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For my project BigPicture [textpad with infinite panning and zooming, useful to do some mind maps, etc. (1)], I would like the user to choose between 2 schemes when he wants to Save a project for the first time :

Live demo

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I have two questions :

1) Do you think this system is good / easy to understand ? i.e.

  • One option to Save without URL change on each Save (Advantage: you can bookmark the project/URL, and the URL will never change!)

  • One option to Save with URL change on each Save, like does JsFiddle for example... Advantage : you can share a link, and noone will be able to overwrite the original version (example on this project : http://bigpicture.bi/1898oa) : all the next Saves will create a new revision ~1, ~2, ~3

2) If this system is good, is this modal popup clear / easy to understand / well designed ?


(1) Any developer help / feature request, etc. are welcome !

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This is not a good choice to offer the user. A few problems:

  • The user might change their mind about whether they want to share it, but they will be locked into a choice.

  • The user has to remember what setting they chose. If they forget and accidentally share a non-sharable file, it has destructive consequences. (Yes, you could have your program visually indicate what type of file it is. But that doesn't help if the user has the link in another context, such as an email).

  • The desirability of the functionality does not really map well to the use cases (you might want a constant link to a shared file, or changing links to a non-shared file to keep track of revisions).

Nevertheless, you are correct that both a changing link and a constant link are useful, and it would be nice to provide the functionality associated with each.

I think there is a simple solution: every file has both a constant link and a link for every revision.

The constant link can simply redirect you to the URL of the latest version of the file. You can offer the user the non-changing link as a sharing option within the UI.

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I don't care for this. You are asking the user to make a technical decision that they do not want to make, and should not have to care about. Essentially, you're giving them a non-choice: on the one hand they can have safety and recoverability that comes with unfriendly complexity; on the other they have an easy-to-use but unrecoverable system.

I much prefer an automatic system like DropBox provides. Instead of asking any questions at all, the user is simply provided with a constant URL to their file. In the background, the server automatically always silently stores the prior five revisions of the file. If the user makes an unwanted change or discovers a conflict with a different user, they can open the dropbox.com site, navigate to the file in question, and click on it to access one of the earlier versions or otherwise manage the file.

You could do the same. You can automatically keep a default number of revisions, and then your system is the hero when you can magically save some user's job by recovering their accidentally trashed data. Depending on your business model, perhaps you can offer additional services to premium members, such as allowing them to increase the default from 5 revisions to 20, that sort of thing.

  • Thanks for your answer. So you suggest I shouldn't offer the user this choice? Imagine I post on a forum the link to bigpicture.bi/1898oa. Then someone edits it (or even spams it) and hit SAVE... Should it overwrite the original bigpicture.bi/1898oa (that's bad then!) ? Or should it be renamed to bigpicture.bi/1898oa~1, ~2, ~3 ? – Basj Oct 1 '14 at 22:15
  • @Basj, that's exactly what I'm saying. Do not offer your users this choice. It is a bad user experience. Make the system automatically do the right thing for your users. – John Deters Oct 1 '14 at 22:22
  • Yes editing is always allowed. I wanted to avoid to have a User Management System (with Login/Sign up, etc.) with such a scheme.... But don't know if it works... – Basj Oct 1 '14 at 22:22
  • If you're allowing editing, you still need to ensure the user has the authority to edit it, regardless of the naming scheme. If the user is a spammer, you can undo their damage by trotting out an older revision. You could even track revisions by user or IP address, and if someone reveals themselves to be a spammer, you can inspect and revert all of their old changes. – John Deters Oct 1 '14 at 22:24
  • what is the right thing ? How to know if a user prefers that each SAVE keeps the same URL (better for having just one bookmark => URL is constant) or if each SAVE will give different URL (better if you share and don't want spammer to modify the original!) ? – Basj Oct 1 '14 at 22:24
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I think you actually have this nearly right. That is because you are clearly needing them to make this decision and I don't think you can get away from that.

Therefore if you need to offer two distinct options then yes I think your implementation is good. Some changes to improve it though:

  1. The second option, make the second line slightly less technical
  2. Possibly offer the option of "I'm not sure - ask me later" Then save it and ask each time they have a new session and go to save. As a result default to the first option.
  • Why is this an inescapable problem? You could provide both types of link for each file, as my answer detailed. – user31143 Oct 2 '14 at 12:19

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