Display a “Pretty” Post Date

On services like Twitter and Facebook you’ll see content that was posted “posted X minutes ago” or “posted X days ago”. I like that. I think it’s bit more personalized than simply using the long form date (e.g. December 27th, 2012).

On one of my sites I know display the post dates as a human time diff (aka, a human readable format) if the post is less than a month old. If it’s older than I month, I use the standard date format selected inside the WordPress dashboard under “Settings > General : Date Format” (in my case Month Day, Year).

The Code Snippet

if ( ! function_exists( 'example_posted_on' ) ) :
 * Prints HTML with meta information for the current post-date/time and author.
 * @since Example 1.0
function example_posted_on() {
	$post_date = the_date( 'Y-m-d','','', false );
	$month_ago = date( "Y-m-d", mktime(0,0,0,date("m")-1, date("d"), date("Y")) );
	if ( $post_date > $month_ago ) {
		$post_date = sprintf( __( '%1$s ago', 'example' ), human_time_diff( get_the_time('U'), current_time('timestamp') ) );
	} else {
		$post_date = get_the_date();
	printf( __( 'Posted <time class="entry-date" datetime="%1$s" pubdate>%2$s</time><span class="byline"> by <span class="author vcard">%3$s</span></span>', 'example' ),
		esc_attr( get_the_date( 'c' ) ),
		esc_html( $post_date ),
		esc_html( get_the_author() )



Use a Function

Instead of adding this code to each template where I need to display the date, I’ve wrapped it in the function “example_posted_on” so I can reuse and easily update it if needed. Whenever I need to call the date, I just use example_posted_on().

Since this is used in a theme of mine, I’ve wrapped it in a “if ( ! function_exists( ‘example_posted_on’ ) ) :” check so someone can easily override it from a child theme if they need to.

Compare the Timestamps

To check if the date of the post is older than a month, I generate a timestamp to compare with the one from the post:

$month_ago = date( "Y-m-d", mktime(0,0,0,date("m")-1, date("d"), date("Y")) );

You could easily change this to be to any time period you want and compare those timestamps instead.

Make Sure it is Translatable

If you’re wondering why the strings are wrapped in “sprintf” and “printf”, that’s so everything can be translated if someone wants to localize the theme for a different language. Make sure to change the textdomain “example” to whatever you’ve defined as the textdomain in your theme.

Be Careful of Caching

If your site makes use of heavy caching (W3C Total Cache, and/or a good CDN) your post “day” may get stuck for a while. If it’s included as part of a publicly released theme you may want to give users an option to turn it off and use the regular date instead.

Another option (in that case), would be to use javascript to look for the post date, and convert it to a human readable format on front end instead- but that’s probably fodder for another post.

About Devin

I am a developer based in Austin, Texas. I run a little theme shop called DevPress and help manage a WooCommerce shop with Universal Yums. Find me on twitter @devinsays.

8 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing Devin. Regarding the cache issue, can we not create a transient to save the details and if its old to create a new one that expires every 24 hours?

      1. My bad, I just did a quick scan of the Special note on the codex. I mean to say, get_the_date(); is preferred in some cases (not depreciated!).

        With that in mind, I could only get your function to work by changing to get_the_date(); instead.


  2. Dean

    Hey Devin,

    this thing is great. Now I’ve one question to this one: If I want to change get_author to the_author_posts_link to get him linked the link+author will be shown before this message. How can I use the linked author on this thing?

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