So while the Gmail revamp has been good on many fronts, I believe they have made a booboo.
One thing that confuses me, is that earlier when I try to add a birth date to a contact of mine it just had dropdowns to choose the date, month and year.
But now, I need to put in the data into a single text box. And when I do so in a sensible manner, it tells me it cannot recognise the date! The date I used is ’23 September, 1981′.
The error Google throws me is:
This date wasn’t understood. It will be added to your calendar if you correct it.
So I tried putting the date in as ’23/09/1981′. That didn’t work either.
Usability problem with Google's Birthdate input feature.
Okay, you win. Why don’t you then tell me the correct input format, if you do want me to put in the date in a very particular way? Well?
Well, Google doesn’t do that. It won’t tell me the correct way to put in the date.
I finally figured it out. It takes date only in the ‘MM/DD/YYYY’ or ‘Month Date, Year’ formats. Hmm.
In situations when you are designing for the full range of folks that use the internet (and if you are Google you sure are!), fault tolerance is a must. This would mean allowing users to enter values in a variety of formats with the onus being on Google to correctly interpret the input. The user shouldn’t need to set the ‘locale’ or any such options elsewhere for this to work!
In the case where it’s just not efficient to build such fault tolerance, give the user an easily recognizable input format. A good example of this would be to use select dropdowns for day, month and time. This ensures that there is clear communication between the system and the user on how the input dates.
A lot of the comments I’m getting center around how Google has standardised on the US date format and that it’s ok as most users are from the US. I decided to dig deeper, and statistics seem to say otherwise!
According to New Media Trend Watch’s World Usage Patterns & Demographics, only 14.4% of the total online population was from the US in 2009. So while US has a high internet penetration percentage, it forms only a small percentage of online users. This is a big reason for not designing for the US population alone, but to use international formats or at least allow for multiple formats to co-exist in design.