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I have an app that involves large amounts of data that for the most part live-updates. That is, the users of the app can assume the data is fresh and up-to-the-moment.

We are about to release a new feature of the app called a report, which aggregates some of the app's data and displays it as pretty charts, graphs, insights, etc.

The data for this report WILL NOT be live-updating, so at the point that a user generates the report, we have added a notice about when the data was last aggregated:

Notice about data aggregation date/time

Users can view the report in a browser, or they can choose to download the report as a PDF to share internally with the rest of their organization. For that reason, there is another date that displays on each page of the generated report which indicates when the report was actually created – i.e. the moment is was downloaded to PDF.

During QA, it has become apparent that users understand neither the data-aggregation date nor the date showing when the report was created.

My questions are these:

  • How can I better explain in the notice what the data aggregation date indicates?
  • Should the date inside the report mirror the data aggregation date or should it indicate when the report was created/downloaded?
  • Are there better overall approaches I could take to conveying this info to users?
  • Do your users know what "aggregation" means? – invot Jan 26 '18 at 18:40
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I personally don't think many will be interested when the .pdf was created. Everyone will expect the data in a .pdf to be static and representative of a moment in time.

Just put something in the top of the document saying 'Report Data accurate as of 12.55pm on 08/06/2014' or something similar. You just need to succinctly display the time the snapshot was taken really.

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I think you are trying to fix the issue that you describe using labels, when in fact the actual cause of the issue might lie a bit deeper.

Without being able to see the screen design, I would suggest that it is the way content on your page that is organized and the interactions that the users have with the elements that is causing the issue. If you are not able to change anything other than the label, I think testing it with users will at least let you know what makes sense to them.

If you are able to change the design of the page, I suggest doing some testing with users to see how they go about completing both tasks and work out what the similarity and difference that will help you design the optimal layout and workflow.

Other than that, my answer to the question is probably to create the label so that it reflects the nature of the information you are trying to provide. In the case of the app, you would probably use a label like "last update (time)", whereas for the reports you would probably use a label like "created (time)".

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I'd suggest to put the time in terms of "today", " yesterday", "5 minutes ago", etc. Seems more user friendly to me. It makes me think less about when it actually happened compared to " 11 June 2015 15:33".

I don't suggest it for PDFs or other documents though because it seems less formal.

In the end it depends on the application and on the report type (in app or document).

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