In my diary iOS app, the user can search their diaries for specific texts. To avoid getting too many results, I added a "Time Range" search option. The user can select whether to only search the diaries of the last 7 days, the last 30 days, the last 365 days or not to have a limit.

If I display these options in a UISegmentedControl, like this

| Lifetime | Last 365 days | Last 30 days | Last 7 days |

They won't be able to fit on some smaller iPhone screens and will become truncated:

| Lifetime | Last... | Last 30... | Last 7 da... |

So I want to shorten them so that it fits on every iPhone screen. I thought of using "Last XXX", like this:

| Lifetime | Last year | Last month | Last week |

And it barely fits.

When the user selects "Last week", it will actually search for diaries in the last 7 days (Jun 14-20), not Jun 12-18. So will users misunderstand this? If they will, how can I change it so that there are no misunderstandings and it can fit on the screen?

  • 50
    In germany we distinguish between this and last month. So if I wanna search in june, I use this month, if I want to search in may I use last month. And neither of both is like last 30 days form me. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 7:46
  • 14
    I would be confused
    – edc65
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 8:44
  • 73
    "Will users misunderstand x" the answer is always yes, the real question is how many do and if you care about them.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 9:22
  • 26
    If this was June (any date) I would expect "Last month" to be a search in (all of) May (and excluding June completely). Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 9:23
  • 19
    If something says it will show 'last month', people will expect the range to be the last calendar month not the last 30 days.
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 9:59

10 Answers 10


|All| or last | 365 | 30 | 7 | days

  • 9
    Could also be done with a dropdown for the number of days saving a little more space. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 6:17
  • 1
    That seems like a good idea. But will people be confused if I use last month?
    – Sweeper
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 7:57
  • 2
    Should you use 'last month' ? - no. See my comment against the responses to the question.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 9:54
  • 5
    @Sweeper: some people will misunderstand it, certainly. They will expect "last month" to mean "May", not "last 30 days", and "last week" to mean either Mon-Sun or Sun-Sat, not "last 7 days". Whether they'll be confused depends whether they can figure out what's really going on. Clicking something and discovering it doesn't do what you expected does not necessarily cause confusion, just surprise. But the phrase is ambiguous in English anyway (compare "did you go last month?" to "have you been in the last month?") so they have a chance of figuring it out. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 10:17
  • 8
    perhaps Show: | All | 365d | 30d | 7d |?
    – wilson
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 7:05

Consider this:

| Past year | Past month | Past week |

This is much less likely to be misunderstood than "last year", and is a common way of presenting menus for selecting a time range. For example, the filters for Google search and Reddit's top posts use this exact wording.

  • 55
    @MJB, different terminology is a different approach.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 13:46
  • 12
    @MJB I think it's much clearer though--definitely a step in the right direction. Even in your explanation of the ambiguity you claimed that you saw with "past week", you mentioned that a user would see that as "either the last 7 days, or the actual last week"... you didn't say past week.. If someone asks "when did you go camping?" someone might respond "last month" but no one would respond "past month". "Last" is more ambiguous than "past". Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 14:08
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    @PixelSnader While using the phrase "last week" can be ambiguous, "past week" (or "past month" or whatever) implies a "rolling" period. Think of when a nurse asks questions at a hospital: "Have you traveled to a country outside the US in the past thirty days?" This is obviously a rolling 30 day period that ended today. Asking the same question "...in the past month?" means the same thing, and is unambiguous (in writing, anyway).
    – Ketura
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 20:15
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    @PixelSnader No, that is not how dictionaries define past (see 1.2), nor is it how Reddit and Google use the phrase.
    – flornquake
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:42
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    @PixelSnader [A] If I told you "For the past month and a half, my roof has been leaking," would you think I'm talking about the past ~6 weeks, or would you honestly understand that to be a month and a half before the start of this current month? [B] Google's inconsistency here, I believe, has much more to do with which of their search products you're most likely to need. "All" is always first, then they assume you're probably not looking for a map of a potato, so they hide that product in their "More" dropdown. I find this inference rather helpful. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 20:47

Given today's date, 6/20/2016, I offer my users these choices:

Today          6/20/2016
Yesterday      6/19/2016
Last 7 Days    6/14/2016 - 6/20/2016
Last 30 Days   5/22/2016 - 6/20/2016
This Month     6/1/2016 - 6/20/2016
Last Month     5/1/2016 - 5/31/2016
This Year      1/1/2016 - 6/20/2016
Last Year      1/1/2015 - 12/31/2015
All Time       First Record - 6/20/2016
Custom Range   User uses calendar

enter image description here

Upon clicking one of the choices from the list, the black bar at the top will reflect the appropriate date range.

  • 6
    This is much better than MS Outlook, where you can find things last week, but not last 7 days; why on earth would I want to search all days last week, but not Monday etc., when it is Wednesday. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 1:38
  • @MarkStewart Glad you like my implementation :). I agree, MS Outlook can certainly be screwy at times.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 12:11
  • 1
    I'd take out the "(default)" bit. It's just noise/confusing when you don't have All Time selected, and when you first load the page presumably All Time is clearly selected, so it's also redundant. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 16:56
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I'll have to consider that, thanks!
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:01
  • 1
    @MarkStewart I had this exact thing happen today (though not in Outlook) where I had to show a month of data when 7 days would have sufficed, only, not last week excluding this one.
    – ErikE
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 23:31

I would skip the 'Last' altogether and go with

Lifetime | 1 year | 30 days | 7 days

At most it would take the user one try to remember what it means, especially if you display the date range of the selected period once selected

