I've noticed in the edit-profile form on UX Stack Exchange a weird prompt with an important message - the date format.

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Personally I would consider it terribly wrong (force to memorize data format, which might be hard!), but since it's a part of such a great service, it made me think... is there any reason behind it?

So - do you think there's any reason behind this particular tip inside the form field? Or is it just an usability error?


I think it is a poor choice, as you point out, the date format is not visible while entering the data. If you have required formatting, make sure that it is visible while the information is being entered.

It would be better to have the format information as text below the form field.

The privacy information however is fine going there as once you read it, you don't have do recall exactly what it says to be able to enter the information. Also, you would only start entering the information if you agreed with the conditions.

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While it is better than showing it outside the textbox since it will not take anymore real estate than the textbox itself, using Date-Picker would give better usability experience.

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  • Not necessarily. I find it much easier and I am much faster typing in my date of birth than having to select it with a date picker. – Marjan Venema Jan 14 '13 at 9:30
  • @MarjanVenema Come'on, you are developing software for last 27 years. Do you really expect a normal user would not be as fast as you? – ripu1581 Jan 14 '13 at 9:37
  • Yes, I do. Nothing to do with being a developer. There are many other people entirely comfortable with using a keyboard to enter data. And typing in 8 characters in my experience is always faster than clicking to open the date picker, clicking umpteen (possibly 11) times to select the month, clicking to select the day, clicking to open up the year selector and then scrolling and clicking to select the correct year. – Marjan Venema Jan 14 '13 at 9:41
  • @MarjanVenema Debatable!! Who can honestly say that for sure! It is true that typing 8 words is not going to kill them or take up all their day. This is not about being faster, its about being more convenient and familiar. I guess you are still not putting yourself in their shoes. Many service providing websites like air-ticket booking, etc uses date-picker, so people who are used to using them would prefer to use date-picker. – ripu1581 Jan 14 '13 at 9:57
  • I'd bet a bar of chocolate on my view winning the speed and ease contest :-). Anyway that's why any date picker should allow for manual entry as well. Unfortunately, most don't. – Marjan Venema Jan 14 '13 at 10:20

I like to use placeholder text like this to provide samples of valid input. In my opinion, it's bad practice for displaying key requirements as demonstrated in your example.

For example, in this case I would label the outside of the text field as "Birthday" and then use the placeholder text to show samples of acceptable dates. It may help to support a few date formats too, for localization.

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