Sometimes on long list one might miss the buttons after clicking edit or opening an accordion to see more details and then make changes. There's a dilemma what to do on long profile settings. The page is divided into sections for each type of setting. e.g. Personal info, privacy, etc. on the section with the email notification we have a long list grouped by type. In addition to the ability to switch on/off each email, there is also a group switch for turn on/off. I've seen online most places are using the save/cancel option. Though I've also seen the automatically save when the group switch is triggered.

What should be done to avoid the user leaving without saving? Please except the options of a popup informing the user that changes has been made. It would be great to try overcome the "missing" buttons

  • If your question is simply, how to avoid the user leaving without saving, then your right, simply add a popup that alerts users they are navigating away with un-saved changes. This alert should give them the option of staying on the page. If your question is, how should I clean up the interface so that saving is more intuitive, then I would need more information and perhaps a mockup/screenshot of the current interface. You're description isn't very clear.
    – kdub
    Feb 22, 2015 at 18:46

4 Answers 4


Personally, I prefer the method used in the Google Chrome settings pages of Apple's control panels: Each time any control is changed, switch is toggled, field completed, etc the new state is stored automatically as soon as the state for that particular input is changed.

However, when I am wary of the changes I am making (if it's something difficult, complicated or important), I still tend to look for the 'save' button and it would be good to have this reassurance even if the work of saving the changes has already been done automatically.

One last thing that I would also include (if it were my interface) is the ability to revert to the state before that particular editing session began. You could make use of the save button, panel/page closure or simply de-focussing to achieve this.

  • Thanks for your answer. Basically based on your last part, do you mean save the changes automatically and then have the undo option which will imply "changes were saved". usually you hear "undo is harder to implement and..."
    – Milah
    Mar 15, 2015 at 15:51
  • Hi @Milah, It depends, of course, on how complex the control panel is - If it's only a few settings the a 'reset to defaults' option might be better. I was suggesting (for more complex panels) that the settings were stored as a revert state when the user enters the edit state - The more options the user is presented with, the more they are likely to click something in error - Some sort of change indicator may help but a global 'undo' or 'cancel' would also allow the user to reset to panel to it's pre-edit state thereby removing any errant changes they may have made. Mar 16, 2015 at 9:43

If it's a Web page, and the problem is to notify the user, then you can go with buttons instead of auto save.

One advantage of using button is user can revert back until he presses save button and you don't have to write code to retrieve the previous changes.

Also using JS you can write a method for page leave event in case the save or cancel button is not clicked and you can notify them.


You can use a sticky save button in a footer on the bottom of the page that can never be scrolled out of view. This way you you minimize the chances of users missing your save button.

settings with sticky footer and save button


As you state, you have a very long page which...

...is divided into sections for each type of setting. e.g. Personal info, privacy, etc. on the section with the email notification we have a long list grouped by type.

I'm going to take a "think different" approach and suggest you change your design pattern. Specifically, get rid of the long page. You might create a multi-step wizard for example, or some other effective multi-stage/page approach to editing.

Essentially you will be eliminating the save button until the user gets to the very end. You want to reduce (or eliminate) all need for scrolling.

This also will alleviate user pain caused by an excessively long page that may scare some users. Users will abandon a site if they are presented with a perceived barrier or burden preventing easy access. Breaking up the steps makes it less painful.

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