Everyone who’s ever messed around with dates knows that they are terribly user-hostile — not only for software developers, but also for users. True, users will be able to tell you their date of birth or today’s date without trouble, but ask them to fill them out in a web form and they will encounter problems.
Month first, day first, or year first? And what about slashes, dashes, and other separators? Usually the website engineer has a strong personal preference and enforces it religiously upon unsuspecting users with stern and incomprehensible error messages in a lurid shade of red that are too tiny for anyone over 25 to read.
In theory, there’s a solution to this problem:
<input type=”date”>. It offers a special interface for picking dates, and it enforces a standard format for the value that’s sent to the server. Better still, the mobile browsers support it.
Here’s a test page for
<input type=”date”>and a few related types. Remember that some don’t work in some browsers.
I think it’s time that we trust browser vendors a bit more. The days of useless features for the sake of having a longer feature list are long gone. Nowadays, browser vendors try to add features that are actually useful for users, and are actually implemented by web developers. If a browser says it supports
<input type=”date”>, you should trust it to deliver a decent experience to its users. If it says it does not, and only in that case, you should use a custom widget instead.