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I'm developing a webpage for internal users who will spend a few hours a month using it. Most of the elements on the page are straightforward, but a few could cause hours of work to undo if they have the wrong values (depending on how long before it is fixed). The values are system generated and are 99% of the time correct, but 1% of the time need modified before the changes are persisted to the database.

I'd rather not allow the users to just change the values, as there is a chance they could change one by mistake. I'd prefer to disable them and make the users take some action to allow them to be changed. I'm considering:

  • An "allow editing" checkbox
  • An "allow editing" button or icon (with a hover-over)
  • An "edit" button that brings up a dialog to allow users to type a new value
  • An "are you sure" dialog (I'm not thrilled about this one, as I feel nobody reads them)

Of course, only certain experienced users will be allowed to edit these values, and they can get help if they get confused, but this isn't going to be their primary job, so I'm more interested in protecting them from mistakes then absolute efficiency.

  • When users do need to make changes, is it usually just one or two fields to fix, or is it the whole set of data is messed up? – maxathousand Jan 11 '18 at 21:43
  • If they need to change these fields, it is just one or two fields that need changed. In this case, it is some date fields that are usually just January 1st and December 31st of the same year, but under special circumstances need to be different. One of the problems is that, of all the data on the screen, these fields are usually ignored because they so rarely change, so even a quick audit by others ignores them. I'll clearly mark them as changed if they are changed, but I want to prevent users from making the change unless they explicitly do something first. – Guy Schalnat Jan 12 '18 at 13:02
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If the "are you sure" dialog is a modal, the chance that users do not read it is very high. I see to solutions:

  • Instead of an "edit" button, you could place a lock symbol. To edit the user would have to unlock the field before altering the content.
  • If you use an "are you sure" dialog you could use a checkbox inside the dialogue that says "i am aware of the impact of the change". Only if the checkbox is checked the dialogue can be confirmed.enter image description here
  • In my particular case, I like the lock, but the idea of the checkbox is also very good for those (hopefully very rare) situations where I have to be sure that the user reads the message, even if the checkbox is annoying. If someone else gets here through a search, maybe that is the best answer for them. – Guy Schalnat Jan 17 '18 at 13:31
  • To add to this, it might also be wise to store the previous value and have an "undo" function that is valid for 20 minutes / 24 hours or something. This means that even if they unlock, confirm the dialogs and mindlessly manage to still input the wrong value, they can reverse their action and go back in time. – Dwev Jan 17 '18 at 15:02
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An "Are you Sure" dialog is usually the preferred way of handling situations wherein the to be edited field is rarely touched and if it is then it's usually by mistake.

The "Edit" button or the "Allow Editing" checkbox feel like a part of the workflow and the chances are that user might not realize he is not supposed to edit the field. An confirmation box warns the user to not change the value and gives them time to think regarding if they really want to change the value.

  • That is a good point about the buttons. An "Edit" button basically tells the user they are supposed to edit the field, which is not wanted here. Something directly relevant to the actual issue might work. Say "Fix the X issue with these dates." as a link. (I do not know what the actual issue is, so can't really be accurate.) It would also double as a visual reminder that the issue exists for anyone checking the data. – Ville Niemi Jan 15 '18 at 9:26
  • That's a good and subtle point about the difference between the edit button and the dialog. Thanks for answering with both, and describing when to use one or the other. – Guy Schalnat Jan 17 '18 at 13:29

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