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For a UI that will show information on various technical systems (servers), I would like to add a UI element saying something like: "Last data load time: (timestamp)"

The trick is that the actual conditions are somewhat more complex. The data shown in this UI is loaded from multiple other sources and is expected to be loaded daily. This daily timestamp would be expected to be shown in the UI element mentioned above, i.e. it should always be within the last 24 hours in normal operation.

However, the data that is loaded may itself be out of date, whether by hours or (in some cases) by many days. It's always the most recent data available that is loaded, but the sources from which data is loaded are themselves subject to delays in collecting their data.

So the timestamp doesn't represent "timestamp of all data" but rather "the latest possible information in this UI," in other words, no data in the UI is more recent than this, but some of it may be less recent.

How should this UI element be phrased to communicate accurately without misleading users?

  • Aren't you trying to lump together two variables into one? 1) Last updated. 2) Data time. Would help if you provide more context as to what is the actual data and whether or not it involves time series. – Izhaki Nov 1 '16 at 23:44
  • @Izhaki, I'm not trying to lump together two variables; I'm wondering how to ensure that users won't confuse the two. Does that help clarify it? – Wildcard Nov 1 '16 at 23:51
  • It rules out my concern, but it doesn't really clarify things. Would really help to know what sort of data is being displayed. I'm afraid without more context answers may be slow-coming and based on assumptions. – Izhaki Nov 1 '16 at 23:59
  • Do you know how old is the data you receive? – Yoav Moran Nov 2 '16 at 7:10
  • @Wildcard Do you have any other questions to which we might be able to offer answers? – maxathousand Nov 3 '16 at 6:14
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Obviously I don't have the contextual knowledge of the app itself that you have, but it sounds to me that if you can't come up with a concise and unambiguous way to say this, then the user won't stand a chance at understanding your intent.

To mitigate this confusion, I would decide on two distinct phrases and include a "?" help icon next to the data labels that provides a tooltip explanation of the terms.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

In terms of what the actual labels should be, the following terms came to mind and may help with your brainstorming:

  • "Data Received" or "Data Collected" to describe when you first received the data
  • "Source Timestamp" or "Accurate As Of" to describe the source's timestamp ("Source Timestamp" could work, but might depend on your audience's knowledge of the system)

Certainly testing with non-expert users would provide quick answers as to whether or not the naming conventions are effective.

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Here's one way:

In General I would group them into 2 different buckets:

Data ( Timestamp ) (Retrieved: ( Timestamp ))

If you have the specific timestamp you could include it, else format it depending on what you have, the wording can also be tailored:

  • Data ( Sourced: Recently ) (Retrieved: ( This morning ))
  • Data ( Sourced: last Halloween ) (Retrieved: ( Midnight ))
  • Data ( Recorded: March 17 2016 ) (Retrieved: ( Today ))
  • Data ( Capture Time: Most Recent ) (Received: ( Last 24 hrs ))
  • Yes, except that the "retrieved" data is the same for all data. – Wildcard Nov 2 '16 at 1:48
  • @Wildcard: Ahh, in that case I would just move it to the table title row, like max suggests. – Keno Nov 2 '16 at 2:09

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