[whatwg] Re: several messages

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Feb 7 14:44:55 PST 2005

On Mon, 7 Feb 2005, Matthew Raymond wrote:
> Ian Hickson wrote:
> > On Fri, 4 Feb 2005, [iso-8859-1] Christoph Päper wrote:
> > 
> > > > Indeed. Three <select>s are reasonably good UI,
> > > 
> > > They are easy for the programmer, but ask any usability expert: he 
> > > will (perhaps even strongly) advice against them, because 
> > > (alpha-)numerical input into /one/ field in ones accustomed format 
> > > is much faster and easier. A (very) good online ticketing PoS 
> > > date/time input thus has to understand "2/3" = "3.2." = "Feb 3rd" = 
> > > "3 Feb." = "02-03" = "w05-4" = "034" = "first Thursday in February", 
> > > "next Thursday afternoon", "2nite", "asap" etc.p.p. (in an English 
> > > speaking environment; defaulting to the next possible year, month, 
> > > week, day, hour).
> > 
> > And a mind-reading UI that can tell the user's intent without the user 
> > having to explicitly put it into words would presumably be even 
> > better.
> >
> > Authors cannot be expected to implement everything you just described, 
> > especially because it is in fact impossible to determine the intent 
> > sometimes (for example, what date is 05/02/07?).
> First of all, you need to apologize to Christoph for your sarcastic tone.


> Second, you missed what he's trying to say. He's saying that people use 
> the three select solution not because it's more usable, but because it's 
> a pain to deal with input from a textbox.

That certainly isn't what I understood from his message.

I disagree that that is the reason <select>s are used for date input.

I disagree with the assertion that text input is more accessible and 
usable than three <select>s. Indeed, if it was, I wouldn't be worried 
about the fact that type="date" has poor fallback, since by that argument 
it would in fact have good fallback.

A simple text box is IMHO hard to use because, without a suggested format, 
the user has no guidance as to what to enter. Since users have been 
conditioned to only provide data in the Correct Format, the user is more 
likely to be confused by an empty text field than by three clear drop-down 
widgets containing what are obviously days, months and years.

> Webmasters will want to move to a datepicker because it provides better 
> usability than the three <select> elements while offering similar 
> usability to a textbox.
> However, they won't want the fallback to be a textbox because of the 
> programming difficulties in specific situations.

Handling free-form input for dates isn't that hard if you are willing to 
reject anything that doesn't match a given format. You can even suggest 
one format and accept a number of other popular formats, assuming that you 
only accept unambiguous formats.

It is extremely hard to do, however, if you are not willing to reject 
data, since then you have to be able to determine the meaning of dates 
like 05-02-07 (this is an actual date).

> So the very solution that solves their usability problems, <input 
> type="date">, burns them in the legacy scenario.

I agree that <input type="date"> has a poor fallback story. I just haven't 
seen any proposals that have fewer problems.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

More information about the whatwg mailing list