Add and Edit are NOT the same!

A while back when in a meeting with a client we were discussing the interactions of a system we were designing and one of our development leads spoke about an “Add/Edit” screen that can be used whenever the user wants to either add or edit their content.

ARGH.  I really went nuts inside.  Sure from a development perspective it might be a lot easier to use the same screen for both add and edit – it happens A LOT.

From the user’s perspective “add” and “edit” are two completely different actions. Each should have a uniquely designed interface!

When adding a new “item” the user is creating something from scratch.  They have a concept in their mind and the interface needs to help them to get it into the system.  Not all of the parameters need be displayed—as the goal is to get the new information into the system as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  The order of presentation of the “items” needs to match the mental model of the users understanding of the flow.

When editing an “item” the user has specific changes that they need to make to an existing record.  All of the parameters should be displayed, and the order of their presentation should be such that those items that are most likely to change are more prominent in the interface – that way it is easier for the user to find and make the changes that they have in mind.

Luckily our client understood that add and edit are different.  We had to design some extra screens for this project but we know that the end users will be happier.

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