This morning the development team was discussing the merits of auto-save (as opposed to only saving user inputs after clicking on a Save button. This is a summary of what I think.
There are several popular approaches to saving user inputted data but there's no obvious winner.
- People say when you are designing an application, you need to be consistent, but is that what people are doing (see examples below)?
- Should we only use Autosave when you want to help the user focus on producing great content without worrying about whether their data is safe and saved?
- Is the save button considered a distraction?
- When I stop typing, did the system "hear" me? Am I sure the auto-save is functioning?
ExamplesLet's take a look at several examples:
1. Medium - https://medium.com/ - Autosave with Revision
In my opinion, Medium is the best autosave application I've ever used. The whole application is consistent, from blog editor to user profile setting.
I noticed that if you press the most common save shortcut "Cmd/Ctrl + S", the editor will start saving and feedback on the navigation bar will appear immediately
Profile settings at Medium
Revision history of my story
2. Jira https://jira.atlassian.com - Save Button + Inline Save Button
The Development Team has started to use Jira to manage our tasks and projects. In my opinion the editing function is very unique. It uses an inline save button when it's an addition of short info - like a title.
And for the whole issue (article), it uses a Save Button
3. Trello https://trello.com/ - Autosave + Save Button
This might be one of the most interesting UI because it mixes autosave and a save button and you can press "Enter" on the editor to save - even though there's a save button.
I thought the options were based on single or multiple line editors, but after digging into the UI, I realized it's not just content length. Maybe they thought checklist items are more serious so they just added a Save Button next to it.
Here is what I learned (I hope it's helpful in future decision making around how to best save user content):
* There's no "Best" UI/UX in application design. A consistent UI doesn't always mean the best UX.
* If your document-based editor is using autosave, build a revision system together.
* Always think about your interaction model
- How long is the content that is being edited ? Just 160 characters or your Ph.D. dissertation?
- What will happen after saving? e.g. Will it send an email to 10,000 friends or publish to the world?
- Where do we display system feedback? A popup or just one line of text like Gmail's "Saved"
- Can the user easily undo what's been set?
Let me know what you think.