  • Why would you not use 1 month and 1 week, but 1 year?
    – Crissov
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 12:18
  • 5
    @Crissov People are more accustomed to a rolling year, where all sorts of things are measured in years that don't necessarily start on January 1. But week and month seem to be conceived of as starting and ending on Sunday and the 1st, rather than referring to the most recent 7 or 30 days.
    – ErikE
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 23:33
  • IBTD - weeks start on Monday :) Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 18:06
  • And, of course, not all months are 30 days long. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 0:34
  • 2
    US weeks start on Sunday. Some other places start on Monday. Because otherwise it would be too easy.
    – Karen
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 10:24

A screenshot from iOS Health app:

No past or last. Simple. Understandable. Fit for smaller screens.

enter image description here

  • 4
    It is not immideately obvious to me whether "week" means the last seven days, or every day since the last Sunday, or every day since the last Monday.
    – Flimm
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 8:24
  • 1
    that's true - and I think that's why we are debating this question here, it's difficult to convey the information concisely - but in my opinion, that's all you get on a phone screen. It's true that a lot of people use iPhone 6+, but many apps still need to support iPhone 4s. I think it's totally fine for people to click into "Week" or "Month", and over there, you can detail the exact meaning of it, whether it's last seven days, or whatever.
    – Stephenye
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 19:32
  • What Flimm said is true. -1
    – EKons
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 7:40


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

The dropdown menu is a better idea, and it fits on most screens.

Also, you should include a "custom" option. You can't imagine how many people are FRUSTRATED everyday because THERE IS NO CUSTOM OPTION!

That said, the mockup is an example of a diary app with the dropdown menu.

  • There would be no need to attempt imagining if you provided data ;) Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:10
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit This is an example of a diary app. It saves daily diary notes, and you are able to access them by choosing a calendar date or writing it in the date area above the calendar selector. You can also search for notes with a specific content. The part to focus more is the drop-down at the top-left area. Yep, it is password-protected. No need to put data.
    – EKons
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:17
  • What I meant is that you said lots of people are frustrated every day that there is no custom option, but did not provide any indication of how many people are frustrated, nor any evidence to back up the claim :) Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:31
  • 1
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit That is on purpose; it just indicates I am frustrated.
    – EKons
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:34

It might be confusing at first, but the disambiguation comes quickly:

  • Showing data for the month before the current one exclusively is silly. No one would consider such a feature.
  • As soon as you click on it, you'll see what appears. You may also add the indication of the precise time range somewhere (with actual dates) after the user selects one option.

So the user may be confused for a short time, but understand how it works pretty quickly.

  • 1
    I agree that people could figure it out, but ideally we would be able to design it in such a way that it's immediately obvious and the user doesn't have to put forth any conscious effort to process the UI. I think we could do better than just betting that "the user will be able to figure it out". They shouldn't have to try. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 15:06
  • 2
    the overall meaning is immediate: filter based on a given period, with an indication of the duration of the filter. The specifics are necessarily confusing, as the wording is fuzzy. I remember very long conversations regarding the meaning of "next friday", depending on what the current day is (not in english, though).
    – njzk2
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 15:18
  • 3
    Counterpoint: I've seen software where the data shown has been exclusively the month before the current one. It's more common in internal corporate software because it's super easy to do and is valid for establishing monthly trends. Certain users would definitely have trouble parsing it. As for the second point, you should never rely on exploration. Not all users are going to want to figure out things on their own and they shouldn't have to.
    – RyNo
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:10
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    I've used software (eg. my bank's account-activity listing) that interprets "last month" as the most recent complete month, and "last week" as the previous Sunday-to-Saturday period. Maybe you consider "the month before the current one" as silly, but it's hardly a universal sentiment.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 22:58
  • 1
    The point is, software does the damnedest things, and users have peculiar expectations of what software is going to do. If it's Tuesday, and the user does a search for "Last Week", and the system displays results for the preceding Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the user's preconceptions of the system's design are not challenged (unless she happens to know that there were things that should have been displayed, but weren't). Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 0:31

Be clear

Here's an example of this type of control from a business intel app I worked on. This is used like a semented control across the top of various reports and Dashboard widgets.

Quick date range selector

What you've described may fit your space, but it's semantically incorrect. If it's June and your date control is labeled Last month, that clearly means May.

What you're looking for is a way to communicate rolling dates. Expected terminology can change from one industry to the next. As with any facet of your app, you'll want to do some research into what users expect these labels to be.

General terminology

Date modifiers

  • Prev [# of x]
    "[# of x] before today"

  • Last [# of x]
    "The last [# of x] including today"

  • Rolling [# of x]
    Same as above

  • [Period] to date
    "Days within the period up to today"


On Tuesday, 21 June 2016:

Since: | birth | June 2015 | 20 May | Wednesday |

Here are my alternative suggestions:

Since: | 0 | Jun’15 | 20May | Wed |
From: | start | year ago | month ago | week ago |

Only: | Past | Past year | Past month | Past week |
Only: | Past | … year | … month | … week |
Only: | Any | A year | A month | A week |
Only: | All | 1 year | 1 month | 1 week |

In many scenarios, this or present may be used for Monday through today, 1st through today or 1 January through today.

Previous year, previous month, previous week would most likely mean 1 January through 31 December, 1st through last day of May, Monday through Sunday for most people.

You could also use a slider with two selectors for start and end, and indicators (or snap locations) for week, month or year boundaries as appropriate


Use "past year, past month, past week." If you say "last year" and it was 2016, users assume you mean 2015. Using the word "past" implies that you mean rolling days, thus making it much more understandable. The same thing applies for months and weeks.

  • What does this offer over the answer that said the same thing 4 days earlier? Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 5:54

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