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I'm working on a web-based reporting system that allows users to create ad-hoc charts. The user selects the data to be analyzed (e.g., sales dollars, sales volume, number of employees, etc.) in addition to one or two groupings (e.g., by store, by city, by day of week, by type of merchandise, etc.). A simplified version looks something like this:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

I want to offer two different types of date-related groupings without confusing the user. How do I differentiate the following options?

  • Exact date groupings like year, quarter, month, week, day (e.g., month results in approximately 40 groups { Jan 2010, Feb 2010, ... Mar 2013 } depending on the date range selected). This allows users to see change over time.

  • Time period or time interval groupings like quarter of the year, month of the year, week of the year, day of the week, hour of the day (e.g., month of the year results in exactly 12 groups { January, February, ... December } with one or more Januarys grouped together). This allows users to see seasonal and other such trends.

I'm not sure what to call these two types of groupings. Are there established names I can use to explain these categories in place of "exact date" vs. "period"? I'm not sure how to present the idea of "pick 1 or 2 groupings" while still allowing users to recognize that month and month of the year are quite different.

The best I have come up with so far is something akin to a <select> with <optgroup>, but I'm sure there's a better way to present this.


download bmml source

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In economics we call these "time profile" and "seasonal profile". –  Pasha S Mar 28 '13 at 3:15
I am sorry I am not able to learn what is difference between MONTH and MONTH OF A YEAR. (Does month means this month only and MONTH OF A YEAR can be any month?) This is probably technical and requires explanation of your scenario and how these two 'months' differ. BUT if I am not getting it right, it is likely others may not get it either. If I could add, 1) Day 2) Week 3) Month 4)Quarter 5) Year and don't have "month of year" and "week of year" then this would help. –  Salman Mar 28 '13 at 4:42
@Salman Imagine 2 years of data. Month of the year would have one "January" group equal to the sum/average of data from Jan 2012 and Jan 2013. Month would have these two months displayed separately (a group for "January 2012" and another group for "January 2013"). –  user113215 Mar 28 '13 at 11:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I actually did UX and documentation work for a reporting/analysis software company. I think this design should help. The terms "specific" and "aggregate" will get your point across. You could say "Day" or "Date" for an aggregate particular day of year.

Recommended menu wording/design

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I'd use Weak number instead of just Week. I think that is clearer. For the aggregate, I'm not sure what the use of Day is? –  André Mar 28 '13 at 13:15
It could be "date" too. –  JClaussFTW Mar 28 '13 at 20:21
Thanks. I used the terms specific and aggregate by to group these, but I kept the long form with "of" (e.g., "Day of the week", "Month of the year") for all the aggregates to make it even more clear. –  user113215 Apr 1 '13 at 13:23
Honestly I don't think "Day of the week" or "Month of the year" makes it any clearer. If anything, it personally confuses me more. –  JClaussFTW Apr 2 '13 at 8:34

I would probably use the term 'period' or 'span' for the different lengths of time, and the term 'range' for the grouping of periods. So a period might be a week and a range might be this year, this financial year, etc.

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At least for my situation, this is confusing because the user already selects a date range in addition to the grouping, and the date range has nothing to do with the grouping (e.g., Dataset: Sales, Grouping: By Location, Date Range: 01/12/2013 - 02/12/2013). Sorry I didn't show this in the first mockup. –  user113215 Mar 28 '13 at 11:56

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