Date formats

Relative dates

Use relative dates when a general understanding of sequence is sufficient to communicate meaning. Use absolute dates when precision is needed, for example in logging or supporting an exact understanding of an event sequence.

Tooltips – Use tooltips over relative dates that show the localised day of the week, date, time, and timezone of the event.

Printing – Relative dates lose their meaning when printed. Use CSS media rules to display an absolute date when printed.

Permalinks – Note that both relative and absolute dates can serve as the affordance for permanent links to a timestamped item.

Internationalization – There are many international date formats. Our intention is to use formats that are concise yet easy to understand.

Past events

Time of event Displayed value
Within the last few seconds Just now
Within 59 minutes x minutes ago
Within 60 minutes 1 hour ago
x hours ago x hours ago
1 day ago (by date, not hours) Yesterday
2 days ago < 7 days x days ago
7 days ago 1 week ago
> 7 days ago Datestamp: i.e. "20 Dec 2013"

Future events

Time of event Displayed value
Within the next few seconds Now
In the next minute In 1 minute
In the next 60 minutes In x minutes
In 60 minutes In 1 hour
In x hours In x hours
In 1 day (by date, not hours) Tomorrow
In 2 to 7 days In x days
In 7 days In 1 week
In > 7 days Datestamp: i.e. "20 Dec 2013"

Absolute dates

Below are three alternatives for displaying date and time information at several levels of granularity.

Granularity Displayed value
Date only 20 Dec 2013
Date + time 20 Dec 2013 11:34PM
Date + time + timezone 20 Dec 2013 3:31AM GST