I'm rendering information about the date range (or period) that a report was generated from. E.g. from July 1st to August 31, 2018.

Report Period: 2018-07-01 - 2018-08-31

However either the start date or the end date is optional... thus I could have:

Report Period: 2018-07-01 - ??????????


Report Period: ?????????? - 2018-08-31

What word/phrase would best fit for the unset start or end dates with "??????????" above? I want to ensure that it doesn't appear to the user that they made an error, which I think "undefined" or similar might imply.

3 Answers 3


Give help in proximity explaining rules that govern the system, and output that deviates from their expectations.

If concepts that are surprising or unclear for your users show up in the UI, allow for further explanation, ideally in closest proximity to where the output is expressed.


Give users a quick understanding that the system is working and the constraints that are normal (in this case, one of the dates are optional).

This will help them understand:

  • They did not cause the error
  • The system has not malfunctioned

If they want further details, you could offer a link to documentation which offers in-depth explanation.

About the hovertip

Oftentimes you'll see the hovertip above the values, next to the label. In this case I placed it inline with the value, as it explains the instance in the closest proximity. This is just one way to do this.

  • I like this idea (providing the extra info, in context). As for the wording... do you think (not set) is sufficient? I was hoping there was some better term. e.g. "any", "open start", "open end", "no limit", "unlimited"?
    – scunliffe
    Oct 10, 2018 at 15:32
  • I'm not as clear on the exact wording...Do you have access to your users? Why not run a couple of simple tests, and see if there's already some terminology that they're familiar with? It's hard for me to say, as I don't know your users and their expectations...
    – Mike M
    Oct 10, 2018 at 15:51

Regardles dates are option you are using some dates to generate report. So, you may display real dates you need, e.g. 1-1-1990 as start or current date as end. One more option - the earliest date in report data for start.

You may underline such dates to draw user attention that this is placeholder date.

  • For what it’s worth I’m not necessarily physically searching with 2 dates. I’m only applying the query param if it was set.
    – scunliffe
    Oct 17, 2018 at 16:17

Consider displaying these date ranges using relative language.

Since this is a report (meaning a historical record of data observed in the past) rather than a forecast, I’m assuming the following are known:

  • the first date in the dataset (the oldest recorded data)
  • the last date in the dataset (the current date)

If those assumptions are correct, then the date ranges you described are actually bounded and can be explained using relative language.

October 10, 2018 — ???

Can be described as:

  • October 10, 2018 through Today
  • October 10, 2018 — Today

??? — October 10, 2018

Could be described as:

  • October 10, 2018 and earlier
  • {First recorded date} through October 10, 2018
  • {First recorded date} — October 10, 2018

People in different countries or jobs may expect to see dates rendered differently, so you might need to translate the phrasing for your audience. Check out this answer for more info about date localization.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.