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My app is used to edit email templates. As you probably know, emails can have a text AND html version. Below is the UI I came up with. My initial thought was 'only save what you can see', so when you click the save button (sauvegarder), only the currently selected view shall be saved (text or html). As the top part of the UI is static when you switch from text to html, I was wondering if the user will think he's saving everything when clicking that save button.

What would you expect when clicking the save button ?

enter image description here

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I would have to admit that lots of non-technical users would probably think there was something wrong with the service if it did not save everything, and use a different one. Avoid. –  George H Jun 11 at 19:50
    
This is actually a corporate app, only a couple of users for the time being. But I must admit one user looked pretty surprised when I told him how the save worked^^ I will fix this in the next release. –  ThunderDev Jun 12 at 21:44
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up vote 36 down vote accepted

A save button should always save everything. Accidental data loss is about the worst thing that can happen to users.

This is why many applications (e.g., GMail) don't even have save buttons; they just auto-save everything. If technically feasible, auto-saving is an even better solution (as long as there is an effective undo). Note: when auto-saving, it is still essential to communicate to the user that changes have been saved.

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+1 for requiring Undo –  virtualnobi Jun 11 at 15:35
    
Not to mention that when auto-saving, you should give the user a notice that it was saved (like GMail does). –  Cole Johnson Jun 11 at 18:22
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Manually saving and auto-saving should represent two different actions. Closing an edit window should offer users a three-way choice of "Abandon edits" [eliminate any auto-saved version], "Confirm changes" [visibly update the file being edited]. or "Keep as draft" [don't update a public view, but have the next attempt to edit the resource show the version last worked on]. –  supercat Jun 11 at 18:23
    
@ColeJohnson Yes, that is essential as well. I'll add that to the answer. –  Kevin Borders Jun 11 at 19:35
    
@supercat it depends on the application and how common of a case it is to discard changes. Lots of apps save everything without offering this more complex option and get along just fine. –  Kevin Borders Jun 11 at 19:36
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I would expect that both versions (text/HTML) will be saved, just like working with the CMS Wordpress. I would also be very frustrated as an user when I found out that I only saved one version of the email. If I would find out, because it's very unusual to save only one version.

Maybe you have to question yourself: Why would an user only save one version (Text or HTML) and not both? I think it's rare that somebody would only save the text version and not the HTML, because the edit in the text would change the HTML outcome (or vice versa), right?

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The HTML version is much richer and contains a lot of things the Text version does not such as images, styling etc. So I wouldn't say it's rare that only the HTML version is modified. This could be useful if the user is not satisfied with his HTML modifications but wants to modify the Text part. He would then have to undo his changes by hand as I haven't implemented undo/discard functionality –  ThunderDev Jun 11 at 12:00
    
I mean it's rare that an user would to save only one version, not that one version is modified. Because if you add an image for example and you save both versions, there will not be a problem. But by saving the 2 versions separate, it will cost more work for the user and it's confusing too. Because text/html depend on each other. So it's not logical to save them separately. –  Marijke Dekker Jun 11 at 12:09
    
Ok, there has been a misunderstanding. My app is not an HTML editor like Dreamweaver or like CMSs have. It allows you to edit the plain text part and the HTML part of an email. These are 2 different and totally independent text files. Sorry for the confusion. –  ThunderDev Jun 12 at 21:35
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