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I'm working on a SaaS product for 4 years and am going through a phase of re-evaluating my old decisions. One of them is the following rule:

When the user is leaving a complex form, and at least one field is different from default, we are showing a confirmation modal dialog to have them explicitly discard the changes.

My motivation is: saas products are complex, business logic often requires specific controls to be available at all times (e.g. critical notifications). User can leave the form unintentionally (click somewhere they did not mean to click). Dismissing the form in such case without asking means their changes will be discarded.

Even if user clicks on Exit button, I'm still showing a dialog that has 'continue editing' and 'discard changes' options.

To me it's reminiscent of software I use – design, video editing, audio. If I made at least one change, when closing the file I will be asked if I want to save it.

It's worth to note our forms are dealing with inherently complex business logic (cloud tech, infra) and some configurations can take users good 5-10 minutes to finish.

As I am writing this I am still confident that all of the above reasoning still holds true for me personally, and the only downside of showing the confirmation is the possibility that the user will be annoyed if they see it too much.

But then, my confidence is swayed by the fact that other SaaS platforms do NOT show any confirmation and seem to be OK with loss of input. Their UI reveals even MORE external controls, like navigation, that can easily cause user leaving the form and loosing all data.

These platforms are: Google Adwords, Meta Business Suit, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Google Firebase, Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, Imperva Cloud Security, and a few smaller platforms I have explored from the industry.

And I just don't get WHY. I try to understand a motivation there, but simply cannot, so I've decided to ask a question here. What could be the motivation to NOT show any confirmation and allow loss of input in a complex SaaS form?

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  • I'm glad you asked. Question: have you done any user testing? ...watch users meeting predefined objectives, with and without confirmation, looking for loosing edits, or confusion, frustration. Dec 9, 2022 at 15:37
  • I did internal testing with my peers from engineering. The issue is that when defining objectives, during limited user testing sessions I rarely face any issues of this sort. They focus on one screen for a long time, talk about it, etc. So it's tough to track if this kind of issue happens just because it's an edge case. Dec 9, 2022 at 17:35
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    Off the top of my head, autosave is the norm now and I wonder if the data comes back after the user returns to an abandoned form in these cases.
    – Izquierdo
    Dec 11, 2022 at 13:23
  • Is this question opinion-based? I don't think there's any straight one answer to this. Dec 12, 2022 at 4:49
  • The data is not saved in any of the above examples, but one (adwords). Saving data after each field is changed would either mean a lot of back-end calls to retain it, or storing it in local storage which is also not ideal. I'm not sure about question being opinion-based, in this industry all assumptions are. I have no real way to test this, so am falling back on asking my peers what their motivation would be to adopt an approach different from mine. Dec 12, 2022 at 9:16

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But then, my confidence is swayed by the fact that other SaaS platforms do NOT show any confirmation and seem to be OK with loss of input

It is important to note that on the business end of software, UX becomes less and less of a business concern.

For consumer products, you have to convince each user with your UX or else they may leave for someone who does it better for you, but for B2B products, you only have to convince the boss - a person who likely never will use your software and delegate everything related to using it to their employees - that your software will positively affect their bottom line. And once you have convinced the boss, you have doomed dozens, hundreds or sometimes thousands of employees to use the software whether they like the experience or not.

I'd love to rant lengthily, passionately and in detail about the many and massive shortcomings of several of the services you mentioned, but for the purposes of this question it's sufficient to say that none of them are any sort of UX gold standard.

Asking "why did they do it like this" can have any number of answers, ranging from "Extensive user testing" via "Damian thought it looked cool" to "nobody ever thought about it and it's just the default browser behavior". The better question to ask is "what effect does asking/not asking the user to save have?"

If you are unsure whether your version is good, trust your user testing. If your user testing is inconclusive about an individual feature, run some focused user testing about just that until you can trust your user testing.

For forms specifically, there are many avenues worth exploring, such as

  • Autosaving of drafts (so you can come back to it later
  • Minimizing forms (á la Gmail)
  • Notification overlays (so you don't need to leave the form for critical information)
  • Navigating into new tabs (so you don't even need to close the current form)
  • Asking to save
  • probably more

Which one of these is right for your application would be up to you (and your users) to decide.

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