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I am implementing global search on a system. When you are creating and editing details, there is a save button and no auto-save feature. My question is, what should happen to the search box on these pages?

Should the search become disabled to avoid losing the information you have been entering or should the user get a message in the form of a pop up telling them that leaving this page will result in their changes not being saved?

  • Why not add autosave? – bjb568 Oct 2 '14 at 2:56
  • We had considered that, but it has a big impact on performance and so have decided against it. – J4G Oct 2 '14 at 10:28
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    You could maybe store the information as temporary information after the search is done and "resurrect" it when the user revisits the edit dialogue – PlasmaHH Oct 2 '14 at 11:04
  • That's a very good suggestion, I think I'll explore that option with the developers – J4G Oct 2 '14 at 11:23
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The system should help the user but should not restrict the user. If the user indeed wants to search something, the user should be able to. Warning the user that this will result in losing information and afterwards giving the user the opportunity to copy his or her work (or maybe saving a concept version of it for later review?) should then be the best approach. Disabling is indirectly making the decision for the user: "You should not want to lose your work by searching."

Stackexchange does the same, try to type an answer on a question and search, you will see a popup.

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    I second this answer. Don't make the decision for the user but give sufficient warning so that he doesn't unnecessarily lose his work. – Mayo Oct 1 '14 at 13:52
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    Right, and good analogy with StackExchange. Perhaps it is important to note that StackExchange doesn't just warn you when you start a search; it warns you when you try to leave the page for any reason. To any web developers: this is trivially easy to implement; see here for the three-line solution. – wchargin Oct 1 '14 at 19:50

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