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Guide: How to Set Display Date and Time
We run into them dates and time … well, every day. When it comes to the web, you can get them in your mobile apps, in emails, in your messaging apps, and many other places. But despite seeing the date and time every day and everywhere, we have yet to adopt a universal format for it.
For example, if I write 10/5/2015, you can never be sure if that “10” is the month or the date unless I tell you where I’m from. Sometimes the format changes, sometimes the language changes.
It is important that we as web developers pay attention to the date and time we deal with in our projects so that we give them to different geographic inhabitants without any conflict. In this post we will discuss what to avoid and what to embrace when it comes to displaying date-time.back to menu ↑
Let’s say we don’t want to convert and show different date and time formats to different viewers around the world, what can we do? We choose one global format and stick to it. This is where some standards come into play. Before we get into that, I have to advise W3C that we use the ISO 8601 date format with UTC time zone.
ISO 8601 describes an internationally accepted way of displaying dates and times using numbers.
And the format for the full date is; YYYY-MM-DD, for example: July 28, 2015
YYYY = 4-digit year MM = 2-digit month (01 = January, etc.) DD = 2-digit day (01 to 31)
For full date time;YYYY-MM-DDThh: mm: ss.s, for example: 2015-07-28T21: 15: 18.45
T = to separate date and time according to ISO 8601 mm = 2-digit minute (00 to 59) ss = 2-digit second (00 to 59) s = Decimal fraction of a second, 1 or more digits
Note that since no time zone is mentioned in the example above, it must be assumed that the time is in the local time zone. If you decided to use UTC time zone, just add Z to the value indicating UTC
For example: 2015-07-28T21: 15: 18.45Z
But if you want to display the local time, you can use a time zone offset for UTC to the value in + hh: mm or -hh: mm formats as needed.
For example: Let’s assume -07-28T21: 15: 18.45 falls in the Eastern Standard Time (EST) time zone, which is 5 hours behind UTC time.
To display it with UTC offset we write 2015-07-28T21: 15: 18.45-05: 00 which is equal to UTC time-07-29T02: 15: 18.45Z.
Again Z was added to indicate that the date displayed is in UTC time.back to menu ↑
UTC versus GMT
They are both the same but different. By now you have probably encountered GMT at least once; during setting up the date-time in your mobile phone or computer. It is the most popular time zone recognized worldwide since it has existed longer than UTC.
Some might say that they are both the same, but they are not, UTC is a successor to GMT and maintained by the International Telecommunications Union. It is recommended to refer to time based on UTC and not GMT.back to menu ↑
Use the name of the months
The ISO standard only used numbers in the representation of the date to avoid language conflicts. However, if the content of your web application is in English, consider writing months in English instead of numbers.
Instead, July 28, July 28, is easier for many to understand and less confusing.back to menu ↑
There are times when we want to be very specific with our services and display the date and time in local time zones and languages. There are many libraries and APIs available for web developers to list the dates and times according to the access region.
Daylight Saving Time (DST)
In some countries, daylight saving time is done by advancing the clocks one hour in the summer to make use of the extra available sunlight. Take daylight saving time into account up with local times in your services.back to menu ↑
Not a two-digit year
When adjusting the date and time for localization, never use the two-digit format for the year. We are already in the 21st century. Using years like 64, 99 etc. will be tricky in the future. If you already have a two-digit year, consider changing this.back to menu ↑
Leap year and other calendars
Let’s end this post with some things to remember when dealing with dates. If you don’t use a library or API for dates and like to deal with it yourself (that is not recommended nevertheless), do not forget to include February 29 in the entry for the leap years.
It’s also worth noting that the The Gregorian calendar is not the only calendar format available and used all over the world. Few regional calendars follow the locals, especially when it comes to festivities.back to menu ↑
- International Telecommunications Union: Status of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) study in ITU-R
- ISO: ISO 8601 – Date and time format
- Wikipedia: Coordinated Universal Time
- Wikipedia: summer time
- Wikipedia: Greenwich Mean Time
- W3C Note: Date and time formats
- W3C Tips: Use international date format (ISO)
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