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2:8 Display Information in a Directly Usable Format

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 3 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


General User Experience


Display data and information in a format that does not require conversion by the user.


Present information to users in the most useful and usable format possible. Do not require users to convert or summarize information in order for it to be immediately useful. It is best to display data in a manner that is consistent with the standards and conventions most familiar to users.

To accommodate a multinational Web audience, information should be provided in multiple formats (e.g., centigrade and Fahrenheit for temperatures) or the user should be allowed to select their preferred formats (e.g., the 12-hour clock for American audiences and the 24-hour clock for European audiences).

Do not require users to convert, transpose, compute, interpolate, or translate displayed data into other units, or refer to documentation to determine the meaning of displayed data.


  • Ahlstrom, V. & Longo, K. (2001). Human factors design guide update (Report number DOT/FAA/CT-96/01): A revision to chapter 8 - computer human interface guidelines. Retrieved November 2005, from http://acb220.tc.faa.gov/technotes/dot_faa_ct-01_08.pdf
  • Casner, S.M. & Larkin, J.H. (1989, August). Cognitive efficiency considerations for good graphic design. Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • Galitz, W.O. (2002). The Essential Guide to User Interface Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Gerhardt-Powals, J. (1996). Cognitive engineering principles for enhancing human-computer performance. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 8(2), 189-211.
  • Navai, M., Guo, X., Caird, J.K., & Dewar, R.E. (2001). Understanding of prescription medical labels as a function of age, culture, and language. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1487-1491.
  • Smith, S.L. & Mosier, J.N. (1986, August). Guidelines for designing user interface software. The MITRE Corporation Technical Report (ESD-TR-86-278).

Good Example:

Recognize that there is a difference between the data units used in science and medicine and those used generally. Data should be presented in the generally-accepted manner of the intended audience - in this case, pounds and ounces.


Displaying time in a 24-hour clock format is not suitable for U.S. civilian audiences.