What's your timezone?

Stop asking your users for their timezone. Use per device timezone settings & Javascript instead.

By Trevor O on

Why do we care what timezone a user is in?

Well beause we have to show them dates that are relevant to them where they live. Unfortunately you hit a weird scenario where someone is traveling and they have to update their timezone settings, just because they decided to hop on a plane that week. Fortunately operating systems on laptops and mobile devices all adjust timezones automatically whenever they connect to the internet. So we have the ability to stop asking people what timezone they’re in by relying on the time on the device. Here’s a method that works well.

It turns out you can get around that problem pretty easily by always storing your date data in GMT, and making all requests AJAX requests in GMT.

We then have some view rendering to take care of. Luckily, the browser already knows what timezone the user is currently in, so we can make use of the getTimezoneOffset() function to calculate the date to display locally. We can also use either a data-time tag in an element with a class or just use the new <time> tag.

Put something like this in your view.

<time datetime="2013-07-31T05:05Z"></time>

Then ensure you have something to go through those elements and show the local time. I’m using straight javascript here, but you could easily write a jQuery plugin to do the same thing.

var times = document.getElementsByTagName('time')

function prettyTime(dateString) {
  if (!dateString)

  var d = new Date(dateString);
  return d.toDateString();

for (var i = 0; i < times.length; i++) {
  var t, d;
  t = times[i];
  d = t.getAttribute('datetime')
  t.innerHTML = prettyTime(d);

Now the GMT offset is always per device and not per account.

Check out the fiddle