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I've seen lately that new question editing is stored somewhere for later use if we wander off the new question without posting it and then return back to the page. Which is a good functionality addition in it's own right.

What I'd like to also have is the Discard this draft functionality that would clear form data and forget it. Somehow we find an answer in the meantime and the question isn't valid any more.

So having a Discard saved draft or something similar would be a nice contra-functionality to auto-save to remove stored data. The way it's implemented now seems too hidden hidden and unpredictable to users.

Additional edit

When adding hidden auto functionality usually means creating the opposite as well by either giving the possibility to preference of not having automatism at all or giving the possibility to clear what's been auto saved.

Let's see how GMail doesn't work (and I think we all agree that from UX perspective it does the job as expected:

  1. User clicks Compose message
  2. User starts writing a new email message
  3. User decides to not send the message and checks their inbox
  4. User clicks Compose message again
  5. A clean form is presented to user (old one being part of drafts)

I'm not suggesting we should have something like Saved drafts but we surely should have the possibility to clear previous question draft.

Since this new functionality was introduced I should point out that I would use the discard functionality more frequently than the saved one. I do welcome saving messages, but discarding of saved drafts is anything but a rare situation one might want to do. It wouldn't be a problem if this was a 1% against 99%. To me it's more like 50/50.

Best possible solution

When providing saved drafts there should (from the UX perspective) be the opposite functionality as well. Namely discarding of it. But first thing we should be asking ourselves is:

  • do users more frequently need pre-filled saved question draft or
  • do users more frequently need empty form with the possibility to populate it with a saved draft

User testing should provide the usage frequency between the two and the one that's more likely to happen (my guess is that there would be a big difference between the two) should be implemented. So one of these:

  1. Pre-populate question fields with saved draft on question form load, while also providing a button to clear the draft and start writing anew without the need to manually clear all the fields (which would be the optimal solution in case of a single field form)
  2. Question form should always load empty while also having a button that would pre-populate it with a saved draft.

I think this would be the best consensus related to saved question drafts and their usage. But as we've seen this issue has been swept under the rug for an indefinite time.

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Not meaning to be sarcastic, but is this something ctrl-a delete does not do? –  waffles Oct 31 '10 at 7:31
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@waffles: Does the draft get saved when blank? IIRC, it doesn't. I just tested, trying to save a blank draft, just stops at "now saving..." but doesn't complete and can't save anymore without reloading (the original draft stays). Would that be a bug? –  Jeff Mercado Oct 31 '10 at 7:37
    
@Jeff that sounds like a bug ... it should not be stuck on saving draft, its confusing –  waffles Oct 31 '10 at 9:26
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@Jeff, @waffles: Displaying the saving message or not is still doesn't save empty drafts. So there's no direct way of discarding drafts. –  Robert Koritnik Oct 31 '10 at 9:51
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I can't delete a draft. This is a bug. Re-tagged as such. –  Chris W. Rea Dec 17 '10 at 13:10
    
Similar question which is not yet in the linked section: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/68140/… –  Grace Note Dec 17 '10 at 13:12

5 Answers 5

up vote 19 down vote accepted

For those fastidious about clearing drafts (for whatever reason) this will be avaible in the next build.

enter image description here
Also available on answer drafts

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Thanks a bunch! Wait, I don't want to post that...what, where's the cancel comment button!?!1 –  Ben Brocka Mar 20 '12 at 21:39
    
This really is great news but I wonder what in the world took you so long to implement this simple functionality... –  Robert Koritnik Mar 21 '12 at 7:57
    
BUT I think this isn't very well thought out. When is more likely for users to discard their saved drafts? When they start a new question (and see it pre-populated with old draft) or at the end of writing a question when they decide not to ask it? In first case this link should be at the top rather than here at the bottom of the form. But in the second case this is ok... The question is of course which scenario is more likely to happen? First or second? I'd need it at the top. If it was at the top and bottom, it would cover both cases. –  Robert Koritnik Mar 21 '12 at 8:00
    
@BenBrocka Exactly.. –  bobobobo Apr 16 '12 at 15:28

This is really bad UI design.

I'm always getting caught in the trap, where I start answer, realize that I don't want to finish, but then everytime I go to that page (until I answer another question) it brings up the text. There have been times when I've automatically posted an answer that I then had to delete, because I'm moving fast and didn't think of my ghost answer being there.

What's so hard about a cancel button for the draft (like the one for the Edit)?

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only one answer draft is held per user, and it lasts a maximum of 7 days -- so simply answer another question. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 22 '11 at 7:40
    
totally agree. There should be [cancel] or [discard] button. –  Michał Šrajer Jan 2 '12 at 19:15

Data for only one question is stored for you. If you navigate to another question and start answering, you will loose what was stored of your last answer. You don't even have to worry about it.

More info here.


