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We're dealing with a schedule in our system that is composed of many tasks. Based on user feedback, we're introducing a "per cell" edit mechanism into the schedule grid to facilitate easy updating.

e.g.

enter image description here

The system currently send out email notifications when tasks on the schedule are updated. The email sent includes key info on the task like task description, who's it is assigned to and the due date.

Because of the switch to "per cell" editing, there's no easy way to tell when the user has finish editing the task. We don't want to be spamming people with notifications with outdated info while the user is in the process of updating the task. So we're planning to put in a timer to delay sending of notifications by 5 minutes. If no additional changes are made to the item within the time period, then the notification will get sent. Otherwise, we reset the timer when another change comes in.

Question:

5 minutes isn't a long time, but it is a delay. Should we provide an option for the user indicate they're done updating, and to manually trigger sending of all notifications for that schedule? If so, what's the best way of going about presenting this to the user?

  • Maybe a toolbar at the top with a countdown until notification is sent + a brief explanation? You could put buttons there to adjust current countdown, cancel entirely and a link to where you can change the default delay. The countdown could be smart about the appointments, like don't send notifications until 1 week before start date. Or maybe just once daily? (a button to send a notification immediately might be desired in this solution) – CodeManX Aug 18 '15 at 18:22
  • @CoDEmanX The system already has an area for configuring notifications, which includes scheduled reminders for when your task is due. We're really just dealing with the notifications that should be sent immediately because the task has been updated so the user wouldn't be working on something based on incorrect info. The toolbar with countdown is my initial thoughts on it too. But I'm not sure how to deal with the explanation part. – nightning Aug 18 '15 at 18:43
  • "Send notification in: # min." + tooltip "you will receive an automatic email with updated appointment details when no more changes are made, as soon as the countdown reaches zero."? – CodeManX Aug 18 '15 at 18:54
  • @CoDEmanX Not quite so simple. There are multiple tasks on the schedule, each with their own timer. Maybe the exactness for individual task is irrelevant and we should just display the time for the very last task? Another part of me is thinking this is a lot of explanation for a "nice to have" in sending out notifications a bit earlier. – nightning Aug 18 '15 at 19:13
  • Timers might intimidate users, and are generally clunky UI. When's the last time you saw a timer ticking down while making edits to a form? What's wrong with a save button that persists at a visible spot? Users click it when they're finished, indicating completion and sending out the emails. – Alan Aug 18 '15 at 19:26
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What about simply guessing the user intent? As long as a field is focused in a certain row, no update should be send out, if the user leaves the row or page one could immediately guess that the intent there is to send an update notification. You'd probably still need a throttle mechanism, but this time it could be in the order of seconds.

Also, if you're really afraid of stale information, you could simply provide a link to the row data instead. (or when feeling really great, generate an image of the latest row data, when the e-mail is re-opened, so reloads the image with the newly rendered row).

Additionally the site could auto-update on new content (think pub/sub like) one would never have out-of-date information (not even with old mails)... provided that you'd than simply throttle the mails instead (no new notifications as long as the intent isn't clear (leaving the page or row).

  • Hmm those are some out of the box ideas that I haven't thought of. Thanks! Not sure if we can reliably determine when the user leaves the row or the page. The email image solves the up to date info problem, then introduce another problem with readability on older email clients and small mobile screens. Perhaps to keep it simple, the last option with just throttling/delaying sending of mail without manual user override is best. In the sense that a few minutes delay isn't enough to concern the user with on the grand scheme of things. – nightning Aug 19 '15 at 16:14

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