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It seems that the initial reason for having the popup on SO is no longer an issue with the SO brand of sites - see the discussion below for more details. I suggest that SO either removes the popup-on-navigate away, or give us an option to turn off popups from SO.

I would rather live in a popup-free SO than what we have now, if possible. A long time ago, on a UserVoice far far away, I proposed that the 'navigate away warning' popup be removed. As I understand it, the popup was added because when you navigated away, you could lose the text that you were working on out of your history. (Now, most modern browsers don't wipe your forms when you navigate, but as I understood it, something in the back end of the site, under certain conditions, could make the form clear anyway.) The solution was to warn the user with a popup. (A popup, like most other popups, that was put in place of other, more integrated solutions. The best part? Someone chimed in during that post that the problem that caused folks to want the popup had been fixed, unless you had already made a response to that question.)

When I navigate away from a page, I do it deliberately. That's why I clicked on the link to navigate to another page. If I lose what I"m working on in this page, that's my fault, not the site. Making me click a popup when 99 times out of 100 I'm confirming what I already want to do makes me feel like I'm on vista. "You would like to navigate away from this page. Confirm or deny?" (dejected) "Confirm".

There was some...feedback. Of the static shock variety. Folks didn't seem to like it. Especially highly ranked SO members...I guess something about using a web form all day that eats their answers grinds on you, and a popup doesn't seem too bad. :) However, at the time, I had called for unilateral removal of the popup. This time, I think, just giving us the option to turn it off would be enough. All you have to do is throw this preference right there in the 'prefs' section, right under ignored tags, that says "disable navigate away popup". I'd check that box in a heartbeat.

Ideally, the solution would be to remove the need for the popup in the first place. For example, I just started editing this suggestion, and navigated back using my back button. I pressed OK on the the "I want to nivgate away" popup, then pressed forward. My edits remained in place, no problem. Then, I added more text, clicked on the "Meta stackoverflow" tag, and pressed back, and my edits still remained. If simply navigating forward and back were the root cause of losing edits, you guys have fixed it, and the popup is no longer even necessary! I'll try here, in a second, the multiple answer edit problem, and see if that's still an issue.

Follow Up:

I've now done several bits of navigation after editing both questions and answers (and multiple answers) and every time my text has remained in the box after I navigate back. If text was being lost due to navigation at one point, it seems that defect has been corrected. If this was the problem the popup was trying to fix, it seems to me that the problem has been solved, and the popup can be removed entirely.

Can anyone else think of problems that the popup are preventing at this point?

Comments test followup:

I attempted the same tests as above, just this time with comments. I do not get the popup alerts when I entered text and then tried to navigate away...it looks like IE and Firefox forget the comment text on navigation. Chrome, however, remembers. (Go google...)

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I attempted to add a comment and then naviagte away, but no popup arrived, and my comment disappeared. –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 16:47
    
<sarcasm>Thanks to everyone downvoting my bonus answers in this post; it really would have been much better to have all that testing mucking up other people's questions.</sarcasm> –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 16:55
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@Robert: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to downvote you so many times. CW must be too good for you, huh? –  GEOCHET Oct 1 '09 at 17:10
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It's not our fault that you posted answers that weren't answers. It's not our fault that you didn't delete them when you were done with them. It's not our fault that you didn't have the foresight to make them community wiki and prevent the downvotes from hurting your rep. –  TheTXI Oct 1 '09 at 17:10
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I don't know where you work, but deleting test results is not in practice in my job. I didn't delete them so that the results would remain visible to others; otherwise I'd fight "where's the proof?". They tested certain conditions, such as the answers being associated with your account. I could have changed them to community wiki after that, but that would have changed the conditions that people said were causing the errors. I may have planned on going through and doing it all again with community wiki posts, which would provide another set of data, separate (from a user's POV) of behavior. –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 17:56
    
And, even after labeling the answers as meta answers to support the question, they got downvoted again. What kind of message do you think that sends to someone who's spent time to document his work in trying to make SO a better place? –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 17:57
    
I just finished putting them all over to CW's; downvote at your leisure, MSO. –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 18:01

8 Answers 8

Why are you often entering text and then backing out? That's a very strange usage pattern.

