I did my fair share of Googling on this question and came up with nothing but results of most-significant to least-significant measurements.

Eg: 2014-05-01 16:54:30

I want to get some feedback as to what date-time formats people think people-in-general like best to read.

Thinking of clocks, its whacky and usually less-that-practical to show a real ticking clock in a format other than Hour:Minute:Second, 16:54:30 due to the width of the text being displayed constantly changing otherwise.

  • 1
    Just be aware that there are also social and cultural differences to consider, so you should try to find out the context and the exact reasons behind the answers. I personally think a more universal system (same with timezones) will help solve the problem.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 0:17
  • 2
    People in general like to read what they're used to. Unfortunately, this is culturally dependent - the US tends to use mm/dd/yyyy and Europe dd/mm/yyyy (which leads to potential ambiguity - what actual day is 01/02/2014?). People who commonly deal with computers (and some cultures) use yyyy-mm-dd (to remove the ambiguity). Why not have this be user-determinable? Most OSes/applications will gladly display dates/times however you ask. Commented May 2, 2014 at 2:41
  • The problem is everyone has a preference and they are all different. At least with yyyy-mm-dd we all read it as the same date. What date is 5/4/21? May 4 2021? April 5 1921? There is no universal preference, and many common formats will be read differently by different people.
    – Grant
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 3:00
  • @Gramt, I'm particularly open to using identifiers that are not purely numeric. Especially English Calendric names, eg "October" or "Oct" Commented May 2, 2014 at 6:05
  • 1
    What do you want to achieve or what do users want to achieve with the dates? Please keep in mind cultural differences in date-notation. Besides that, humans are not that good at all with dates. We tend to understand 'in two weeks' or 'a month ago' better/faster than a date/time stamp. A date most of the times creates cognitive load.
    – Ruudt
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:29

5 Answers 5


The dd mmm yyyy format (e.g. 1 Jan 2014) is usually my approach on projects as it prevents possible confusion caused by displaying multiple units of time in 2 digits. In my opinion, 2 February 2002 or 2 Feb 2002 is far more readable than 02/02/02 or even 02/02/2002.


Why hard limit this to one or the other?

If you REALLY must choose one then what is your potential user base used to? If they are all in the UK, for example, then use dd/mm/yyyy or all in the US then use mm/dd/yyyy. That said, what happens to a UK guy it the US?

This is about UX and the best UX is to let the user choose the one they are most familiar and comfortable with.

If you actually look at the global spread, DMY accounts for about 60% of the global population followed by 29% on YMD and then the rest either on MDY or mix of these.


Have to admit though I get frustarted with US companies with global products which insist on using MDY as it is what they are used to yet it is used in countries which have no more than 7 to 10% of the population so we offer all three within our web application.

  • 1
    While it's a good idea in principle to give the user the ability to change it, that assumes that users will actually deviate from the default option. And users as a rule tend to stick with the default settings unless they're totally incorrect (for instance using languages as an example; if the default language was Japanese then they'd change it to English(US) as they can't read it otherwise, but if the default was English(GB) they'd likely leave it rather than change it to English(US)).
    – JonW
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 15:56
  • Our experience has been the opposite - the biggest criticism of our application early on was we only offered UK date formats and we had tens or more of requests every month from Americans requesting US date formats. Now we offer the three and using their IP also try and set it correctly for people when they signup so they hopefully don't have to set it themselves.
    – bhttoan
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 17:29

If its in the past, then the ones they are used to:

  • "Yesterday"
  • "Last week"
  • "A few seconds ago"
  • "Asked 5 minutes ago"
  • ...

An epoch calculator (http://www.epochconverter.com/) Displays dates primarily as:

Thu, 01 Jan 1970 03:25:33 GMT

Though I don't consider it particularly east to interpret.


If you have to stick to one format without user preferences, I would go with:

Month Day, Year (Ex: May 1, 2001).

This reduces the ambiguity of displaying a date like 05/01/01 and having it interpreted four different ways considering the year and month/day variations. However, I would suggest using this type of date format in a more casual environment and not a table/spreadsheet where it would be easier to users to scan a row of numbers to find what they were looking for.

  • Why not “1 May 2001” ? At least, “1 May 2001” follows an order — from smallest to biggest. Commented May 3, 2014 at 6:45

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.