I feel kind of silly asking this but I'm having a real problem coming up a reasonable term for Read Only mode or Not Edit mode.

Pictures to explain my problem...

If the user wants to edit information in my site they hit the Edit button.

enter image description here

If users are in Edit mode and want to Save or Cancel changes to the data on the screen I give them Save and Cancel buttons.

enter image description here

So far so good. It's very clear to the users whats going on.

Now here comes the problem.

In Edit mode some pages automatically commit/save your changes as you make them so there is no cancelling your actions. The users requested this and to avoid confusion after getting questions about why the Cancel button doesn't cancel changes, I disable the button.This means if they want to leave Edit mode they have to hit Save, which doesn't do anything because the changes have already been saved. But to the less experienced user that means I'm committing whatever I've done and there's no turning back.

enter image description here

Now I'm getting complaints about having to hit Save even though they haven't changed anything. I don't disagree with the users on this but what do I do? I want to replace the Save and Cancel buttons that are lies with a button that communicates you're leaving Edit mode.

I considered use words like...

  • Read Only
  • View

but I feel like these are either too technical for my users or doesn't describe well what action you're taking by clicking the button.

What should I use as the text for the button?

Would it make more sense to use an icon? If so what?

Note: Changing the live editing functionality to make Save and Cancel relevant isn't an option.


To be a bit more specific I have 2 connected lists (I'm using Jquery's Connected list example for pictures but ours is a more complicated custom control)

enter image description here

The user starts with 2 lists and wishes to add information from the left to the right. Each time they add an item we save the change per their request.

enter image description here

So once they have finished adding things to their list, their list is already saved.

In the Read only view all they wanted was the right list and it can't be changed only viewed.

So I need a button to convey you're just going back to the Read only list view.

  • would something like this work? -- codepen.io/run-time/pen/yyJMKQ
    – DaveAlger
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:24
  • @DaveAlger Nice Fancy button. I have some third party restrictions on my project so I'll have to see about the GoogleAPIs stuff but I like it. :)
    – Dan
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:44
  • 1
    the button takes up a lot of space and isn't practical at all. i would only consider using it in a fun light-hearted app (or a fun light-hearted answer)
    – DaveAlger
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:46

2 Answers 2


How about a single toggle between EDIT and DONE ?


Hopefully you will be able to inform the user when changing their data soon.

For future reference, I like how Google doesn't make the user explicitly commit changes and instead offers an easy way to go back...

enter image description here

  • That doesn't address my problem of what to call the button that brings you out of edit. And though it would be great idea for an enhancement in the future I'm disallowed from making any flow or functional changes to this page. I need a button label that tells my users you're going back to the read only view. Which is a different page that displays the same data without text-boxes or other controls.
    – Dan
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:06
  • There is no way to inform the user that you saved a change they made?
    – DaveAlger
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:07
  • I can't give screen shots of the page in question but I'll create a quick mock up and update my question.
    – Dan
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:11
  • That seems reasonable if they've been moving things around in edit mode. But my users (their great by the way have I mentioned how easy they always make my life) will hit edit, decided they didn't actually want to do anything and then want to leave. I know that hitting save doesn't do anything but they think "Why hit save when I haven't changed anything". And no matter how many times I tell them it just brings them to read only, a few days will go by and they complain. So now my boss has made it my problem to convey this point more clearly though renaming the buttons.
    – Dan
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:24
  • 2
    then perhaps DONE instead of save?
    – DaveAlger
    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:26

How about an open and close? You Open the page for editing and close it to leave. I have worked on several CMS that use this method.

Or can they just be in edit mode all the time? Seems the simplest to me. No need for buttons.

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