build was a marketing tool. Visitors to a website will want to use MBW, it’ll be easy, convenient and, damn it, enjoyable to use and therefore our clients will see a humongous increase in on-line conversion (not just hot-air, we’ve seen it happen).
It was in this spirit that when scoping the build of the project, we drew a very distinct line. We said that MBW will deal with iCalendar files. iCalendar is a standard diary format, most calender applications will import/export files in this format. So by using iCalendar files, MBW will not manage clients diaries, but will remain removed by simply sending booking info in a useful calendar format. It will be as intended; an exclusive booking application!
So we built MBW v0.9 and, as project manager, I presented it to the rest of the guys. During the presentation the discussion very soon went towards the problem with these iCalendar files. Basically, from the clients point of view, they are a ball ache! especially for clients who may not be tech savy. The need to send/receive and read/write iCalendar files suddenly appeared to be quite a large barrier to sale. BUT, that wasn’t the only problem… here is the funny bit!!
We were doing ‘diary management’. And I mean full on diary management! The bastard sneaked up on us! Here is how it worked: MBW displays ‘appointment slots’ to a visitor. Each slot needed to be previously defined in an iCalendar file by the client with all the details. So we had a database full of ‘slots’ and each slots location, attendee, attendee email, name, hair colour, age, number of guests, number of previous bookings. URGH!
It gets worse: Not only were we managing a diary for each client, but the only way a client could push changes to this diary, was by emailing an iCalendar file!!!! Not the best user interface. In fact, thinking about it, that aint good at all, that’s rubbish.
So I went away and thought about it: Where did we go wrong? I dunno, but we did come up with a dead good fix. Google Calendar! In the office we all have a Google apps account and we arrange our meetings and other events with Google Calendar, it’s actually a really good calendar application… Google calendar has an API – now we’re onto a winner. Google also released Free/Busy requests for the API in February. This was key! as we need to quickly discover free time to display slots to visitors.
Perfect. I went to boss and said, “we need a little over a week, and we can fix the iCalendar problem”, he said go for it and now we have myBookingWizard v1.0. What MBW does now is simple: Each client has a Google Calendar account, a customer clicks on ‘Book now’, MBW logs in to the client’s Google account, tells the visitor when the client is free, and books a slot for the visitor directly into the clients calendar. Brilliant!! Just what we were after!