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In a shopping cart where a user can select their preferred ship date, how would you alert them when a date is a holiday or weekend? Would you use processing to not allow it? Add an alert that it would arrive the next business day? Have a notification prior to selecting the date?

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3 Answers 3

I would show a calendar picker with non-selectable days grayed out. When the user hovers over the non-selectable day, I would display a tool tip explaining why that date isn't selectable.

For instance, here's an example of blackout dates from MSDN:

enter image description here

(Sidenote: Are you sure there's a reason for having the user select their shipping date? In most e-commerce type applications that I've seen, the users almost invariably want their shipments as soon as possible.)

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+1. That said, there is an issue with this design insofar as it wouldn't really work when holiday days are a poor but not forbidden choice. No other alternatives come to mind, though. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Aug 11 '11 at 17:08
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@Jimmy Sure, although you could simply create another design pattern that highlights unwise selections is a different way (and provides the requisite tool tip on mouseover explaining why that selection is unwise), but still allows the unwise selection to be made. –  Daniel Newman Aug 11 '11 at 17:10
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Yes, there is a reason to be able to specify a ship date, or rather a "receipt" date: when you have to be home to receive the product... Online retailers that sell items that do not fit through the letterbox really should all offer this, preferably with a morning/afternoon/evening specification in addition to the date. –  Marjan Venema Aug 11 '11 at 19:10
    
@Marjan Ah, yes... receipt/delivery date makes total sense to me (and a good example of when this type of interface would be needed). –  Daniel Newman Aug 11 '11 at 19:11
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There is also a need when customers purchase millions of products at once but don't want everything stored on site. They need to select a shipping schedule but want the bulk discounts. –  RandomBrad Aug 15 '11 at 22:37

It makes sense to show the dates as a calendar, as it can be fairly self-explanatory means of indicating weekends and holidays up front, without too much extra messaging.

I've shown an example from an online grocery site in the UK called Ocado. When picking dates there's a help icon above the calendar pops open a legend to explain the shading on dates. This might work for you.

enter image description here

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I like this, but the help overlay is placed half over the calendar itself, so if the key you were interested in was on the right hand side of the calendar, it's now obscured by the help you were looking for. I would move the help to the right a bit. –  Rahul Aug 12 '11 at 7:58

Six colours seem a lot of different options just to chose a date. We (it is a calendar where users can chose a date for a service) use simple traffic light logic. Green bookable, red booked (additionally crossing out might be necessary for the colour blind) and grey not possible to book (weekends and so on). Hoover on selection. We just had a round of user tests on some other issues and the calendar and didn't see any necessity to explain the colours.

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