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I am showing a webpage where I list out where people will be out of the office. I want to get some feedback on which is a better format (obviously forget about the fact that you can't draw good tables on stackexchange :) )

Option 1

| Name   | Start Date   | End Date   |  
| Joe    | 1 Jan 2014   | 8 Jan 2014 |  
| Bill   | 29 Dec 2013  | 8 Jan 2014 |  
| Scott  | 9 Jan 2014   | 3 Feb 2014 | 

Option 2

| Name   | Start Date   | End Date    |  
| Joe    | Jan 1, 2014  | Jan 8, 2014 |  
| Bill   | Dec 29, 2013 | Jan 8, 2014 |  
| Scott  | Jan 29, 2014 | Feb 3, 2014 | 

Option 3

| Name   | Dates                          |  
| Joe    | Jan 1st - 8th, 2014            |  
| Bill   | Dec 29th, 2013 - Jan 8th, 2014 |  
| Scott  | Jan 29th - Feb 3rd, 2014       | 

I think I prefer Option 3 as it is the most succinct (only shows month or year twice if the values are different). But others have argued that it's harder to read because the start and end dates don't line up and you may at a later point want to sort by either the Start or End date column (no requirement to do that now). Just wanted to see if there was a best practice here.

The questions I guess come down to:

  1. One column or two columns (separate start and end date)
  2. Include the "th" and the "rd" or leave that out
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Good solution should be not only readable, but support user task. What is the goal of the table? The length of vacation and number of days before leaving could be important, too (e.g. for project planning etc.). –  Alexey Kolchenko Dec 26 '13 at 21:50
    
I agree . . Right now there is no real task besides just seeing who is out over the upcoming week . . . –  leora Dec 26 '13 at 21:53
    
So the week ahead is the limit? –  Alexey Kolchenko Dec 26 '13 at 21:54
    
Right now one use case is that a manager gets an email when someone requests vacation. In the email it shows anyone else that is out of office that same day (and shows the full range of when those folks will be out). A second use cases is just a reminder email to see who in your team will be out over the upcoming week. So in both cases its just informational (no specific action to take) –  leora Dec 26 '13 at 21:56
    
@leora it is highly unlikely you'll get any other answer, mainly because Alexey Kolchenko provided the best one. Anyway, I'm writing this comment to highlight the need to support different vacation types. See the example: img.chandoo.org/dashboards/… –  Renat Gilmanov Dec 27 '13 at 13:21

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Sorry, first it looks too complex. Still, calendar view provides much better user experience in date-related matters. This is an Excel quick sketch. enter image description here

The root of the problems with you current design is in time perception by human and bad human abilities of mental manipulation with data. Some possible issues are:

  • weak relation to current date
  • requires switching to standard calendar to view current date, start date and end date
  • requires mental calculation of the duration

Those issues significantly increase mental load of a user.

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I agree with all of your points. The one additional thing is that this is going into an email (using outlook) so i have a slight concern that showing a full calendar view (even for that range) might not show up well when people are viewing over blackberries and other mobile devices. If someone is out for a month then this view you created above would be very wide –  leora Dec 30 '13 at 19:19

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