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I'm looking to display a date. The audience is worldwide and so for some people 10/8/2014 will mean October 8th and for others it'll mean August 10th. And some people may not even speak English and therefore won't understand what October means.

What's a good way to display a date so that anybody in world can understand it.

Thanks.

  • There is no internationalization? If you don't localize dates based on target audience then one way is to display date along with the format in brackets so the user is informed – Balaji Natarajan Oct 7 '14 at 23:25
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    Why not "Month, Day Year" as in "October 8, 2014". – Dave Nelson Oct 8 '14 at 7:11
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It has been pointed out that internationalization and localization are the ideal solutions. But what if you have no way of knowing the best locale for the user in question? There is also a 'grey area' where the date information is not very important for the users and it is better for the developer to have a quick solution so that s/he can concentrate efforts on more important things.

So I would suggest ISO dates, which are YYYY-MM-DD. There is a nice guide for ISO dates here, and of course there's a Wikipedia page.

Now, what about users encountering this format for the first time? In my view they have a good chance of guessing correctly how to interpret an ISO date. And I am not aware of any widely used date format that can be confused with this one, so it has an immediate advantage over ones like DD/MM/YYYY (UK format) and MM/DD/YYYY (US format).

To further assist your users, perhaps you could have a small "(?)" hyperlink immediately after each date, linking to a page on your site that explains the format (and states what timezone your servers use). Example: "Entry posted on 2013-12-31 (?)"

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  • You can see the ISO date format in use right here. Just beneath the main text of my answer is a hyperlink saying "Oct 8 '14 at 10:52". That hyperlink's HTML "title" attribute is an ISO 8601 formatted date & time. For me it displays as a tooltip. – Peter Ford Jan 31 '15 at 23:41
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    It should be pointed out that one important aspect of i18n is to use a sane default that allows for the best fallback if l10n is not available. The formats of ISO 8601 are intended (among other things) to provide such a baseline. – Crissov Dec 29 '15 at 0:50
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I don't think the question keeps UX in mind.

The whole idea in UX is that a system lands itself to the users, and part of it is that users can interpret the interface (and its content).

If in country X the common format is dd/mm/yyyy and in another mm/dd/yyyy, you should really support the locale instead of trying to find a catch-all solution.

Consider this question:

If in some countries they use Miles, and in others Kilometers, how can I represent distance in a unit that everyone can understand.

The answer to this is obviously: you can't (unless you provide each country with its preferred unit).

You could in theory use:

11 Oct 2014

But as you said, not everyone is speaking English, so you'd have to translate the month, which puts you again in the localisation realm.

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  • If you have not implemented localization, you still can display the number along with the units to make it complete. If i look at a UK shopping site from US, i see prices in pounds and not in dollars. Its better to show 10/7/2014 (mm/dd/yyyy) if localization is not supported – Balaji Natarajan Oct 7 '14 at 23:30
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    One problem with localization is that the results are still ambiguous because users may not know whether you have localized. If I see "4/5/2014" on a UK site that I am visiting from the US, I don't really know whether it is UK format or localized to me. Much better to consistently use ISO dates or display the month name. – user31143 Oct 8 '14 at 7:02
  • @BalajiNatarajan. Why do you say that if localization is not supported, you should fall back to a wacky system used by only one country in the world? You should fall back to a sane and sensible default, and that's probably ISO: YYYY-MM-DD. It's certainly not the truly weird US system. – TRiG Jul 26 '17 at 15:56

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