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We have a system where a user can view database records in a GUI application. The main purpose of the GUI is for creating and editing these records.

We are now developing a feature whereby a user can create a record that is a copy of another. The main purpose of creating a copy is to use the original record as a starting point for a different record. In general, it is not appropriate for there to be two identical records in the database.

But we are not sure how to label the button for doing this. What do you think would be the best label for this button, and why?

  • "Save As"
  • "Clone"
  • "Create Copy"
  • <something else>

I'm leaning toward "Clone", but I don't have a reason other than it 'feels' more right to me than "Save As". When I hear "save as", I think of documents, not database records.

I'm looking for solid reasoning, here. That will decide which answer gets accepted.

------- UPDATE -------

It looks like we will allow users to modify some of the values as part of creating the new record.

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How about 'Duplicate'. And while you are looking for solid reasoning, your question is really a matter of opinion. From a pure UX perspective, you should ask the users of the system. –  Izhaki Dec 9 '13 at 16:05
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Duplicate is good word, but you're trying to put a word on only half of the job. For me the main action is not the initialisation but the creation of a new element. The initial filling with field identical to an existing one is the bonus part. Your action is to create a new object from an existing one and edit it. So it's more "edit/create copy of", "edit/create clone of","edit/create new x initialised with" sorry don't find the magic word. btw I agree to keep "save as" only for files. –  ColdCat Dec 9 '13 at 16:26
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"Use as template" "Create copy as template"? –  RedSirius Dec 9 '13 at 17:17
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Can changes be entered before the "save as" action? If so then "Clone" and "Copy" are obviously wrong as no duplicate of the original will be made, but a copy+changes will be saved. –  Marjan Venema Dec 9 '13 at 19:00
    
@MarjanVenema We weren't necessarily going to allow that. But I could see allowing the user to choose a name for the new record before creating it. I agree with you that "clone" and "copy" make less sense in those scenarios. –  Sildoreth Dec 9 '13 at 19:16
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8 Answers

I think that Save as … should always have a file as result. I wouldn’t use this term for a database record which (probably) is only part of a file. In a database context, it could be used to export/save a specific record in a file.

Clone or Duplicate might work.

But I think in general (→ there might be cases where this doesn’t apply) it’s not a good idea to clone an existing record to add a new one. Users might forget (or don’t bother) to edit all fields, which would result in falsified data. If the fields were empty from the start, the fields the user doesn’t want to edit stay empty (instead of filled in with wrong data). And you could also provide a warning for required fields that are not filled in.

An alternative could be to optionally start with a record containing example data, or, maybe even better, a form with more detailed help/examples and placeholders. That way you know when a field is really meant to be filled-in.

  • Create new record
  • Create new record (with sample data and detailed help) *

(* the wording/label should probably be improved)

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Stick to established patterns where possible. "Save As.." to save the current work into a new file/entry/record (instead of overwriting the existing) is the standard in most software that users will have used before.

Clone to me feels like something I'd do before changing something, not after changing it and then wanting to save it as a new copy.

An argument could be made that if the user wants a copy of a record that they will then modify, that it is cloned and then modified instead of opening an existing one, modifying and then 'saving as'. The former workflow reduces the chance of accidentally overwriting data that you didn't intend to.

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The major problem that I have had when using Clone or Save As when I have dealt with this is generally you don't want an exact copy but rather you are trying to most of the data/information the same and a little bit of data different.

Duplicate would be a good verb to describe if you want the entire record to be the same and potentially someone goes and makes a few changes manually.

Clone would be good very to describe if you there is a template of items to confirm is the same. For example, if I clone a record, and there are some associated key field such as customer or incident or order. that the system would prompt you to update.

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Maybe just Copy would be better than clone when the expected result is a copy of the current status of a document/entry/whatever.

In some systems like Google Drive, Create Copy is a common name for this task.

In other desktop systems Save as Copy... as well is well known.

Anyway, I wouldn't leave Copy standing for its own as the user might think that it copies it to the clipboard of the OS.

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I agree that copy is the best option. It explain exactly what you are doing, there is no ambiguity, it is easy to understand and it is short and concise. –  rdellara Dec 11 '13 at 18:21
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We are now developing a feature whereby a user can create a record that is a copy of another. The main purpose of creating a copy is to use the original record as a starting point for a different record. In general, it is not appropriate for there to be two identical records in the database.

The process in using this feature sounds like it is to:

  • Create a new copy of the record,
  • Save the new copy as a file,
  • Have the new copy open to edit, and
  • Close the original copy.

That is exactly what the Save As feature is expected to do. If you use it, you're communicating to your users exactly what's going on unambiguously. That sounds like a perfect fit.

What does "Clone" mean?

The idea of "Clone" and "Create Copy" is pretty clear - it's just unclear what will happen with the copy/clone.

Is this an export action, wherein a new copy is saved but the old copy is kept open? Is this something where a new duplicate document is opened (without saving)? Is this an in-place clone action, where you're cloning something within the record?

An alternate pattern: "Create new from existing file"

This is a different convention used by some editors where it makes sense. Upon taking this action:

  • An existing file can be browsed to and opened, in the style of an Open dialogue.
  • The existing file is not opened. Instead, a new, unsaved document/record/whatever is opened for editing, which is a copy of the existing file.
  • When the user first tries to save, it will be handled exactly like any other brand new document: they're given a Save As dialogue, or whatever's appropriate.
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I agree with RedSirius' suggestion in the comments of "Use as template". If the purpose of the feature is to use an existing record as the starting point in the creation of a new record, the finished product wouldn't be a "clone" or a "copy" of the original anyway.

Now if they have the option to duplicate it and make no changes, I'd go with something along the lines of "Create Duplicate Record".

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I have never seen "Clone" used and "Create Copy" very rarely. "Save As" seems to be the most widely accepted term.

Keep in mind that most users don't know or care what a database record is, they just know it is a piece of information (in some way it is a "document" for them even if it is not a Word document or a .pdf).

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Riffing off of Izhaki's comment, I think that getting user feedback is definately the way to go. Create two wireframes, one with the button saying "Save As" and the other with the button saying "Clone".

Stick one in front of a user and ask them a non-leading question like, "How would you create a new record, that had the same data as this one, but with X changed?" Get the user to think out loud. Ask them to tell you what they are looking at, what they would expect when they clicked on things.

Do the same thing with your B wireframe.

Ask more users. Switch up the order you show them in. Make tweaks as you uncover issues.

This should hopefully help you discover not only what wording to use, but if the feature makes sense to your users.

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