How to Select A Date Field Type in Web Forms?


ActiveForms offers 2 ways to present a date field—with a calendar:

or as three selection fields:

When should each one be used? In theory, there is no difference and you can use them interchangeably. In real life, however, each one is filled in differently, and ergonomics requires that you select the presentation type carefully.

In short, the calendar is better for specifying dates close to the current date. When the calendar is displayed, you can see the current month and it takes a single click to specify a date. That is why the calendar is perfect for contact forms in the “suggested appointment date” field. Most users will want to specify a date in the near future, which is immediately available.

The day-month-year selector field works better with more distant dates. A classic example is the date of birth. It takes three clicks to specify the exact date, without having to open the calendar.

The calendar is also useful when:

  • the choice of the date depends on the week day (e.g. in holiday planners);
  • the user doesn’t know the date in advance (for example when making a medical appointment or arranging a meeting) and presenting the month view can be helpful.

Historical dates and fixed ones (like dates of birth) are, of course, not among those cases.

In some special cases there can be other clues for selecting date field types. For example, if you know that form field values are often filled with Copy & Paste operations, it is better to use a Date Picker field, which—apart from the calendar feature—is a regular text field.

And why would you go to such lengths—as usual for usability that supports conversions!

recent posts
3rd Apr 2014
Faster than ever!
5th Dec 2013
Live validation!
2nd Dec 2013
Features distilled
12th Mar 2012
Flicking Channels
26th Jan 2012
Your Own Error Page
9th May 2011
Box Properties
15th Apr 2011
Grouping Fields
13th Apr 2011
Form Versioning
24th Feb 2011
Form Access Modes
22nd Feb 2011
Required Fields
4th Feb 2011