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It seems to me that one of the main reason why people use a calendar widget in a datepicker component is to see the days of the week when they are selecting a specific date. It also allows a user to provide input for three fields with one click (after they have narrowed down the selection). In terms of the amount of effort and ease of use, I think there isn't too much difference between clicking on three separate dropwdowns versus clicking on a calendar widget, other than the fact that you can see days of the week. In fact, it is probably easier to select the day field from a dropdown with the days listed in order rather than the inconsistent position of dates in a calendar.

Would it be easier for the user to just choose the day from a dropdown that shows the day of the week?enter image description here

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In many cases date management is not only about knowing the day of a week. There are a huge variety of cases, from managing a date in relation to some event (birthday, new year, etc.) to some irrational reasons (astrology, prejudice, etc.).

The calendar view presents both more broad context and more conventional interface. It works universally in large and pocket paper formats, system calendar on PC and mobile, etc.

For some tasks indeed user need no calendar view. For example, setting his/her birthday in a profile. But the day of the week is irrelevant for this case, too.

Also bear in mind, you cannot know right day of the week before you've set month and year, but the placement of the controls suggest day -> month -> year sequence. So this is a potential source of errors.

Conclusion: the calendar view is universal and good-working control, unless you need some special control which has better usability features for your task.

  • Do you think the calendar view is good for manipulating months and years? I find that you lose the focus when you switch between months or years, whereas the standard dropdown fields keeps your focus. I do believe there can be tweaks in the order of the day/month/year fields to streamline the workflow, so that's why I am looking for improvements in this question. – Michael Lai Jun 22 '14 at 22:46
  • @MichaelLai calendar view is good for date manipulations for specified goals and context. You asked about date selection, in many cases calendar works well. For months and years detailed calendar view is just non appropriate control, as it shifts focus to date rather than month (year), as your said. – Alexey Kolchenko Jun 23 '14 at 8:24
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In addition to Alexey's nice answer, I think the calendar view gives the user a nicer workflow.

When reading / speaking about dates (and for your 3 controls), the convention is to say day, month, year (e.g. Thursday 1st January 2015). This is not the most efficient way to find a specific date though, especially if you are not sure which exact date you will pick. Picking a date will depend on the context. For example I want to book flights somewhere at the start of january that have to be around the weekend, but also take care to avoid the busy new years period.

In the calendar view I can immediately see the date I pick in its full context, so I can see that the first weekend in January 2015 is too close to the new year period, and that I had better pick the following weekend for my trip.

  • Also in many places in the US they would say month, day, year eg "December 5th 2013", this might be confusing when the controls are in day/month/year order. – bendataclear Jun 20 '14 at 13:22
  • I would argue that the dropdown list for the day field with the day of week label would also give you context about the week, but just not to the previous months. – Michael Lai Jun 22 '14 at 22:45
  • @MichaelLai It gives you a little more than just numbers would. However it doesn't let you easily find, for example, the date of all Mondays in that month (a single column in the calendar view). Most people see their life in a pattern that is based on weeks (I work Monday to Friday, I do x every other Saturday, I have a team meeting every Tuesday), so it is still more intuitive to see a row per week in a grid with columns for week days. – Franchesca Jun 23 '14 at 9:56

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