I'm trying to determine the best way to model date formats in Power BI. The dates may be displayed in any number of ways by the user on an ad-hoc basis, so they may appear in tables or on charts (though for charts there is typically some understanding in the visualization of how to deal with dates). What I'm trying to set is the default format of the date in the model.

That's a lot of context for a fairly simple question, whose answer may or may not depend on context, but I'm not experienced enough to determine that. The question is, which of the following is better UX:



There is no chance that the years are going to be ambiguous to users in the foreseeable future. Does removing the first two digits of the year improve UX, harm it, or have no measurable impact? Are there any studies or applicable proven guidelines suggesting one or the other?

  • Related: Universal date display Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 21:32
  • @GrahamHerrli thanks for the link - to add slightly more context around localization, I know that all users will be in New Zealand, so the DD/MM vs MM/DD issue is fine.
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 21:35
  • Does this mean that you don't have historical data going back past the year 2000?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 21:43
  • @MichaelLai No, it means that we're not likely to get to 2080 data in the next few decades, and we don't have any data from early-mid 1900s - a fact that everyone viewing the data will know.
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 21:53

1 Answer 1


The most obvious impact in terms of design is the amount of space you might be able to save with two less digits to worry about. I think it is safe to assume that people these days don't think too far back to the 1900s when it comes to digital data, so it is not any more or less difficult for them to distinguish between 2016 or '16.

The only thing to consider might be in the way you present combinations of date information, so that if you are showing the full day/month/year combination it is sensible to omit the '20' in front of the year, but if for other purposes you want to display just the month/year or day/year combination it would probably be less ambiguous if you show the full four digits for the year.

There are some questions related to this topic, but I think you'll find that there are specific context-of-use in those scenarios. There are probably more Related Questions on UXSE, but the time you spend analyzing the problem is probably better served doing some testing instead.

How to display date and time

Date format best practise - scanning

It is good to do some research to come up with the assumptions you want to test, but don't leave it as an assumption!

  • Cool - this is just the default display, so if they're changing that up then they'll be setting how to display the year anyway. Do you have any references to back up the assertion "it is not any more or less difficult for them to distinguish between 2016 or '16"? Do we know what the effect is on cognitive load?
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 22:03
  • @Jeff It is probably a little bit difficult to back up the assertion about cognitive load because you have to interpret this in the context of the surrounding information and the tasks that the user is performing, so without further information I don't really know if I can draw appropriate references to back it up. Also, regardless of the existing literature, you still have to test the assumption that it applies to your particular case, so why not make the assumption and test it out?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 22:07
  • Yup, that's a fair call. Barring any really cool information surfacing in another answer, I'll be accepting yours anyway. Thanks!
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 22:09

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