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We have a screen when we hide/disable a comment field based on a value in some dropdown. For some values of the dropdown the comment is shown, for other values it's hidden. For example, imagine a dropdown with a value "other" where for other the user can freely add some explanation.

Now, imagine the following scenario:

  1. User selects "other"
  2. User adds a comment
  3. User selects a different value that hides the comment
  4. User selects "other" again, so the comment field is visible again

What shall be the behavior of the comment field - should the comment from step 2 be retained or should it be empty?

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    Somewhat related: Should I clear form data after a new form is selected?. There, "different form" really means "different set of enabled/visible fields", and the consensus was to preserve values. – TripeHound Aug 1 '18 at 9:26
  • Any change of adding a screenshot to help get more specific answers to your interface and interaction related question? – Michael Lai Aug 4 '18 at 0:54
  • Can you expand on what sort of "additional attention" you are hoping to get from the bounty? Is there anything specific you're looking for over-and-above what's in the existing answers? – TripeHound Aug 6 '18 at 15:16
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+50

I would keep the value; simply because what if they user accidentally changes value from "Other" to something else?

It would be annoying having to type everything again.

If the user did in fact change value and then back again to other; I don't believe the user would be bothered having to clear the field himself / herself.

After all; it was themselves who couldn't really decide from the beginning.

If the user intended just to clear it from the beginning I think it would be intuitive just to clear the field by themselves.

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    +1 It's far easier to delete a preserved comment than to re-enter a deleted one. – TripeHound Aug 1 '18 at 15:35
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I originally proposed to clear the hidden field to keep the data simple, and only adding behaviour for remembering it later.

Instead of hiding the comment field, it could just be disabled when it should not be available. If it already has input there, the user will actually see whether it is kept.

A disabled field may clutter up the form, but it decreases the amount of magic and clearly communicates what happens (in my opinion).

Also, a disabled field is not submitted by default, so there is no ‘cleaning up’ necessary.

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    I strongly disagree with your point of view. It's not about keeping the data through several stages, it's keeping the data within one screen while selecting different options. Place yourself in the user's point of view - you've started typing, then got curious about other options, clicked to check them and suddenly all your typing is gone. Still at the same level of enthusiasm? – Mike Aug 3 '18 at 11:38
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    @Mike Although I think that the situation you describe should not inform default behaviour, and I also think that clearing a field ‘on hide’ is awkward; I updated my answer to reflect this. – gerstemout Aug 3 '18 at 23:03
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There doesn't seem to be any benefit to the user in clearing the value, so I would leave it there. You can look at this in terms of potential frustration.

Option 1: Leave the value

Suppose the user displays the comment field again and it still has their prior text. If they wanted to re-use the same text, great! If they didn't, they just have to clear the field. Very little room for frustration here. You could even add a small 'clear' button if you think this would annoy them.

Option 2: Clear the value

Suppose the user displays the comment field again and it no longer has their prior text. If they wanted to start again anyway, then great. If they actually wanted to write the same thing (or similar), then they need to type it all out again. This could range from a minor frustration to a huge one depending on how much they typed.

Option 1 presents the least room for frustration so I would opt for it unless you have a strong reason not to.

Once the user saves the form with the comment field hidden, it would make sense to clear the unused text at that point.

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