The closest thing you have to discarding the draft right now is replacing everything with garbage text, or just a single space. As it stands, you cannot save a blank draft. When attempting to save it, it will flash "saving draft..." and stay there instead of eventually changing to "draft saved". Attempting to save a blank draft prevents saving until the page is reloaded. If there was ever an option to save a blank draft, then it's bugged. (a "null message exception" or something)

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Well it does bother me. Who said I will answer a question before asking another one myself? If there's auto storing question data there should as well be resetting. I think this is bad UX. –  Robert Koritnik Oct 30 '10 at 9:28
    
Instead of resetting I should have written discarding. Because that's exactly what it would do. It would reset fields PLUS discard saved draft. –  Robert Koritnik Oct 31 '10 at 7:11
    
It's not that I disagree with what you're saying, personally I would've made the request myself. But just looking at the kind of requests that get rejected or shot down by others, adding a button would "add clutter" to the page or some reason like that. Now if we could save blank drafts, manually perhaps, I think that would be more acceptable. –  Jeff Mercado Oct 31 '10 at 7:33
    
My guess is that saving blank draft would be more confusing and misunderstood than discarding saved draft which would show up only when there would be a saved one. –  Robert Koritnik Oct 31 '10 at 8:42

This is now possible with a UserScript I wrote:

Manual Draft Save - Save a draft on demand

It adds a 'save' and 'clear' button to the bottom of the editor.

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Too bad this is not done out of the box (and is declined to be done as well). Although you do provide save and clear functionality I think that save is not really necessary since it already does automatic saving. –  Robert Koritnik Feb 21 '11 at 9:05
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I might be missing something, but the "Clear" button doesn't actually remove the "saved" draft - it just temporarily clears the box, right? Or is something wrong in my environment? When I clear an answer draft, leave the question, and come back, my draft is back to haunt me! –  Tao Aug 11 '11 at 12:17

While I totally understand your want of a reset button having one is bad UI design. However, this will cause more cognitive friction than clearing the text area manually. Having a clear or rest form button was never a good idea and has been mostly eliminated from modern web sites. What you are asking for is equivalent.

Having to focus on the question text area and then press:

CTRL + A then del

seeems like a really small price to pay for a backed up question. The only other way to allow you to clear a draft without a clear button would require going to another page (probably your profile) to remove cached answers / questions. The way things are implemented now seems much more in line with Don't Make Me Think.

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Well you're generalizing things here a bit too much... Getting into textarea and pressing Ctrl-A and Del doesn't work. I've just tried. I'd either have to wait X amount of time, or algorithm doesn't save empty drafts. So this clearly doesn't work. If it's keys+time it's bad UX again since it's a hidden nondeterministic functionality that users can't know how or when it works. And naming the clear/reset button like Discard draft would have a better UX and better meaning to users than some simple reset... Which would do what? same as Ctrl-A + Del or discard draft as well? –  Robert Koritnik Oct 31 '10 at 7:13
    
Discard draft would be more in line with Don't make me think than Ctrl-A + Del + wait some time to make it work (if it saves empty drafts at all, which I seriously doubt)... –  Robert Koritnik Oct 31 '10 at 7:14
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@Robert Maybe I'm missing the point but if I don't want the saved answer I delete its content and then start typing something new. I don't see the issue with having a partially typed answer or question floating around. So no I don't think my answer is invalid. Basically, if you don't need what's been saved remove it and get to work on something else. If you aren't creating new content what does it matter that there's an artifact hanging around? –  ahsteele Nov 1 '10 at 20:44
    
@ahsteele: you're right. your answer is still valid, since you don't mention that empty drafts will get saved... But it's still tedious to clear three fields manually... I think most UX people would agree on this being a bad process. –  Robert Koritnik Nov 2 '10 at 7:59
    
@Robert I wonder if an intermediary screen would work better? Something to the effect of "I see you have an automatic draft saved would you like to edit it?" or maybe start with a blank form even if you have a saved question and provide a link to "revive" a draft? I think I like the second option better. Thoughts? –  ahsteele Nov 2 '10 at 8:20
    
An intermediate screen would be an unnecessary step to my taste. User experience testing would give a valuable insight into user behaviour frequency. If they are more likely to edit saved draft then form should be pre-filled with it with an additional button that can discard it. If not, the form should be blank but there should be a button to populate it with saved draft... That would be the optimal solution. Others UX experts may give their own two cents. –  Robert Koritnik Nov 2 '10 at 16:55
    
@Robert we just agreed on something. I think the repopulate is the best option as well. ;) –  ahsteele Nov 2 '10 at 20:09
    
@ahsteele: :) well technically I didn't favor any of the two options. To me both are valid. The one that's more likely to happen more often should win. Either the 1. filled+discard button or 2. empty+repopulate button. But it's true we did come to a satisfying conclusion. Lets just hope this will get resolved in any of these two ways... –  Robert Koritnik Nov 2 '10 at 21:48

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