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I’m iterating on a SaaS platform where there is a notes functionality on certain elements which are shared between all users of the platform.

Currently, it’s handled via the notes section starting out with a “Click to enter text” empty state.

Clicking note text is also the only way to launch into editing once a user has written a note.

While the means of editing that field may be clear for the first user who see’s the empty state, I worry that losing that signifier could hurt visibility for subsequent users reading the note who may want to edit.

I plan on examining this (among other things) to a certain extent in some user tests/interviews, but I’d appreciate insight any of you may have as well!

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  • what is the reasoning that users can edit each other's notes instead of just adding new comments?
    – Aprillion
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:49
  • can you provide a mockup? @Aprillion raises a valid concern.
    – Mike M
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:05
  • The notes functionality appears on specific tasks relevant to a larger category, and the workflow is designed to move tasks from an active state to a closed state where they then serve essentially to document the history of that category. From what I can gather, the initial assumption that led to the current form of notes was that there likely isn’t a ton of editing going on before the task is closed. That’s a really good point though, I’ll definitely be examining how users are actually using the functionality in my upcoming research. @Mike I’ll update with a mockup! Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:16
  • Updated original post with a wireframe. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:31

2 Answers 2

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With form design consistency is something that normally guides user behaviour, or at least helps them to understand the way that the interface behaves.

Assuming that there is also some styling difference between input fields that can be edited (e.g. Notes) and those that don't change (i.e. other Task Detail sections), the user can gauge which parts of the interface they can interact with the first time (e.g. with the hint text in the Notes input) and which parts they can't.

I would also suggest that any input which should be editable for the user is something that they will try to click on and see if they can edit anyway, but without a consistent application of design rules it will be very frustrating for the user.

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I think a user test is your answer here. Not a massive-scale A/B test or anything, but just having two or three people who are not involved in the design and are somewhat members of your target group testing a demo of this screen is going to be way more enlightening than any blanket answer you might get here.

Some general thoughts anyways

  • Application context matters massively: For example on Miro or Google Keep it is very obvious that notes can be edited. In a more "formal" setting I might expect an Edit Note button or whatever
  • There may be certain design styles e.g. Miro might follow to convey editable notes, but if so I can't pinpoint them. I think it really comes down to whether something feels like an interactive playboard or a formal business process, if you catch my meaning.
  • As @michael-lai is saying, consistent design of editable and non-editable elements would help a lot.
  • One specific way would be to partly steal the styling of editable fields, as in literally the way textarea or input type=text is displayed by default or having an animated cursor at the end, or similiar...
  • Here is a thread discussing how to signify something as editable

Also, is there any reason to not have a "backup" button with a small pen icon (for example) that users can also click to edit the note, without removing the click to edit functionality? That way your UI is convenient for UI "experts" (if you want) but still easy to understand for people used to traditional forms - probably also helps for screen readers :)

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