Let’s say I have a meeting at 06:00 AM that is scheduled to last 8 hours and 15 mins . Are there any guidelines, tips or tricks to display that information in a non-ambiguous way?

If I simply display in the agenda:

06:00 - Meeting (08:15)

It can easily be misunderstood as 8:15 being either the end if meeting or, even worse, ( since we are using multiple timezones in my app) a different time zone time.

The example is obviously made up, in the real app I have a lot of starting times and a lot of durations to express in a relatively small amount of space on the same page. Simply converting to text (8 hours and 15 minutes) is not an option as it will not fit. I have space for maybe max 10 chars per item.

So how so you display a timespan in a way that is different from a datetime?

Later edit: and just to make the question harder. How about expressing time-to-go, as in the meeting is in 2 hours and 53 minutes. I need an accurate display, and most timers/chrono applications that use countdowns (eg. phone alarm apps) infuriatingly use the same 00:00 display for duration


8 Answers 8


Format distinction needed

08:15 is typically identified as clock format, not duration.

You could just write (8h) or (8¼h) for duration (see list of fraction unicode chars).

Here is how Google do it:

A screenshot of google calendar showing durations as 1h

Duration or endtime?

Another question you should ask is:

Which is more important for users - duration or end time?

If a meeting starts at 06:00 and lasts for 7.5 hours - it takes a bit of mental arithmetic to figure out when it ends (and it is fair to assume users might want to know that as well).

If you only display either duration or end time, there's going to be arithmetic done anyhow.

Perhaps you should just use (start-end):



  • Oh, I def. need duration as that is an important quality for these events, afecting other params. Anyway, so is there any agreed format for duration? Something not involving “ : “ separator ?
    – Radu094
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 13:03
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    There is hardly such thing as agreed formats in UX - there are conventions and context-dependent factors. I've added how google do it - seems reasonable way to me.
    – Izhaki
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 13:28
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    @Radu094 Try 8' 15'' or 8m 15s
    – Bakuriu
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 20:48
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    @Bakuriu In the US, a single- and double-tic usually abbreviates feet and inches (e.g. 5' 11" means 5 feet 11 inches). Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 14:21
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    @maxathousand They're also used for minutes and seconds, but in the context of angles, as they refer to minutes and seconds of an arc rather than minutes and seconds of time. And as someone from the UK (who use feet and inches to measure height), you're not the only one who sees ' and " to indicate feet and inches :)
    – user110325
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 15:42

6:00 - 14:15 (8hs) - Meeting. (Starts in 2 hours).

The user can easily infer the duration of the meeting from the give time, but you can also display it after the hours. Try not to put descriptions or labels, they will only distract.


I see there a debate whether the finish time or duration should be displayed and in fact it's not what the OP is asking for. They decided to go for the duration.

So first of all I suggest making it disambiguous by explicitly stating that the bracketed value is time span:

06:00 - Meeting (for 8:15)

It still looks weird, I'll come back to it later on.

If we were to state the finish time of the meeting, I'd suggest:

06:00 - Meeting (until 14:15)

We already agreed that 06:00 (hours-colon-minutes) notation is regarded as time of day and does not need any explanation unless a clear distinction between 12 and 24 hours format is expected. The former is indicated by a.m./p.m. suffix, the latter can be indicated by adding a leading zero when applicable (thus 06:00 is 6:00 a.m. while 18:00 is 6:00 p.m.)

Now the time span - I propose using one of the following notations (in the order of preference):

8h 15m
8¼ h
8.25 h

The first two are widely recognisable since the angular units (' for minutes and " for seconds) are often used on sport watches. The choice will depend on how much space is available.
The third one limits the granularity to a quarter of an hour since common fractions of 1/12 (5 minutes) or 1/6 (10 minutes) are not that intuitive. The former doesn't come up as a single Unicode character and the latter would be ⅙, ⅓, ½, ⅔ and ⅚ for 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 minutes respectively.
The last notation is computational-friendly but becomes ambiguous when depicting a quarter of an hour (8.25h may by some be seen as 8 hours and 25 minutes) and totally unintuitive and illegible when 5- or 10- minutes intervals come up (0.08(3)h and 0.1(6)h respectively, or 0.08333333h and 0.16666667h).

