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I am working on a table that displays dates by using USA format. I was wondering which format below is more legible or usable - I guess there's a slight difference between these two, but I was wondering if there's any previous research or existing pattern. Please note that dates will be displayed across the platform and we should use a consistent format whether it's displayed in a table or not.

a) Nov 20, 2020

b) 11/20/2020

Thanks!

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    As someone who is not from the USA, I would prefer option a) because it's unambiguous . If I read 4/3/2020, it could mean April 3 or March 4, depending on where I'm from. Don't know if this is relevant for your project, but it wouldn't hurt to consider it :) – QWERTZdenker Jul 1 '20 at 14:31
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    Do your part in the ISO revolution! yyyy-MM-dd all day, all the time ;-) (kidding/not kidding) – J. Dimeo Jul 2 '20 at 21:14
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Each format has its pros and cons.


Nov 20, 2020

Pros:

  • Truly unambiguous.
  • Requires less interpretation; better readability.

Cons:

  • Not as easy to compare multiple dates.

11/20/2020

Pros:

  • Easy to compare with other dates to calculate durations.
    For example, how many months apart are 2/1/2020 and 8/1/2020?
    Easier to calculate than "Feb 1, 2020" and "Aug 1, 2020".

Cons:

  • Requires users to know the context in which the date is presented in instances where the date could be understood differently.

As a rule, when I'm developing, I alternate between the two formats you present depending on one criteria: whether or not it is important for the user to be able to quickly compare multiple dates. If so, I'll use the numeric representation, otherwise, I'll use the more readable abbreviated form.

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Option (a) is much easier to understand as it's unambiguous.

10/11/12 could be read as 10 November 2012 or 11 October 2012 for example.

Why risk it when you can choose an unambiguous format?

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  • True that 10/11/12 is ambiguous, however 10/11/2012 is less so. If the dates are known to be consistently in US format (as OP has mentioned), there is no real issue with the numeric representation. – maxathousand Jul 1 '20 at 15:28
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Welcome to UX StackExchange, Óscar!

What platform are you targeting? If it's an OS-native app, always honor the date format that the user chooses in their device's settings.

If it's a web app, though, who will be your users?

If you're sure that "every" user will be a US American, you can safely use the MM/DD/YYYY format. It's what everyone uses in daily life here when signing a check, entering a date on a form, etc.

What's more, you will typically find that more concise format in enterprise software tables, where horizontal space is at a premium, and where easy and reliable scannability of data is important.

Bottom line: the MMM DD, YYYY format is more human-friendly overall, but the MM/DD/YYYY is usable enough if you're sure that it's the default format in your users' locale.

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  • Thanks for your reply @JochenW. The target are insurance agents. They are all based in either USA or Canada. The product is a responsive web application with desktop as the main source of traffic. – Óscar Mangas Jul 2 '20 at 8:15

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