We recently improved the code so it only warns if there's text remaining, so if you delete all the text you entered, you shouldn't see the navigation warning.

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I noticed that, thanks. That's what I have ended up doing. Still, it seems like an odd pattern to figure out. "Okay, don't want a popup, select all + cut, click". I've found that I may start answering a question, then realize, oh, someone else has already answered it (perhaps during one of those auto-refreshes). Other times, I have started answering it, and then decide I really don't want to (I don't have all the information, I change my mind about wanting to contribute, I see something more interesting to look at). –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 16:19
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It happens more than you think. Say, another equivalent answers comes in while you're still typing. Or you need to edit your answer, using a few text snippets from the original question (perhaps based on edit to the question)- then you need to go back and forth a few times, once to copy/paste each snippet. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 1 '09 at 16:27
    
I've updated my question with some followup usage tests. There might not actually be a need for that popup any more, unless someone can fill me in on what I'm missing. –  Robert P Oct 1 '09 at 16:32

While at times I will start entering an answer and change my mind, or see someone else post the same answer, or for any reason really. But, I'd still rather it prompt me always than not prompt me at all. Additionally, I think the overhead of maintaining a user setting for this would not be worth its cost in terms of design, development and maintenance.

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I often start an answer, then realize I'm just repeating what others have said, and back out. –  Michael Kohne Oct 1 '09 at 20:56

This is a meta-answer, to test out and record results from navigation in various browsers, so we don't have to muck up other questions. Thank you for ignoring it.

Firefox 3.0, single answer

I'm going to answer my own question here, to see if the "answering a question" problem is the problem.

Back: After pressing the "want to answer my question" button, I navigated away (pressed the OK I want to navigate away popup), and came back. My comments above were retained by my browser.

Next up, back browsing.

Back: back browsing, posting my answer, worked again.

I'll try answering a second time.

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This is a meta-answer, to test out and record results from navigation in various browsers, so we don't have to muck up other questions. Thank you for ignoring it.

IE 8.0

Entering some text, and navigating away...

IE 8.0 retains text after multiple navigations away.

Entering some text, and hitting "back"...

IE 8.0 retains text after multiple navigations away.

Entering some text, hitting forward, adding a comment, and then coming back...

Success; I returned to my text remaining in the answer question box.

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This is a meta-answer, to test out and record results from navigation in various browsers, so we don't have to muck up other questions. Thank you for ignoring it.

Chrome

Adding some text and navigating away....

Now adding some text and hitting "back"...

Multiple links and multiple backs...

Chrome seems to have the same behavior.

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Another voice for the option to suppress the pop-up.

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I don't really care for it, but I may run across it once every few days so in the grand scheme of things it doesn't bother me.

In your case you may have intended to navigate away 99% of the time but that is not always the case. I imagine for every person that doesn't like the system trying to hold their hand, you could find another potential user who cries about the lack of user friendliness.

If this were something that was a setting an individual user could set, all well and good I suppose, but this just gets tossed into the extremely large pile of "desirable user settings".

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I object to calling a modal dialog user-friendly on general principals - I find modal dialogs to be the most annoying things possible, whether they are helping or not. They are one of the worst user-interface components ever invented, because they interrupt me! So, the 'do you want to navigate away' pop-up is bad by definition in my book. –  Michael Kohne Oct 1 '09 at 20:55
    
You've basically proven my point in the post that if you ask one person, they are user friendly because they stop you before you make a mistake. Other people will not find them as user friendly. –  TheTXI Oct 1 '09 at 21:39

This is a meta-answer, to test out and record results from navigation in various browsers, so we don't have to muck up other questions. Thank you for ignoring it.

Firefox, multi-answer

Here is my second answer. I'm going to try navigating away by clicking on the SO link.

I'm back. My second answer's text has remained in this box, no loss. Now I will try to do a 'back' operation.

I'm back. My second answer, and all above here, still remain in this box.

I'll update my original post.

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