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Most browsers use the word History to describe the most recent url we have been to and as a result I'm trying to define why its not called Recent. I've noticed most apps use "Open Recent" which is the wording I think is best to access recent searches in our web app.

The original UX design in our web app has a tab labeled "History" would it be better to change it to "Recent Searches"? Why or why not?

Maybe there's something I'm missing - thank you!

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I guess one possible reason for this confusion stems from a lack of consistency or clarity around the language and naming convention for applications, or that it is context-sensitive/dependent.

If you look at the word 'history' as a collective noun, then anything that is not in the present (i.e. that the use is currently looking at) is in the past and therefore history.

Yet if you look at the word 'history' as an action, then you could argue that it is actually an 'audit trail' that documents what the user has been doing, which means that it could be something that the user goes back to again.

Lastly, if you look at the word 'history' as a point in time, then not only does the action matter, but the time at which the action took place also matters as well.

The term 'recent' appears to just relate to a point in time, and so only actions that took place within a specific timeframe (defined as being recent) would appear.

Hope that gives you some way to think about it.

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  1. You could define history as anything in past (i.e. "the past considered as a whole" - Google), or as the documented past (i.e. historic vs. pre-historic), in which case the definition fits.

  2. If the past data is more than just the recent history, you wouldn't want to separate it (i.e. recent history vs. non-recent history pages), other than limiting the amount of data retrieved and displayed per view.

If you only, however, display the last item, the terms "previous" and "last" are much more appropriate.

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Define recent...

It's been given the term history because it happened in the past.

My recent history has https://www.stackoverflow.com but my old history shows the login page for my college registration.

Technically it should be called a log because it's logging the sites I've visited but I don't think most users would understand the concept.

  • I like the technical clarification you bring up. Thank you for sharing your insights. – patricia_c May 19 '15 at 21:07
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Just a food for thought. How about recent means current user session, and history means current session plus anything that was before unless user has cleared it.

Depending on your use case of what that tab displays exactly, you can choose the label.

I am saying session values in recent, because I want the system to be a deterministic system. The recent should not be open to perception. This will greatly add to the trust level for your user as she will definitely know when to expect what from that tab.

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