Date display formats in tables

9 Dec 2008 - 12:47am
5 years ago
9 replies
1013 reads
R Sengers
2008

Which date formats are most readable (and comparable), if you are looking at
rows of data in a table (where each row has a date)?

This is for an interface for a US audience where the conventional order is
month-day-year (as opposed to day-month-year).

Some examples of date formats:

12-31-08
1-1-09

12-31-08
01-01-09

12-31-2008
01-01-2009

12/31/08
01/01/09

12.31.2008
01.01.2009

Dec 31, 2008
Jan 1, 2009

2008-12-31
2009-01-01

Is there any user research on this issue?

(And what might work best for users of screenreaders?)

Thanks
Rachel

Comments

9 Dec 2008 - 6:46pm
Shep McKee
2005

If users will be scanning the date column, a format (all but your 1st
& 6th sixth example) that pads the numerical value will be easiest to
scan - and compare.

You mention a US audience, but assumptions of Month/Day/Year can
still lead to ambiguities. I'd suggest spelling out the month, and
then padding the day and year

Dec 31, 2008
Jan 01, 2009

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10 Dec 2008 - 7:26am
Karl Proctor
2008

I think that spelling the month out as shown by Shep is best, even if
your target audience is US. If any your audience have spent a
significant period of time outside of the US then just showing
numbers can lead to confusion; I am British (we do dd-mm-yy), living
in China (they use yy-mm-dd)working with many people from the US (who
use mm-dd-yy)! Trying to figure out which of the three ways is being
used is frustrating sometimes!

-Karl

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10 Dec 2008 - 6:07am
Jeroen Elstgeest
2008

Hi Rachel,

can users sort the data and which elements of the dates are the most
important? Are they comparing days, months or years, because those could be
determining issues in the design.

Best regards, Jeroen.

10 Dec 2008 - 6:20am
R Sengers
2008

Someone asked me "can users sort the data and which elements of the
dates are the most important? Are they comparing days, months or
years, because those could be determining issues in the design."

Just to clarify -

The table columns are sortable, so they can sort by dates. In most
cases they will be comparing days & months. Comparing dates in
multiple years is rarer. Sometimes (as shown in my example) they
could be comparing dates that cross a new year (e.g., Dec, Jan).

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12 Dec 2008 - 12:31pm
Juan Lanus
2005

Rachel,
If your users will be comparing days & months then you might want to
consider a design that omits the year.
This makes the dates much faster to read.
Multiple years can be handled with headings, grouping, or rendering last
year dates in light gray.
But, does your table sort supports sorting on data that is not displayed?

This way to display dates is common, for example, in operating system file
listings, or bank account reports.
The "other year" issue is solved by displaying the year only if it's not the
current one. Same as in talk: when you say "December 13" the current year is
implicit. You only mention the year if it's another year's Dec 13.
--
Juan Lanus

On Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 9:20 AM, Rachel Sengers <rachseng at gmail.com> wrote:

> Someone asked me "can users sort the data and which elements of the
> dates are the most important? Are they comparing days, months or
> years, because those could be determining issues in the design."
>
> Just to clarify -
>
> The table columns are sortable, so they can sort by dates. In most
> cases they will be comparing days & months. Comparing dates in
> multiple years is rarer. Sometimes (as shown in my example) they
> could be comparing dates that cross a new year (e.g., Dec, Jan).
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=36335
>
>
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11 Dec 2008 - 9:50am
Martin Dube
2008

Numbers VS Words.
A go in the same way as Karl & Shep. Month and Day numbers create
confusion if you repeat the information again and again. Words are
words, they clarify the subject. Date numbers are short hands. I
would not build a data grid based on short hands information.
Sort by Year.
This option can clarify information that is posted in December and
January period.

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12 Dec 2008 - 1:48pm
Bill Caemmerer
2008

Whatever you do, they're all standard formats, so you can't go too
far wrong... and it should be easy to run a test.

As far as words vs numbers, think about your users' task (or
activity) and see if that leads you to one or the other; eg, if
they're comparing the time between items, is Aug minus Apr easier
than 08 minus 04?

If you use numbers, more white space between the numbers, and less
non-informative markings, will help readability at small sizes
onscreen. so, 12-31-08 or 12.31.08 should be more scannable than
12/31/08 (even if slashes are more common). As for the dash or the
dot, that may depend on whether your font is fixed or proportional,
as the dot uses fewer pixels but will usually kern tighter. I'd try
dash for a proportional font and dot for a fixed-width font, and see
how that works.

And if you use letters, do continue to use mixed case rather than all
caps.

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11 Dec 2008 - 11:01am
Jeroen Elstgeest
2008

>
> The table columns are sortable, so they can sort by dates. In most
> cases they will be comparing days & months. Comparing dates in
> multiple years is rarer.

Then I wouldn't begin with the year.

What I would use is a fixed width font, because padding alone isn't enough
to make it more scannable as shown below:

Nov 19 , 2010
Dec 31, 2008
Jan 01, 2009
Nov 19 , 2010
Dec 31, 2008

Jan 01 , 2009
Feb 02 , 2010
Mar 23 , 2009
Apr 11 , 2009
May 28 , 2008

11 Dec 2008 - 10:27am
Susie Robson
2004

I had done some research on this in the past. We ultimately went with
the ISO format of yyyy-mm-dd since that is the best format when data
is sorted. If you spell out month names and have those first, when
sorted it sorts alphabetical, not chronological unless your
developers are willing to code it to sort accurately. My developers
weren't willing to do that due to time constraints. And it stopped
the argument that we were always doing things the "American way".

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