I am building a visualization which is intending to show current stats for a particular metric (lets say dollars in sales) for particular groupings (lets say sales territories). We want to be able to compare this week to the previous week (or possibly toggle to month, quarter, year but lets focus on week for this question).


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There are a few ways we could determine "the week" under consideration.

  1. The current week starting Monday and ending next Sunday
  2. The last previous full week period of Monday through Sunday
  3. Today plus the last six days

We want to show the most recent stats possible so that rules out #2. We want to show a full week so that they can compare it to previous weeks. To me this mean that we want to use #3. Nobody really argues this, but it is hard to describe this term. If we say "this week" people seem to assume #1. If we say "the last 7 days" that is wordy and people think "why not just say "the last week?". If we say "the last week" that means #2 but then we aren't seeing recent stats.

So my primary question is what do we call #3 in shorthand that makes sense to people? (And then how do we refer to the previous period also? And does this same terminology approach work for month, quarter, year). A secondary question is - is there a different approach to use?


You answer your own question ("which week") yourself by saying that you want to use option 3.

So, the only question left is what to call it. Regarding this: I would definitely call it "Last 7 days". It is clear, unambiguous (well.. does it include today? :) and not really that wordy. You shouldn't worry about using a bit longer strings, as long as they fit well and are clear to users.

Unrelated to question: also take a good look at what options you give your users and why. Does it really make sense to give the last 7 days? Why not offer some presets (last 7 days, last 30 days, ...) but also give the user the option to choose a custom date range?

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  • I made a clarification "We want to show the most recent stats possible so that rules out #2. We want to show a full week so that they can compare it to previous weeks. To me this mean that we want to use #3." – jlarson Jan 18 '13 at 17:04
  • Also, yes we may offer an option to change time range to 30 days, quarter, etc) – jlarson Jan 18 '13 at 17:04

It should be a calendar Week because it's clear to everyone:

A week is a time unit equal to seven days. It is the standard time period used for cycles of work days and rest days in most parts of the world.

So you have to choose from option 1 or option 2 now.

But option 2 is "last previous" so it seems like it will require addition clarification.

As a result I believe it should be this week by default, even if it's not yet full, i.e. option 1.

You may also give your users an ability to set current week to a "last full week" (and one before, and another one before the one before, etc) so they will compare "currently selected week" with a "previous week".

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  • My biggest problem with "this week" is that it won't be a full week. So on Monday you'll see only one day of data, and by Friday you'll see five days, only to reset on Monday. This makes it hard to compare the values to your memory. Also it makes it hard to compare this week to last week for the "change by territory vs previous week" type display. – jlarson Jan 18 '13 at 19:12
  • And what if today is Friday? I mean, if it's Friday, and I see "this week compared to last week" I clearly understand the meaning. And if it "last 7 days" I should calculate much more in my mind to understand how does it maps to "another 7 days it's compared with". So, I suggest to let user choose a starting week (i.e. this or last) and always compare "selected" (this or last) with "previous" relative to selected. – alexeypegov Jan 18 '13 at 19:19
  • @joelarson I mean, it's easy to compare staring from a start of the week, than to compare starting from a middle of the week because you will actually have two weeks in your chart (the start of the current one and end of the last). Moreover, if you have plans to extend the periods to months and years, it will look strange and will become hard to do the same trick with months and years. Not only harder but less usable. – alexeypegov Jan 18 '13 at 19:25

I think "Last 7 days" is not clear enough because it's not clear whether that includes today. Explicitly spelling out the interval with a date like "Jan 11 - present" is more unambiguous. It is more wordy and it may require a moment of thought to realize that it's 7 days, but besides being very clear it also has the advantage in that any size interval (7 days, 14 day, etc.) will be expressible in the format.

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