"I hate Umbraco 7, I've just lost all my content and I was saving as I went along..."

Written by @marcemarc on Sunday, 30 July 2017

So I think as I explained before in an earlier post, here at Moriyama we've been working recently on 2-3 coincidentally similar projects, involving upgrading super-large Umbraco 6 sites to Umbraco 7 and supporting the editorial teams in making that switch and adapting to their new editing environment, and I think we've established that it's the human element of an editor experiencing Umbraco 7 for the first time, from the context of years of Umbraco 6 ‘enslavery’ which has really peaked my interest. Well, that and making musical based puns on any solutions that 'make it' into the community as Umbraco packages.

When something changes that fundamentally affects how you do your day to day job (and this is magnified if the change is thrust upon you), there appears to me, to be series of ‘states of mind’ that an individual needs to pass through, before they successfully adapt to the change, until they stop calling it the ‘new’ system - a bit like the seven stages of grief.

During this journey of adapting to change there appears to be a common state of mind when an individual will ‘question everything’, which is probably a really common part of human nature, mistrusting something new is a good survival technique.

This can feel really tiring, almost like the person doesn’t want the new system to be better, but if you are tasked with introducing the new way of working to that person, avoid being defensive: patience and explanations of ‘why’, and lots of patience are required to get through to the next stage - do not tell them the new thing IS better, instead, respect them to come to their own decision given time and information, and learn yourself from their feedback and how they see the change with their fresh grumpy eyes.

Anyway the interesting thing about a person in this mindset is they can often stumble across a series of steps or contrive a situation to find a bug or a flaw, that can take you by surprise…

… let me give you an example.

Take the journey of creating a new document and updating it in Umbraco 7 - saving it as you go along.

You and I know - it's not possible to lose your editing work in that scenario, is it?

you've pressed Save, it saves, right? - Umbraco is pretty reliable at that, and we know if we click away to another part of Umbraco we'll get the:

Discard / Stay option


If we're honest, we get that message a little bit too often than we'd like, it's annoying, but we know it's trying its best to help us, so we tut a bit, but don’t begrudge its existence.

So clicking the wrong option here is not what the user did to lose their work…

(notice how the colours have changed in 7.5+ so the ‘safe option’ to stay is now highlighted in green - so tired editors don't accidentally click the previously emphasised 'Discard' option (often semi-consciously, when tired or in a hurry you will inadvertently click the highlighted option on a dialog, without really thinking))

... wait they lost their work? Yes, here's how, why not follow along at home?

Create a new document in Umbraco 7

Perhaps a blogpost

Type some content into the document, press Save, type some more, press Save, type some more press Save, etc now after your last Save, click away to another part of the Umbraco content tree, you don’t get the 'Discard / Stay' option, now try and get back to the article you were creating…. It has gone!

What? How?

Now if you were following along at home you might have without thinking added a ‘Name’ for the document at the top, but if you did not, then when you press save, the feedback to say that this is required, is really subtle, (just a red border around the name, not consistent with the rest of the validation error messages).


If you are coming from Umbraco 6 you are a little bit blind to this area of the screen. So when you press save, your document isn’t saved, but that’s kind of ok, because the Name hasn’t been filled in, and you can’t save without a ‘Name’ dummy! - it's just you won't notice the absence of a save confirmation if you are not expecting one - but here’s the bug - pressing Save clears all the angularJS IsDirty() flags, whether the document is saved or not!!!! And this enables you to click away without the discard warning… and then as it’s not saved anywhere, you lose the content you just entered!


The subtle difference is in Umbraco 6, you had to supply the name at the point of creation, whereas in Umbraco 7 you can start editing the document without it having a name.


So the answer to this is to just explain to the editor to fill in the Name at the top of a document before they start creating content - but for someone transitioning to Umbraco 7 from 6, this occurrence is frustrating and saps confidence in the ‘new system’.

“It’s worse, I never lost content like this in Umbraco 6”

It increases the length of the phase the editor is in of ‘mistrusting the change to the new cms’, they question everything more and more. It harms their productivity.

Here’s what we did.

  1. Thanked the editor for discovering this - where were you two years ago? When people were testing this, bet this has driven other editors mad over the last two years and nobody understood why - now you’ve pinpointed it!

  2. Raised this as an issue: http://issues.umbraco.org/issue/U4-10108 and explained how reported issues get fixed and improve the product for everyone, look at all the issues reported, it won’t be fixed immediately.

  3. Provide a short term quick workaround that acknowledges the seriousness of the issue to the editor…

Short term fix

So if someone forgets to type into the Name box (as it’s outside the editor main screen and they are not used to having to fill this in) let’s make the assumption, that they will type into the ‘Title’ box, the first property on the document type for this site. 

Let’s create a custom property editor for the text box and have anything entered into the Title textbox  ‘sync’ into the Name box on 'first load'...

...(but not after it’s been saved once that would be annoying) - now it will be impossible to type a title and not have a corresponding name for the document, we can make the title a ‘required’ property, and now no work can be created and lost accidentally in the weird scenario outlined above.


The code is here on github if you are interested. No musical pun. (‘Sync me up before you go go’ would be very poor and even below my standards - yes! - I have standards),

Editor is happier, we have listened, acknowledged the seriousness and demonstrated how quickly we can respond to issues like this in Umbraco 7 and Opensource.

Fast-forward to one week later, follow up visit and the editor says:

“Thanks for that sync box thing, but I’ve just learned to type a Name in first, so we don’t really need it”

Result! - the editor has adapted!, but in a positive way, it feels like we were on their side all along - they are sharing their success with us, the custom property editor of course wasn’t the ultimate solution, just temporary stabilisers, to give the editor confidence and enabled them to move on to the next phase of adapting.

Admittedly I don’t have a ‘scientific control editor’ that we told to ‘just put a name in first’ - this is all spurious and anecdotal, but I mention it really to try and highlight ‘there is a lot more going on’ when people use systems for the first time, or things change, and often amongst fellow developers I get a vibe, that editors are somehow at fault, but we should recognise it’s not a binary or even linear curve that humans follow when they encounter change, and if you support editors through the transition phase, the long term outcomes will be more positive.

The developers job doesn’t stop when the code is shipped.