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On StackExchange, when you want to add a community to your account, you go into the upper left corner, click on the pull down, and click "edit" next to the "Your Communities" text.

Then you start typing the name of the community you want to add, click on the community as it comes up during the suggestions, hit the add button, and presto! you've added a new community to your list...

...except you haven't. You need to scroll down to the bottom of your list, past the newly added community names (that look the same as previously added community names), and hit the save button.

Should there be a save button at all?

I would argue no, because it's hard to accidentally add a site that you didn't mean to (since only valid names can be added, which you either have to type out correctly or choose from a pull down of suggested name), and because it's easy to delete a community (just hit the 'x') but not TOO easy that you may accidentally delete one (the 'x' button is small).

Moreover, if there should be a save button, shouldn't it be next to the add button? If your list of communities is more than ~8 long, the user can't even see that a save button exists.

Although this question is about StackExchange, I would like to know what the general case usability answer would be.

Related question: Do "add" or "edit" functions need a confirm button?

However, in that question you're allowed to add any text you want to a list, whereas in the StackExchange case, you can only add communities that actually exist (ie you had to type the community name exactly correctly, or consciously pick a community from the suggested drop downs).

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    You seem to be presuming that the save button is just to save new additions to the list, but don't forget that the list can be re-ordered by the user and clicking save will save the new order too. – grg Aug 28 '15 at 16:50
  • Good point, but I don't understand why that would need a save button either (although maybe that is a separate question). For example, the tile list on the upper-right hand corner of google.com has no save button after you rearrange the tiles. – spacetyper Aug 28 '15 at 16:54
  • I think ideally, it would be great if it autosaved when the user stops interacting with it - I feel like that is an accepted and pretty widespread paradigm, however sometimes having a "redundant" save button as a legacy option so that you're really sure it's saved (or to save between autosaves?) is a nice option as well. – binky Aug 28 '15 at 16:57
  • @binky I think the problem though is that when I hit add, the community appears in my list, identical to the communities that are added and saved. So at that point, the way I interpret it, is that the community has been added and saved. Because of this, when I navigate away and discover the communities weren't added, I'm confused. If the designer insists on the 'save' then maybe the communities just added should be in a separate queue. – spacetyper Aug 28 '15 at 17:49
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    @spacetyper hmmm I feel like that's all the more reason for autosave to be the standard! either that or the "added but not saved" communities should be visibly different (maybe grayed out or highlighted with a different colour and possibly a prompt that lets you know that saving is necessary) – binky Aug 28 '15 at 18:48
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Great question! The save button definitely feels redundant. Many websites and apps take the approach of applying user action without confirmation but providing an undo option.

For eg: Deleting a file on Google drive, will not ask for a confirmation. But it will give the user a notification that the file has been deleted along with an option to undo the action.

enter image description here

This approach is great for any use case, where it is easy to recover from errors. In the Google drive example, even if you missed the 5 second notification to undo, there is a trash folder where it can be recovered from.

Following the same logic, the stackoverflow save button is redundant. Actually the entire flow is a little contrived.

  • You have to click "edit" under "your communities" - Which really doesn't communicate that the user can "add" communities here.
  • After search, clicking on the right result should automatically add. Instead, it only adds the name to the search box and user has to then click on add.
  • An explicit click on the ADD should suffice, but the user is expected to save. This seems like too many steps to add.

Because it is very easy to recover from the error of mistakenly adding the wrong network, like you mentioned.

Solutions

  1. If they insist on having it, the best place to put the "SAVE" button would be right next to cancel up in the top. This way it is fixed and is always viewable to the user.

  2. Clicking on the search suggestion should directly add

  3. The better solution would be to use "More stack exchange communities" section, and the search - to add an option to subscribe to the community directly from there.

  4. Also, would help changing "edit" to "manage"

enter image description here

  • Thanks for the well thought out answer. I will upvote when I have the privilege... – spacetyper Aug 28 '15 at 17:49
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Think in terms of process and action flows. What you're doing is an edition action, let's say the main action. Inside it, you have a subset of actions, in this particular case you have these:

  • search
  • add
  • delete

Each one is a subset of the main action, and each one stands on its own.

However, the main action remains "open" since the user didn't save or confirm anything. While there are different approaches to solve this, including the auto save option so in vogue, a button that confirms the required action provides a sense of closure to the user, and way less friction since the user has confirmed what s/he wanted to do, no room for doubts

And all the above without even mentioning you have another option for your main action: RESET TO DEFAULT. Now, without those action options, how would you manage the main action? You should be needing some kind of mind reading UX approach (which so far doesn't exist, sadly)

You might be interested in this question as well: Internal locus of control vs Automated actions

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