BEST PRACTICE: Trending vs. Upcoming

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Here at Localist we often get asked, “why does Localist sort events according to a trending algorithm on the homepage, instead of sorting chronologically?”

It’s a great question that deserves an explanation, as it does break from tradition. Much of what makes Localist different is that we rethought the behavior of how people use a calendar. We don’t just show a static list of events so all dates can be absorbed by users; other calendar platforms already do that.

We’re presenting the information in a way that prioritizes events that are more interesting. Knowing when an event is taking place is secondary. Our research behind this decision was based on what we wished we had during our own college experience and by listening to what people today are asking:  “Where are people going?” “What cool events are happening today?” Previous thinking pegged the important question as, “when is this event?” when the actual question your audience needs to asks is “would I want to go to this?” In practice, someone will make the time to attend an event that interests them. The typical thought process from designers is that users will look at a calendar and say “I am free on Friday at 2pm. What is happening?” While that sounds correct on paper, most people actually make plans by saying “Wow, that event on Friday sounds amazing! I’m Going.” Thus, we prioritize events by relative interest over time of day.

That said, we do offer you the option to switch to a chronological listing but, by default, our algorithm takes the reins. To help you decide which sorting option is best for your online calendar here are the pros and cons of each sorting option:

#1: What’s Trending?

An algorithm that sorts events according to popularity among users.

Pro – Interesting events for interested people. Sorting events by what’s popular is a novel concept for online calendars, but it makes sense from a user perspective. People are often overwhelmed with information and want to be able to easily pinpoint events that are of interest to them. Our trending algorithm displays information in a way that gives people what they want to see:  interesting events, not just events they happen to be free to attend.

Pro – Mirroring user behavior. People make plans to attend an event because it’s interesting, their friends are going, or it’s a “must-do” in their city. They don’t make plans to attend an event because they had some free time in their schedule to kill. A trending algorithm helps people find the answers to the questions “What cool events are going on?” and “Where are people going?”

Pro – Trending is Popular. A whopping 98% of Localist customers currently use our trending algorithm on their online events calendars. Even though Localist calendars also provide the option of sorting events chronologically, almost every customer chooses to let users see a list of events based on what’s trending.

Con – Not everyone wins the popularity contest. High school flashback! When using a trending algorithm, some users may overlook events that aren’t popular or trending, even if it might appeal to them. However, events can be tagged with descriptive categories that allow users to search by interest.

#2: Sorting Chronologically

In the other corner we have the second contender; sorting events chronologically by date and time.

Pro – Recognizable and familiar. Sorting events by date and time is synonymous with the term “calendar view.” When someone thinks of a calendar, they think of a month or week divided into days, with events, meetings, and other happenings listed in each box. Your users are familiar with this calendar view.

Pro – Tourist/Visitor Appeal. Even though people think in terms of what’s popular, rather than what’s available when it comes to events, there are a few groups to whom this doesn’t always apply:  tourists and visitors. People in these groups often have a small window ranging from a few hours to a few days in which they want to do something in your city, with your organization, or on your campus. Time and date matters to them, because they might not be here next week for your big, popular event. However, even though they’ve got a tighter schedule, tourists and visitors will still want to know what local events are popular and not-to-be-missed. They may also schedule trips around events.

Con – The clutter. Too much “noise” or clutter in your calendar is never a good thing. It can distract people from what they want to see, and is just plain frustrating. We’ve actually had complaints from users whose institution chose to use a chronological calendar view. Users couldn’t find exciting events through all the noise generated by recurring events.

Con – Static lists. A list of events that doesn’t change or adapt to let users see what events people are excited about is a little, well, boring. Your users’ eyes will glaze over after trying to read through a static list of event information sorted by date.

Con – Operates counter to user behavior. We already mentioned this earlier, but it’s important to reiterate that users really don’t go to an online calendar and think, “I’m free between 2pm and 4:30pm next Thursday. What event is going on?” Interest trumps availability.

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