Discover some common design trends for calendars on the web.
Modern websites are dynamic and they allow for much more complex interfaces. Calendar UIs on the web would've been insanely complex just 10 years ago.
But nowadays it's not that crazy to work with a full calendar scheduler on a small sidebar widget. And with tons of free plugins you have a lot of resources to pick through that'll save you writing code from scratch.
In this post I'll share some common design trends for calendars on the web. These won't be useful in every project but they are much more common and easy to setup than ever before.
Gathering input data from the user is typically a simple process. But some info like dates (and times) can be rather specific and clunky using the traditional inputs.
Most classic forms require the user to input numbers for the month, day, and year. But calendar inputs save time and make the process a lot more enjoyable for the user.
This small calendar interface clarifies the selection process and helps the user make their pick with one click. You can scroll through different months and select an entire date just by clicking the box. The flyout calendar widget is the same width as the input field so it doesn't take up that much space.
And the input field auto-fills with the date once the user makes a selection. This way the date info can pass into the form with proper formatting.
For a more complex example check out this datetime picker. It follows a similar trend where the calendar UI pops out from beneath the input field.
But with this interface you can actually select the date and the time to be passed into the backend. It offers different styles and designs but generally, this is a very unique system for passing more complex information into an HTML form.
Since dates and times often go together it makes sense to combine them into a single calendar picker.
I really like this design because of all the diverse interfaces. Definitely take a look over these examples because you'll find a lot of inspiration for your own calendar date picker.
There's no limit to the design or aesthetic style of a calendar input. The real value comes with the interface and user experience of selecting a date/time with the click of a mouse.
Some websites prefer to list important dates or upcoming scheduled appointments in one big calendar. This is typically important for proprietary systems used in doctor's offices or corporate environments.
But there's a lot of value in the calendar interface which used to be relegated to desktop software. But something like the DZS Mini Events plugin makes it super easy to add a fully functional calendar right into any webpage.
Dates with events are highlighted and you can click to see more information in a small tooltip. The calendar is designed to take up the entire screen so it really feels like a full calendar interface.
While flipping through the months you get a new header photo each time along with a custom page flip animation. This animation replicates a physical calendar and it breathes life into the page.
Now if you want something a bit simpler check out the Eventica theme. This uses calendar info as a major staple of the homepage design.
Important dates and upcoming events cycle through a carousel with related background images and links for further information. This design could work well for something like a school or civic center where new events are constantly happening.
Granted this isn't your traditional full-screen calendar interface with the grid design and month/year numbering system.
But this type of page can lead to a full calendar and it's perfect for publicizing events.
I prefer a mix of the two like what you find on Espresso.
Mid-way down the page you'll notice a weekly calendar date field with the current date highlighted in a darker color. This doesn't take up much room on the page but it also lists a linear series of dates with important events on each day.
Since this calendar is horizontal it's much easier to skim through without taking up most of the page.
Events load dynamically below the calendar whenever you click on a day. So you can scroll through week after week, find any days that interest you, and click to see which events are slated.
I think this design is much less intimidating because you're not looking at a whole month full of events. Instead you're just looking at the current week so it feels more inviting to click and check out the planned events.
These design trends work best for sites that want calendars and dates to hold a prominent section of the page. But you can use widgets instead that feel a bit smaller and fade into the background.
Some websites like blogs or personal pages have upcoming dates related to the site's content. But since most content isn't reliant on dates it doesn't make sense to build an entire page just for a calendar.
Instead you can use a small widget on the homepage or in the sidebar. This gives visitors a chance to access the date info without overtaking the main content.
EventOn is an excellent WordPress calendar plugin that makes it easy to embed calendars on any page. Users can filter dates based on month or even search by color-coded events.
It loads content dynamically via Ajax so browsing the calendar can be done on any page. Plus the content is easy to update in WordPress so it's a great plugin for users and webmasters alike.
But the design is what really catches my attention. It feels like a true native calendar embedded into the layout and it works just the same.
If you're designing a business website you can add a widget like this into the sidebar announcing public meetings, upcoming teleconferences, major product releases, or anything similar. It's a valuable PR technique and great for building brand awareness.
But you could also embed a complete calendar interface like with the WpSleek Calendar. This uses a pro events calendar plugin to embed a complete monthly calendar showing all the dates and upcoming events.
Days with events are highlighted with a background color or with a small icon in the corner. These dates show further details on hover, but you can also change the design to only show dates with events.
The beauty of a great widget is in the customization. If you can build a variety of calendar interfaces then you can re-use that widget for almost any website.
Keep this in mind when designing your own widget or when picking out a plugin. You want it to work exactly as you expect but you also want some flexibility to make customizations as needed.
Behavior and user experience are the most important facets of an interface. But the design also plays a key role in keeping visitors on the page and encouraging them to stick around.
You want to design calendar interfaces that work and also come with a clean design. You should also aim to build calendars with the most modern features like responsive UIs.
Take a look at the Timetable scheduler which works like a professional calendar appointment interface. As you resize the browser these appointment dates shrink down and eventually collapse into a list.
This is not something you'll always think about but it's a huge part of the current design ecosystem.
Responsive calendars are very hard to pull off elegantly. Mobile devices only have so much room and calendars require a lot of space.
But try to find a solution that can work for all users.
Also think about calendar behavior from the web designer's perspective. It takes a lot of work to build a calendar interface. Nobody wants to go back and edit raw HTML to add/update new dates.
With something like Calendarize you'll have a much easier time creating and editing calendars on the fly. If dates and calendar interfaces are important to your project then you should try to make the editing process as simple as possible.
The best calendar interfaces provide information that users want and make it easy for webmasters to update that information. There is no single best way to do this, but you can learn a lot by studying the examples of others.
I hope this post can offer a glimpse into the world of calendars on the web. From date input fields to full-page event listings there's plenty of reason to learn how to build great calendars.
And if you follow along with these trends I guarantee you can craft impeccable calendars for every future web project.