ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 2, November 2003) - associates.ucr.edu
University of California, Riverside
Do you need a calendar of events for your library or organization? Do you want it to be simple to use, easy to maintain, and to look professional? Try EventKeeper.
Jim Stewart and Ric Bailey from Plymouth Rocket, Inc. offered ASSOCIATES a one-year free demonstration subscription to EventKeeper. I accepted the offer and said that I would write a review of my experiences for ASSOCIATES. In the March 2004 issue of ASSOCIATES, a continuation of the review will be written; I would like our subscribers to send me comments about the new look and use of our Events feature.
At the Plymouth Rocket, Inc. website (http://www.plymouthrocket.com/), EventKeeper is described as "an online, Web-based event calendar that enables organizations to add and update information on upcoming events using an easy to learn, highly intuitive interface which requires no specific technical knowledge and minimal user training. EventKeeper offers organizations a way to use the highly sophisticated 'data driven' concept at a reasonable price." (The cost is $195 a year.)
On the EventKeeper website, several statements are made about the features and benefits (shown below in bold and italics). I will address these with my own impressions and experiences.
"Easy to create: Once you've signed up, choose your colors and headlines and logo or photo. You're all ready to start entering your event dates, times, titles and descriptions."
After sign-up, you are sent an email with 1) the URL address for your new calendar, 2) a LOGIN link on the EventKeeper home page, your username and password, and 3) a website address for the EventKeeper Quick Start Page for some initial help and directions to more help. I clicked on the LOGIN link, typed in my password, and the new Events Calendar for ASSOCIATES was ready and waiting for me. The EventKeeper people had made a first pass at configuring the text and colors of the calendar but I was pleased with the look they provided and made no changes there. Since ASSOCIATES does not have a logo, I also kept the logo they provided. Making changes to the colors, text, font size, etc. is done by clicking on "Admin Page" and then "Edit Org Info." Plenty of online help is provided, but most of the changes can be done intuitively.
"Simple for anyone to maintain: No Webmaster or technical knowledge is necessary! Anyone on your staff with a user id and password can fill in an online form to add or change events."
EventKeeper is hosted at their website, which appears seamless to users. Although they sent a URL address for the calendar, they already had all the links set up. There was no software to download, install, configure or maintain. They had already added a few "events" as examples of how an event could be displayed.
I clicked on "Add Event" and the "Event Editor—Adding a New Event" screen appeared. I was determined that I could add an event without any help. My only confusion came with adding a start and end date for an event. You are instructed to put a check mark in the box and use the calendar provided to select a date. My end date would become my start date, and then I couldn’t add a date, but I figured it out eventually. (The box with the check gets the date!) When I added the description of the event, I simply typed the text in and was rather satisfied with its appearance. However, I wanted a bit of pizzazz! An "edit" button is next to the description box and this made adding the event FUN. Even if you know nothing about basic HTML, you can use the buttons provided to apply bold or italic features, center text, add web links, and more. A help pop-up screen provides uncomplicated directions. Simply highlight the text, click on what you want, and it’s done for you. Easy!
I wanted a "counter" of "hits" for the number of times the Events page is used or looked at. So, on the "Organization Editor" screen I clicked on "EventKeeper Headers & Footers" and used the pop-up help screen. I asked a colleague to help me interpret the help screen (I’m thinking: I sure don’t want to mess this up!) We followed the written procedure—and it was simple to do. At first, I just had a number sitting there at the footer of the Events screen. It occurred to me later that I could add text around this number, so I added "Number of visits to the ASSOCIATES Event Screen:" plus the counter. Very easy to do.
"Convenient for users: Unlike a static page listing your event schedule, EventKeeper is a calendar visitors can search by date, by type of event, or by other criteria that you choose. They can even click on an underlined date on the graphic calendar in the upper right corner to learn what's happening on that day. They can also click to see events on a pictorial calendar of that month. So whether you have three events or three hundred listed, users can quickly find what they're looking for. There is also a printer-friendly version so those viewing your calendar can print it without distracting text or links."
EventKeeper is exceptionally convenient for maintenance. After an event has occurred, the event no longer displays to the public user. However, it is still maintained for the editor. For example, when the Ohio Library Council Annual Conference ends on November 21, 2003, the event will no longer display to ASSOCIATES users; but, as an editor of the events page, I can easily see which annual event has passed and provide a new event for the future date.
"Convenient for you whether or not you already have a Web site: If you don't have a site, you can send users directly to your EventKeeper calendar for information. If you do have a site, simply link to your EventKeeper calendar and most visitors won't realize they've entered pages hosted by us."
This is a great feature of EventKeeper—they did all the setup. When ASSOCIATES readers click on "Conference Schedules" in the Table of Contents, the reader is sent "off-site" to the Events Calendar and then returned to the ASSOCIATES homepage.
"Affordable and Ad-free: We don't add advertisements to your events page. Your visitors see only what you have chosen for them to see. Ad-free EventKeeper, complete with advanced customization options and special features, costs your organization just $195 a year."
I feel EventKeeper is a great value at $195 per year. You can get started and have an attractive calendar with a minimum of instruction and investment in time. Help is always available—either on the page itself or by emailing the attentive people at EventKeeper. I particularly appreciate that ASSOCIATES readers won’t be inundated with pop-ups and blinking advertisements.
"Reliable and hassle-free: Since EventKeeper resides on our Web server, with no software for you to download, install, or update, we take care of all the technicalities on your behalf. EventKeeper will always be running smoothly, without hair-raising glitches or outages."
EventKeeper has hassle-free set up—they will do practically everything but key in your own events.
I have not had enough time to play around with the features and really jazz up the Events page yet, but so far I’m delighted with the new look. EventKeeper has a choice of icons, color, and other features that I hope to explore in the next few months.
One of the best features of EventKeeper is that the calendar will be continuously up-to-date. Previously, ASSOCIATES editors only updated the Events listings in July, March, and November. Events will now be accepted at any time and the Events page will always stay current. And, ASSOCIATES readers can add their own events! Included in the header on the Events page is the statement: Submit an event for this calendar by pressing here OR email Bessie Mayes, ASSOCIATES Events Editor. Your contributed event will be sent to Bessie or me to review and then we will add it to the calendar.
I have found EventKeeper was effortless to startup, had plenty of help available, was easily edited to add "jazzed up" event descriptions, uncomplicated to customize, and trouble-free to maintain. I also feel the design is attractive and easy for the user to read and find events. You are encouraged to take a look at the new ASSOCIATES Events Calendar and tell me what you think.