I recently signed up to Vitaly from Smashing Mag’s Smart Interface Design Patterns newsletter. This latest edition regarding “date of birth” inputs was interesting, and well timed as my work colleagues and I are about to revisit our form patterns. It’s a nice explainer on why we should approach UI for dates the user knows differently from UI for dates the user will choose.
Vitaly recommends that when asking the user for a very specific date that they already know without needing to consult a calendar, drop-downs and calendar look-ups are unnecessary. And avoiding them is probably ideal, because
<input type=date> and
<select> based interfaces have some usability and accessibility kinks, as do many date-picker libraries.
It’s better to rely on three simple, adjacent text input fields with a label above each field. See GOV.UK’s Date input component for a great example.
Date pickers should only be required when you’re asking for a date that the user will choose (say, booking a holiday or appointment) rather than one they’ll know. Vitaly doesn’t recommend a date picker, but I reckon the date-picker web component from the clever folks behind the Duet Design System could be a good option.
Oh, and this also reminds me that I need to get the finger out and pick up a copy of Adam Silver’s Form Design Patterns.