English is not my native language but "show" and "display" seems very similar to me. I work on a Web Application and I don't know if it's better to use "show" or "display" in my UI.

I need to use these terms inside links and buttons. Are there any differences between them ?

Example : I have to add a link next to the name (in my grid header) in order to display the user's capacity.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Is-it better to use Display, Show or just leave the "Capacity" alone ?

  • 1
    What is the context you will be using this term in? Some terms may be preferable over others depending on where they're used and what function they're carrying out.
    – JonW
    Feb 24, 2014 at 11:42
  • 1
    @JonW I added an example ;)
    – Alex
    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:14
  • what will happen when a user clicks on show/display capacity link? is it going to display the values (34, 25 and 8) listed below?
    – Awesh
    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:28
  • @Awesh It shows others numbers not in the page. I don't know how to display them yet. Probably with a discreet tooltip/pop-up.
    – Alex
    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:37
  • 1
    @Alex ok, and what is capacity? and how much data are you going to show? you can represent capacity by an icon, different color for different capacity status and that icon can have tooltip.
    – Awesh
    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:51

6 Answers 6


I think "show" is better for a link that provides the user additional information in the same interface, upon clicking. The word pair "show" and "hide" are more active/dynamic, while "display" is more static. For example, if I'm showing you a book, I'm revealing it or directing your attention to it, but if I'm displaying it, I've just set it out for people to observe passively.

From the Macmillan online thesaurus:

show: verb - to let someone see something

display: verb - to put something in a particular place so that people can see it easily


While english isn't my native language as well, I think "show" and "display" are both used in a very similar context of "revealing" more information for a specific object.

Revealing information on the other hand is one of the most frequently needed features for almost every UI. That said, my experience is that well designed intuitive UIs don't need to make use of the terms (= labels) "show" or "display" at all by instead providing standardized link decoration (colors, boxes, hovers...) or just buttons that are used in conjunction with the particular placeholder information leading to the more detailed information. For example guess a list of user names that can be directly clicked to let their profile appear.

When referring to information that is primarily a 2nd-choice click or - explained differently: loosely coupled with the current context (or content, task, whatever) - it may be the better way to extend the labels information with what's going to be shown, like Show Product Details, Display User Stats or just Show All Friends.


It all depends on the action its going to perform. Approaching from users view "show", "display" or "view" all mean the same.

Be specific on the action it performs because users don't read UI text—they scan it. When scanning a window, users may appear to be reading text when in reality they are filtering it.


If one were to strictly answer your question (title), it doesn't matter - use either. To nitpick, use Show - it's shorter, has no below the line letters, will look neater when repeatedly shown in a list.

With the context in your question's description, I would suggest not using any prefix. Simply Capacity shown as a link that opens a tooltip / modal / whatever... is suitable.

Basically, convey the point in the most concise manner.

If an icon like this helps, great. If not, Capacity is just fine.


English is not my native language but "show" and "display" seems very similar to me.

English happens to be my native language, so I guess I'll voice my tenured opinion.

In most situations on the internet for a website, "show" would be the best term to use.

I really can't think of any reason to use "display" instead of "show" when you're talking about making something visible on a website. I never see the term "display" used on websites.

As an example... this jquery feature is called .show() , not .display() http://api.jquery.com/show


Actually web UI design is not my area, though, I recommend you to use "Show capacity" than others. For me it was very clear when I imagine browsing your site via mobile devices. A tooltip, usually read-only and instant, close to 'Show'. By the way, I also agree with prior answers about using the well-representing icon instead. (Please use more icons for that small mobile screen..)

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