Some examples of what I have in mind by "lose your work" (besides the obvious non-autosaving software where explicit files are involved):

  • Web (or any other kind of) forms that completely (or partially) reset/blank if you don't fill a field right (and submit). Complete reset used to be somewhat common in the early days of the web. Nowadays it's usually restricted to registration forms that ask for a password; you fill in "wrong" some other field (e.g. duplicate user name)... bam you have to reenter a password. Ajax actually made this much less common by allowing partial form validation (so things like duplicate names can flagged to the user sans explicit submit), but I sure remember this being a common nuisance in the previous decade; not only did you have to enter a non-conflicting name in the bounced back form, but you had to reenter a password.
  • Multi-level menu systems (whether those are a good idea is besides the point here) in which the only "escape" way back from a sub-sub-menu (or deeper nesting level) is to go back to the top-level. Effectively, when the user discovers that a sub-sub-menu doesn't have anything he/she wants, all the selection choice[s] in the intermediate menus are forcibly discarded/lost, making the user to redo them. (An example of this is alas provided by SE in the question-closure menu system.)

There are probably other case where losing state/bits of user choices is a nuisance; feel free to add more examples with your answer[s].

My main question is whether UX/usability researchers have come with (one or more) names for the anti-patterns I've described above.

  • 2
    Just a note: on SE sites you do not need to cancel entire operation in question-closure menu, dialog title is a sort of breadcrumb to navigate back. Oct 7, 2015 at 11:20

1 Answer 1


I think we typically describe those as destructive vs non-destructive actions/behaviors.

A "Reset" button on a form is a destructive action, because it causes the user to lose all of their work in a single click. They're typically more harmful than helpful.

The kind of experiences you're referring to are more of a result of unintentional design decisions that result in a poor user experience. In the case of form submission errors, a user's input should be preserved. Forms can be developed to save the information, but due to lack of development time or consideration for user experience, that functionality was simply overlooked.

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