Overcoming the Problem
Next I looked into the desired output – if we forget SessionLab for a moment, and before we even consider any development, what is it exactly that the user would really like? I found some varied, existing samples and asked some existing clients for their feedback, seeing if I could find themes between what they did and didn’t like.
What I found from the examples, even though they weren’t particularly pretty, is that they were generally very clear to understand. A table is a great way to encapsulate sessions into ‘boxes’, but what tables don’t do well is to give importance to sessions based on time – a five minute session is given the same ‘weight’ as a three hour session. Calendars tend to tackle this problem much better, and many users actually mentioned Google Calendar as a good example of this.
Breakout sessions would be a challenge (multiple sessions running at the same time), because if we prioritise clarity then really it should show the participants how the blocks occupy the time, highlighting that they have to make a choice – in a list view it is difficult to make this clear. Google Calendar tends to deal with this problem quite well though (albeit not perfectly), by having sessions occupying the same timespace in the day. What this means however is that titles, times etc. are often cut off – on a device this isn’t too much of an issue as you can select a session to find out more information, but on paper/PDF you can’t do this.