I therefore recommend you chose between the first two. In such case your notation for the agenda appointment would be:

06:00 - Meeting (for 8h15')


06:00 - Meeting (for 8h 15m)

  • 7
    "8 for 8:30" is (was? it might be dated; might be UK only) commonly used for organising dinner -- turn up from 8pm for drinks, dinner is served at 8:30pm. For me, it doesn't look like a duration. You admit that it looks weird, though, so... Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 10:58
  • @RogerLipscombe - have you read the complete answer of mine? The "06:00 for 8:15" was about for and not about 8:15. The time span notation is explained later on.
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 11:17
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    Yes I read it; I'm trying to explain another reason why for (with what looks like a timestamp) sounds weird. Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 12:17
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    Another problem might be that not all languages have such fine distinction between for and until (or even words for both). Translating this might be hard.
    – piegames
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 15:51
  • I'm with @RogerLipscombe on this - "for" is the wrong word. Maybe "duration 8:15" or "lasting 8:15" would be OK. But "6:00 for 8:15" would leave me thinking "why do I have to arrive more than 2 hours early?". Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 20:56

I agree with a previous comment that formatting would make the distinction clear.

08:00 - reads as 8 o'clock (time)

8hrs - reads as 8 hours (duration)


I would, by all means, NOT follow ISO 8601's guidelines because "P3Y6M4DT12H30M5S" is one of the most confusing strings I've ever seen! As UX designers, we HAVE to come up with a better way to present duration! ;)

  • 6
    I mean, the full ISO 8601 guidelines are for completely unambiguous durations, mostly without regards to context. They also note that you can get rid of empty elements. To note 8 hours and 15 minutes, "PT8H15M" is a valid duration in ISO 8601. For UX, it'd be perfectly valid to just chop off the PT since that part will just confuse users, but "8H15M" seems pretty intuitive.
    – Delioth
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 18:06
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    P3Y6M4DT12H30M5S can also be written as P0003-06-04T12:30:05, which is far more readable.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 19:00

Could you not simply just say:

-Meeting (starts; 06:00, ends; 14:15, duration; 8.25 hrs)

Says everything and there's no way to get confused, or are there some other constraints you haven't specified? Like max length of memo?

  • Yeah, I have limited space (lots of events on the page) arround 10 characters for time and about the same for interval
    – Radu094
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 7:49
  • -maybe have like a key at the top of the page? so you could just have this? M(s:0600,e:1415,d:8.25)
    – aidan
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 12:28
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    Rather wordy but it is clear.
    – The Nate
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 21:39
  • If you have to present such an important information and the designer only gives you a tiny speck of space, you should talk to the designer
    – yunzen
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 12:00

A lot of good answers here. As it's a mobile app and in light of the expanded scope of the question, I'll suggest something a little different.

I'm not quite clear whether this is just a list of entries or a Gantt chart of a day or whatnot, or what existing requirements you have around interaction on these items, but could it be possible to have a function to show additional information about an appointment on demand?

Perhaps have the item double in size or a floating pane appear with extra information like duration, a summary, etc. on tap or long press? I imagine there are some meetings that people aren't interested in the information of, say, a daily scrum, so they would never want to see the duration by default on such entries anyway.

I suggest this because speaking from my own experience, nearly every meeting in my working day is scheduled to be 1 hour, and I would only be interested in length if it was near lunchtime or at risk of colliding with another meeting, but the latter case could be handled by a separate UI cue again.


What about using dur. ?

06:00 - 08:25 (dur. 2h25) - Meeting

  • 2
    Good suggestion! Although I would probably choose 'lasts' (lasts 2h25).
    – CompuChip
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 14:29

Duration is a common difference between 'Starting time' and 'Ending time' Whereas 'Starting time' is a initiator of any time .

Starting time: The starting time for our monthly meetings will be 9.30.

Duration : The meeting will continue 9:30 to 12:00 .

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