User Experience Newsletter #7, May 2005

Dear User Experience Forum,

today’s the day of no confusion. Today, it does not matter what day format your computer happens to display – anywhere. It is quite clear. Today is 05-05-05 or 05/05/05 or 05.05.05, as you like. It is even 050505 for those of us who try to fool the alphanumeric sorting order of file listings.

All those digits work perfectly well as long as the meaning of each number is clear. Problem is that the semantics does not travel as easy around the world as the numbers do, and each country and language has its own conventions.

Context and common sense often help to identify the year. Computers lack this insight which resulted in the Y2K problem. (I can resist to comment on this acronym right now.) Just spending two additional digits would significantly increase clarity: 2005 is a year, pretty sure.

What about the other guys? More than half of the time we are able to decipher what is month and what is day. A value larger than 12 needs to be the day of month. The remaining 12 days bear uncertainty. If we change the representation for the month to the actual name of the month all falls into place – the reader does no longer have to guess on the meaning.

I do not want to argue that short forms for dates are not useful at all. My point is that far too often dates are used without care. Without keeping the recipients in mind who will read the message somewhere and sometime. Do not make it harder for them than it needs to be.

Today is the 5th of May, 2005.


Matthias Müller-Prove

User Experience Forum on Xing

User Experience Forum



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