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We have an enterprise web product that times-out after 15 minutes (for security reasons). We automatically log the user out if they don’t respond to the prompt to stay logged-in.

What should we do if the user is in edit mode (for feature x) when the session times-out? Discard any changes? Or would it be better, when logging back in, to notify them that they were editing (x) and allow them to continue? This second option would have to account for other users potentially editing the same (x) while they were logged-out.

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The worst thing to do is to redirect a user to a different page after a time-out. It's best to keep them within the same page and present them with a lightbox that informs them that their session has expired. This gives them the opportunity to re-login to continue working before being redirected to a different page.

Regarding the discard of changes, this should be a no-brainer. Implement as many features as possible to save a users content. No one likes to lose content.

Below is a mockup that demonstrates a simliar screenlock method used by Kentico.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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    +1 for pointing out the one great use of a modal dialog. I would also consider hiding all the user input text because it can still be read by an unauthorized user and would be considered information leakage. – DaveAlger May 29 '15 at 23:37
  • Would this be able to address another user editing the content while the screen is locked out as shown? – Rachel9494 May 30 '15 at 3:23
  • Hey InternetBear thanks for the great feeback. I'm also curious about what would happen if another user edits the content while the screen is locked out (thanks Rachel9494) – meepsh Jun 1 '15 at 17:48
  • To address multiple users concurrently editing the same document I would refer you to this link for documentation about "Concurrent Editing and Merging Changes" link – InternetBear Jun 1 '15 at 23:19
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Speaking primarily as a user, I like the idea of simply having the login prompt pop backup thereby allowing me to log back into my session. OR, if my browser accidentally closed, when I log back in I can go right back into that session, where my last work has been saved.

I've been in environments where I'm logged out or switched to another page and my work is lost. PLUS, I then have to drill back into where I was in order to catch up with my last actions in the system. VERY VERY VERY frustrating, and that does nothing but piss me, the user, off.

Having a system that is more intuitive and considerate of me as the user, is vital!

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We have an editor at my work too. Basically, we have a "snapshot" system where the application is continuously saving a history in the background (then discarding the least recent, unused save states). If another user were to edit, he or she could select the auto-saved snapshot OR select the snapshot that the user manually saved/published. That way the choice is left up to them. It did involve a pretty major coding overhaul but I'd say it's worth it in the end.

If possible, I would avoid discarding changes upon session time-out; though, at least with your users it sounds like 15 minutes-worth of work is all they would lose, so that's better.

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