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In my application, I am showing dates to users in different ways:

Option 1: In a table format, where user scans the table to see the when certain activities were done.

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Option 2: As customer's important info like, DOB

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I want to be consistent with Date output format, but I am not sure if is it more easy for user to scan the dates in "1991-11-01" OR "1991-Nov-01" format? Also as the same time, they should be able to read customer's information in the same format.

Please suggest.

  • What happens if you follow the ISO standard and leave off the year? – user67695 Mar 17 '17 at 13:20
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In my opinion it is better to show the name of the month.

Where I live, the order is always: Day/Month/Year. While in some other countries the common order is Month/Day/Year.

Sometimes on the internet when I see: 01/07/2000 I get confused because instead of being the First of July it is actually the Seventh of January.

So my suggestion is to write the month name, or an abbreviation, in the language of your audience.

The order is not as important as long as each of the elements is recognised.

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    International Postal format specifies months using Roman Numerals (which means that they can be read with the same amount of difficulty by different language users). An example is 2017-III-15 for March 15th. For some reason, this has not caught on. "III" is the third month, no matter what. To me, that makes memorizing 12 Roman Numerals worthwhile, since I would understand them anywhere in the world. – user67695 Mar 15 '17 at 17:42
  • @nocomprende it is an interesting approach and certainly more clear than relying on any specific language for the name of the month (I can see some conflicts though, 2017-I-12). But I'm not sure how commonly known are Roman Numbers, so it might be better to rely on the month name in the language of your audience. – Alvaro Mar 15 '17 at 17:53
  • As you say, the formats mm/dd/yyyy and dd/mm/yyyy are both very bad because they are ambiguous — some countries use dd/mm/yyyy more, some use mm/dd/yyyy. But the original post isn’t using either of these: it’s using yyyy/mm/dd, which is much less ambiguous, since (to my knowledge) no country commonly uses yyyy/dd/mm, and most countries use yyyy/mm/dd in at least some settings (e.g. many official forms in the US and UK). – PLL Mar 16 '17 at 15:18
  • @PLL I understand your point, the wikipedia link actually only shows YMD DMY MDY. But, my guess is most users won't know that YDM isn't used, so I think the point is still the same, if I saw (previously to your comment :) ) 2000/07/01 I would still have the doubt. – Alvaro Mar 16 '17 at 15:24
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Summary: YYYY-MMM-DD is better because you don't have possible confusion.

Steve Krug, a usability consultant and author says "Don't Make Me Think" - i.e., you want to reduce the amount of thinking that users have to do (the cognitive load).

So using 1991-Nov-01 (or November) instead of 1991-11-01 is clearly a better approach because you don't, like @Alvaro says, have the confusion of 1991-07-01 being possibly 1st July or 7th January, thus causing users to have to sit and think about it.

@no comprende cites using Roman numerals for the month as per International Postal formats, but that hasn't cottoned on, thankfully. Why thankfully? Because that too requires that people sit and think about what the numeral is and then translate that to a month in their mind - better to just tell them what the month is straight away. Usually, a website is in one language, so, it doesn't need to be international, and if it does, you'd translate the month - e.g. "July" - into their language, so that it's never ambiguous.

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  • I just read Steve Krug's book, it is a simple and direct explanation. I don't know French, but it is my understanding that three letter abbreviations of months can be ambiguous, and even be the same as day abbreviations. If we really didn't want people to think, we would standardize the written language. That could happen, even if we all spoke different verbal languages. Chinese is an example. – user67695 Mar 17 '17 at 13:18
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Your examples seem to be using the formats I would.

In a tabular format where the user is seeing many values, having different length values creates a distraction

7 April 2017     | 23004
12 December 2017 |  2340

which can be mitigated a bit by aligning the parts of the dates into sub-columns, but generally the consistent sized numeric format is better.

 7 April    2017 | 23004
12 December 2017 |  2340


2017-04-07 | 23004
2017-12-12 |  2340

You can use the localized numeric format instead, but the ISO international one is almost internationally unambiguous ( Kazakhstan may use yyyy.dd.MM, you'd have to find a Kazakh user to find out if using hyphens was enough of a clue that it's international rather than local format ).

For flowing text, spelling out the month name is often clearer.

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It's all about the country where you are, I've lived in 3 different countries and people have their own way to display information, not a lot just a few, but are different. So if you can target your design specifically for a country, do it. If that's not possible maybe you can adapt some things when the language is changed. For instance, YYYY-MMM-DD would be very confusing for me.

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