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I recently wrote to First Capital Connect to raise a number of issues with them relating to their St Pancras Thameslink station layout, and also complained that their site features the current date & time on every page, giving casual readers the impression that each page is bang up to date, when in fact it's simply the date & time that the page was rendered (it's not even a live clock) and there is no indication at all of how fresh the content is. Visit http://www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk/Main.php?iCmsPageId=77 and refresh the page after a minute, the time will change.

To me this is a pretty severe UX blunder which is why I brought it to their attention, and I did so without mentioning my profession but they replied simply to say "The website is supposed to show the current date and time, but I can assure you that the website is regularly updated with information." which I think is an inadequate response, so I would like to respond again with a more detailed/authoritative/qualified criticism of the presence of this date/time stamp, ideally citing references.

However, despite looking pretty hard I haven't yet found a UX/usability article from an suitably authoritative source (i.e. one that they will find convincing) covering this topic - does anyone know of one?

(And if you'd like to contribute thoughts on this topic please do!)

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Looks like the site has changed, as I can't see any time and date on pages. –  e100 Sep 22 '11 at 13:46
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The main problem is that the date and time aren't labelled.

How does the viewer know whether the date and time represent the current time, the time the page was last updated, the time the website was last updated, or something else?

If the site owners really feel the need to show the current date and time, at least label it as such. "Currently Wednesday, 19th May 2010, 02:58" or "Page viewed on ..." or something similar. Or even better, remove it entirely since it's not very useful.

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Removing it completely is my preferred option too, as including the current date & time is pretty pointless anyway, even if it were labelled properly, which it isn't, as you point out. –  MarcusT May 19 '10 at 8:28
    
Ok, reply sent, would post but not enough characters permitted here...! –  MarcusT May 19 '10 at 15:59
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Giving them actual user feedback would be more benificial to them than giving them a seperately sourced study, as your own feedback is directly related to their website rather than just based on anonymous case studies and theoretical information that a study would provide.

I wouldn't think you would need to quote an article, as just by the nature of your issue itself you have provided a convincing source.

You could state that they are failing their 'User Acceptance' testing, as being a user yourself you have been (quite rightly) confused by the choice they made.

I would also ask them what they expect having the current date \ time displayed would achieve? All it is saying is that "this is what the page looked like when you looked at it", which makes no sense really.

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What if the data of the site is actually updated continuously, such as the transactions page of a banking website? In that use case the "page loaded" signals to the viewer that the data displayed is as at the time indicated, which implies if they reload they might get more recent data.

Contrast that with a page that has a date stamp from last week on it. Seeing that, most users could infer that reloading the page probably isn't going to get them anything new.

Regardless, the date stamp should be labelled with something as simple as "As at:"

This is particularly true if the data displayed is a delayed live feed, such as stock prices on many sites, in which case the date stamp should reflect the true "as at" date.

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