What is the most user-friendly way to display a due date (in the context of a task list).

For example (time until due):

  • Do the dishes - One hour until due
  • Wash the car - 3 days until due
  • Buy plane tickets - 4 months until due

Another example (date time due):

  • Do the dishes - Monday, Aug 25, 2014 at 5pm
  • Wash the car - Thursday, Aug 25, 2014 at 8am
  • Buy plane tickets - Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 10am

Also, what would be the cutoff for the formats if time is used?

  • Minutes - 0-59 minutes remaining
  • Hours - 1-23 hours remaining
  • Days - 1-6 days remaining
  • Weeks - 1-3 weeks remaining
  • Months - 1-11 months remaining
  • Years - 1+ years remaining
  • 2
    Welcome to the site, @sworded. What's the context? In general, the relative "time until due" is quicker to use, but it contains less information (≈2 bits as opposed to ≈5). Which format is better might depend on whether your users are looking forward to the events or dreading them. (Counting down to a deadline could be stressful.) Day of the week might matter if your users are very religious. Time of day might matter if the events involve communication across time zones. Without more information about the users, it's impossible to say which format is "most user-friendly." Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 20:28
  • I only know the audience would be office workers who would use this for managing their office or personal tasks.
    – sworded
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 17:07
  • 1
    Wording like "time until due" "time remaining" creates a greater sense of urgency for the item as compared to something more neutral like "Due time" e.g. Due Wednesday, Due Today at 3pm. Take a look at this: momentjs.com
    – nightning
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 23:59

2 Answers 2


Why not use both of those solutions?

Facebook does this by how relevant the time is to you such as:

A post that was put up today will show: enter image description here

But once the post becomes older, it will do this: enter image description here

So in your case, you could use both depending on how relevant it is. If the due date is a month from now you can go into details:

"Do the dishes - Monday, August 25, 2014 at 5PM"

But once the due date is nearing, you can start counting down:

"Do the dishes - In 2 days at 5PM"

Then when it gets to that day you can start counting down hours:

"Do the dishes - 5 hours left"

And so on and so forth.

  • What would be the cutoff for switching between formats?
    – sworded
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 17:09
  • It could be a week from now (7 days left at 5PM) to the day of (24 hours left).
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 17:28

Majo0od's answer is the way I always prefer time-sensitive things to be displayed. It seems weird if something is listed as "[Today's date] [Current time, +3 hours]" if the event is simply 3 hours away, yet I don't want something 14 and a half days from now saying "348 hours from now" either. I'd suggest formatting due dates as Majo0od suggest by default, but still give the user the option of how to display the due date/time as they see fit for the individual task. If that's not too much work/trouble for you, it's the best solution in my mind because the user has a smart default working well for them most of the time, but if they want something to countdown/up differently based on the context of that item they still have control.

Basically, I'd encourage you to combine Majo0od & 3nafish's advice if you're trying to give the user the most control over their due dates (and for something like that I'd say that's always best; I dump apps that don't let me display my information the way I want).

If you're trying to keep things simple, and just have a hard-and-fast rule for how things are formatted in your app (or whatever), your 'Time Until Due' option seems like it would generally be 'most user-friendly'.


  • (I don't have the rep to comment on your edit, yet...) The only thing that seemed off to me was Weeks should be 1-4 remaining, as you don't want anything to ever say '3 weeks, 8 days remaining' and many months are longer than 29 days. ;P
    – CTgreen
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 17:16
  • Also, I vote for '[X units of time] remaining' vs your original '[X units of time] until due'. Maybe '[time] left' would be better still? More concise, at least; depends on the context of your product, though.
    – CTgreen
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 17:19

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