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Veronica Wong

Stop being fancy with date pickers

March 1, 2013

Let’s consider this question: What is your birthday? Pretty simple right? Most web experiences that ask your birthday will probably look like this.

Date Picker

Pretty straight forward and easy to use. Click the drop down and select the month, date, and year (though not necessarily in that order). You can even tab through the inputs and use your keyboard to quickly fill that out (sometimes with a little trial and error due to month/date/year being in different orders or using words vs. numbers).

And then once in a while of these pops up on a form:

Date Picker

These are misleading. On the surface, you think it’ll be an input where you can type in your birth date manually. Upon clicking or tabbing into the field, a calendar picker pops up. I can see the value in having a calendar date picker for some things, such as selecting travel dates, but the context is the key. When it comes to birth dates, using a calendar that incorporates three different input methods (in this case, drop downs and date selection or entering into the input directly), takes longer than the simple three drop down menus. It doesn’t allow for easy tab through and it provides more options than the user needs. I know my own birthday, I don’t need the context of a monthly calendar to input it. I also don’t really need the two arrows provided because it would take me forever to click it month to month to find October 1988 (most of these calendars start at today’s date/month – which is also irrelevant!). As for the manual input, I don’t know what order they want the info. Month first? Date first? Year first?

And then I found this beauty today:

Date Picker animation

I had to click the input field, use the arrows to filter through the pages of years going backwards, find the year and select it, find and select the month, find and select the date. There were so many barriers that stood in my way to fill out something as simple as my birth date. (Sidebar: Why as for a birth date and then provide options for years in the future? Unless time travel exists, I’m pretty sure no one’s birth date is in 2019.)

Stop being fancy with your date pickers! Yes calendars look pretty and it gives the context of a “date”, but they are not always necessary and can even slow your user down. Sometimes the simple solution (like three drop down menus) is the easiest.

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