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Simplifying Date Data Entry with Calendars, Part I

Create a visual calendar metaphor to allow users to enter dates in the format your application requires.




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here are numerous reasons why building data entry forms can cause an ASP developer headaches. If you are building a form that captures a date (for example, a date of birth for a sign-up form, or even a project's beginning and ending dates for a more complicated form), you know that the odds are high of getting inaccurate data if you leave it to the user to fill in the date in a text box. Users can enter dates as mm/dd/yyyy, dd/mm/yyyy, or even as mmm, dd yyyy. Abbreviations and punctuations are further opportunity for inconsistency.

Trying to replace a single text box date entry with three drop down combo boxes is even worse. The user now has to click and select one year, one month, and one day, which offers too much opportunity for users to misenter their data. It may be easier to program, but it is a usability nightmare.

The best interface for entering dates in a form is to click-and-select dates from a pop-up or to use a drop-down calendar a la Microsoft Outlook. This gives the user a visual metaphor to select the dates, which cuts down on errors.

This is the first of two solutions that will help you program such date entry techniques. In this first installment, we will produce the calendar page that is used to select dates. Next month, we will tie it together with the data entry page.

The most common ways of collecting dates via HTML forms opens too many opportunities for miskeyed data or inconsistent date formats, requiring additional validation code on the server.

Allow users to pick dates from a visual calendar metaphor.

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