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While going through the tutorial for Optimal Sort I saw this interesting message:

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Microsoft OneNote and Google Docs don't have save options, but Google Docs prompt users when changes are saved.

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It got me thinking about whether creating a safety net for users even though it is largely non-functional is really necessary or would it be better to be just upfront and let the users know that everything is autosaved?

Just wondering if it is really possible to measure the usability and effectiveness of such techniques, and if anyone has had experience with this.

  • You've been a member of this site long enough to know that questions requesting 'Examples Of X' aren't suited to a Q&A site. Can you refocus this question more around your closing line "is it necessary or would it be better..." as that's a better fit. – JonW Jun 20 '14 at 8:04
  • I've put this on hold temporarily before people start leaving "I think that {Application X} is a good example of this type answers. Once you've tightened up the question I'll reopen it for you. – JonW Jun 20 '14 at 8:10
  • I had another thought about the question and this is probably what I was really trying to ask. If you have any other comments please let me know. Thanks. – Michael Lai Jun 22 '14 at 22:50
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Regarding saving as-you-go, I would follow the Google way, just informing user that "All changes are saved in Drive.".

However - there is one kind of actions that I would add "save" to, so that it would make users more comfortable. I assume that the question "Is my document (or: whatever else) saved?" is asked by the user whenever s/he tends to leave it - either when the job is done or when s/he cannot keep working on it at the moment. Thus, if there is any button that allows user to leave the document ([Quit], [Exit], [Close] or anything leading to logically different area, like [Preview]) I would just change the text on it to [Save and quit] or [Save and preview] (even though it is almost obvious that work is saved before previewing). I would just skip the actions that "fork" from the main path - like printing for example, or exporting - these do not affect the main use flow usually, of course everything depends on a specific system.

Interestingly, I find this necessary only for people at some age, these who remember applications that could work this way - I mean closing without saving or even without asking to save something with ongoing changes. I believe that people younger than, say, 30 years, will need it significantly less than the older ones. But this is just guessing. We come from vairious points in techno-cultural space, severly distorted along its t axis. So everything needs to be tested - without it "I can only say what I think users think", as someone said ;)

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Thinking about cases when this appears. It seems like it's about...

Automatic continuous process in background replacing former manual action What can be this? Saving, syncing, uploading batches to server? While saving is pretty small action and some were brave here and removed the save button, the other are considered as larger and less reliable, but maybe somebody tried? not sure whether syncing of some mobile apps does not actually work this way, although you have there the sync button and the app creators are not that honest as those from your example.

If we would apply broader view as "making people sure that they can do sth" instead of just "discoverability", maybe this fits in as well:

Relatively new ways of interactions without specific visual cues Swipes, scrolling webpages? Usually there's a secondary way of getting to the content via a scroll down button or a menu, but the problem solved by these is similar. But yes, these elements are usually not non-functional, the menu for example has another function - to jump between site sections and the scroll down button always really does the scrolling. While the page does not scroll automatically. Ok, forget this one. :)

scroll down button

What else? Thoughts?

  • One interesting I thought about in the 'save' use case is what if people want to undo actions? I think the undo action in Office is based on the changes made since last save, so sometimes the automatic action can have the opposite effect of preserving changes. – Michael Lai Jun 22 '14 at 22:52
  • Yes! Exactly this problem I have with Evernote free version. (I think you can buy being able to get to previous versions feature.) – digsrafik Jun 23 '14 at 5:54

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