I'm working on a tool that allows a user, with proper permissions, to view the "diff" between a staging and production release for a device configuration.

I know GitHub has a "diff" concept that allows someone to see the changes within a piece of code, but I don't think this label is very intuitive.

Are there better or other labels for this concept? My thoughts:

  • It could be better to show the last change as a link than trying to come up with a "catch all" label.
  • "Diff" seems like a label that requires pre-requisite knowledge that my audience may not have.

Sample Wireframe

Wireframe with "View Change Set"

  • The label is very intuitive to the appropriate audience. Who is your audience and what is their (not your) perception of the term? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diff – Evil Closet Monkey Jun 5 '14 at 23:38
  • These are business users (e.g., product owners, etc.) who may be technical but using "diff" to indicate the difference between two states (staging, release) seems overly technical. – erik_lev Jun 6 '14 at 1:55
  • "Staging" and "release" are also used in the technical fields, but it sounds like you are using them in a different context. Can you give an example of the process and the "product" being sent through it? – Evil Closet Monkey Jun 6 '14 at 3:51
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    Sure, but not sure why you're going with "product". The product allows a vendor to push updates to a device; however, the updates must be saved (staging) and published (release). As a product owner, I want the ability to view the difference between staging and release. Does that help? – erik_lev Jun 6 '14 at 5:23

The term "diff" comes from a program developed in the 1970s. This is why people may consider it a technical term specific to IT.

Having said that, I think most people will quickly figure out that "diff" is short for difference. If you want to speed up this realization then you can reinforce the concept of what the diff function does by adding an icon that evokes the idea of comparison. Something with 2 pages and a magnifying glass should do the trick. Quick example I found is this:

enter image description here

If you still aren't keen on using the term "diff", you could refer to it as a "change set" (your user is releasing a set of changes coming from staging). So your link for the user wanting to view the diff would be "View Change Set".

  • Interesting that you came up with "Change Set". I wouldn't have thought of that! Do you think "View Changes" would be too, well, generic? – erik_lev Jun 6 '14 at 21:20
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    "View Changes" is not inappropriate at all, especially since that is what you're actually doing. Having a label tell the user what is actually happening is always a better route. Realize that "diff" is that way because typing anything longer on a command line sucks. That isn't a problem with a 1-click button. – Evil Closet Monkey Jun 6 '14 at 22:39
  • But users are viewing the changes made along with the difference between staging and release. Why would "View Changes" not be appropriate in that context? A product owner wants to understand if there are any CHANGES that occurred along with the DIFFERENCE. Are you saying that the "diff" abbreviation came about due to the command line? If so, I wonder if people haven't bothered changing the label because of its legacy. – erik_lev Jun 7 '14 at 0:13
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    @usingtheinternet View Changes is perfectly fine if the change set only covers a single config file. If you are reviewing changes to multiple files then I think that "change set" is a little better at conveying the idea that clicking that button really allows the user to view all changes that will be applied. – Franchesca Jun 7 '14 at 11:52
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    @usingtheinternet, I think you misread my comment. I said it was "not inappropriate" - my bad for a double negative, but I'm saying "View Changes" is good. Yes - "diff" came from the command line and the abbreviation has become a common shorthand when looking at code changes. – Evil Closet Monkey Jun 7 '14 at 14:27

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