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If there is a settings section with just one setting option via a checkbox or radio button group, should the action taken be saved via an explicit Save button?

My assumption was that a checkbox and a radio button provided enough feedback about the action taken and may not require a Save button. But in case of critical actions, it is always good have additional confirmation from the user.

What are the criteria to consider if the checkboxes or radio buttons should have an explicit Save button?

Please help.

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  • Do you have a specific use case in mind? You might be able to get more targeted responses rather then generic ones that may or may not apply to your situation. May 3 '18 at 14:58
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The most common answer in Design is '...it depends'. Here too, it would depend on what application it is, what are the kind of users we are designing for and if these users expect an explicit save button. For example, in the Chrome browser settings, there is no explicit save. You can change your settings and close the settings tab and your changes will be saved. enter image description here

But if your users are not comfortable not having an explicit save and you (as a designer) do not think an explicit save is warranted, then as a middle ground, some kind of visual feedback that the setting has been saved could be shown. An example could be - a message saying the settings have been saved could show up for a few seconds which is triggered once there is a change in the settings.

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A confirmation before submitting any adjustments surely would be the most certain way to avoid accidental changes. This would be highly recommended when the changes could have major effects (e.g. changing a user's personal information). A notification about the consequences, of course, is absolutely necessary.

Of course, you could think of situations where adjustments might not be critical (such as filtering a list of products), which might result in an instant system response, but I don't see why you would not give users an option to think their changes through before applying them.

What if a user decides he does not want to apply the changes after all? This means they would have to (possibly manually) revert their actions, which would require extra effort from the user, instead of letting them control what changes and what does not.

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  • I wouldn't consider profile changes ("personal information") to be disastrous. More disastrous is if the setting is going to do a bunch of heavy work or start sending emails the moment you check it.
    – NH.
    May 3 '18 at 15:42
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No, save buttons are old fashioned. Just make the system save automatically and if you need to prevent critical actions, insert a final "confirmation" button

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  • What's the difference between a "save" button and a "final confirmation" button? May 3 '18 at 14:37
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Like Asad Ali Junaid mentioned above, it does depend on what you are trying to achieve with the setting. If the setting is a binary, yes/no choice you might want to consider an alternative control - the switch.

This control is commonly used in settings sections in apps and is increasingly common in desktop applications. The main purpose of a switch is to immediately affect something either on the current screen, or elsewhere in the UI, usually without the need to use an explicit "save" function. For example, in Chrome settings, there are several switches, such as (sorry, I can't get a screenshot right now!):

  • Show bookmarks bar
  • Pressing Tab on a webpage highlights links, as well as form fields

Example of design and usage here: https://material.io/guidelines/components/selection-controls.html#selection-controls-switch

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