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Creating TinyMonth: the Simple, Remixable Calendar That Doesn’t Suck

We built a lightweight set of dates that’s shareable, remixable and private

Postlight Labs is excited to announce TinyMonth. Calendars are a notoriously difficult design problem to solve. Everyone has different needs when trying to understand the dates and events displayed, and it’s nearly impossible to have one calendar work for every task.

As a director, I often need to visualize specific days across a yearly span. For example, everyone on my team only has a certain number of vacation days spent and banked, and it quickly becomes a mini-game of calendar Tetris lining up those days with official company holidays and other co-workers. 

But the minute I open my existing calendaring tools or sign up for a new one that claims to Solve Every Problem, they usually fail right out of the gate. (I also might be a little picky about calendars.) The problems boil down to these:

  • Too permanent. So many apps orient around setting dates and adding all the information upfront. Having the ability to pencil in dates, switch things around, and compare different plans is super helpful. There’s too much friction to create an event.
  • Too clever. Calendars should look like calendars. I don’t want a calendar that looks like a timeline, spreadsheet, Gantt chart, table or a circular graph (??!). Those can be helpful when trying to measure volume of time, but if I’m counting days, it should be across weeks and months.
  • Too inflexible. Some tools—looking at you, Google Calendar—can’t be bothered to even display date ranges when looking at a year view. If I want to look at a few months at a time, I would be better off printing out a calendar and getting some markers.  

So many of the solutions for team planning require a ton of set up and are designed for me to invite all my coworkers, and I really don’t need another calendar. All I really wanted was a way to quickly sketch out some dates, evaluate those ranges ranges and share that with others—with the goal of getting those dates into a real calendar. And that sounded pretty similar to a tool we built last year: Tinysheet.

When you have a tiny hammer…

We built Tinysheet to be flexible for different, simple use cases. For example, add up some numbers for a proposal. Make a simple rent share calculator. Or split a bill with a tip amongst friends. Basically any kind of math you could do on the back of an envelope, but less manual.

Sure, you could use a spreadsheet for that, but firing up Excel or even Google Sheets for these straightforward tasks is overkill. We could get the job done with just the top-left corner of the app. So that’s what we designed and built. 

We took the tiny part of Tinysheet even further by building it with no sign ups and no server. Just a URL that makes the data instantly sharable and infinitely remixable. And we’ve found people using Tinysheet for things we hadn’t even dreamed up. 

When you’ve designed one app this way, you start asking yourself: what other problems could we solve in a tiny way? How do we make a tiny calendar?

Take only what you need

If Tinysheet basically borrowed the first 20 cells in Google Sheets, why couldn’t we borrow the top-left corner from Google Calendar? We stretched the mini-month view across a 12-month time range, starting from the current month, and then we made it easy to drag and extend ranges across multiple event groups. Add in a couple different ways to visualize and count that data, and we’ve got a tool that’s simple but robust enough for whatever you can throw at it. 

Your calendar data is stored in the shareable URL. That means we don’t store the data on a server and have no record of your calendar. Take that, Big Brother.

Mobile prototype
Prototyping TinyMonth to be usable on mobile

We had a few use cases in mind when we built TinyMonth. We’re already using it to share our company holidays for easy PTO planning and create rough timeline estimates for projects. I especially love the feature that outputs the dates as text for easy emailing. It can be installed as a Chrome app and works great on mobile.

But we know folks are going to take TinyMonth and do lots of new things with it, just like Tinysheet. Try it out yourself. Then let us know how we can keep making it better.

Matt Quintanilla is a Partner and Director of Product Design at Postlight. Want to help improve TinyMonth? Contact us at hello@postlight.com.

Story published on Feb 5, 2020.