Save icon, is the floppy disk icon dead?
This Twitter post sparked me to ask the question:
totally! RT @damienguard: Dear UI designers everywhere. Stop using floppy disk icons for save. Too many people have no idea what it is now.
So, is the floppy disk icon obsolete? Should it be replaced with something more modern and if so what?
You might say that save buttons themselves are dead. Why not automatic saving with undo? Microsoft OneNote for example. Save buttons should be placebic in the same way that door close buttons in elevators and street crossing buttons are.
Just out of trivia (and because it intrigues me), those things must be a local specific because over here - street crossing buttons need a push to initiate a cycle (though on really crowded streets they're sometimes lit and pressed automatically). Also, I've never seen an elevator with a close button, not even the ones from ~1920 in town has one, but perhaps I'm simply too young or there's a big difference in regulations ^^ (most have a "hold door" button though to let more people in)
@Oskar (Los Angeles, CA here...) There are definitely *some* intersections where you have to press the button otherwise you will never get a walk signal but for many of them, it's going to change anyway whether you press it or not, and the button doesn't really do anything.
Here's a nice collection of "dead" icons, including the floppy disk. http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheFloppyDiskMeansSaveAnd14OtherOldPeopleIconsThatDontMakeSenseAnymore.aspx
Many, perhaps most, lifts (aka elevators) in the UK have close buttons. They close the door immediately, assuming no one is standing in the way, so you don't have to wait the usual 30+ seconds for the door to close automatically. If someone hits the outside button whilst they are closing, they usually then open again.
When altering business data, please keep save an explicit action. Auto-backup, sure, but only auto-save robs the user of a very important action: cancelling.
Libre office uses icon of drawer or filling cabinet, whatever it is, with arrow going in. Think, that it is perfect.
Although many young people do not know the metaphor, they understand its meaning of the icon save. Clipboard and envelope icons in my opinion are also quite obsolete. I found this very interesting link on the topic:http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/05/13/0310219/icons-that-dont-make-sense-anymore
I know this question is fairly old, but I just had to comment. The fact that floppy disks are no longer used only solidifies the icons place. The disk icon means one thing and one thing only: Save. Not too long ago you could've used a CD since it was the next major (RIP Zip disks!) upgrade in storage media, but then people would wonder: Am I saving or burning to a CD? Now, it's flash drives, but people would wonder the same thing: Am I saving to my computer or saving to my flash drive? Since floppy disk drives rarely exist anymore, end-users know exactly what they're getting.
exactly the same as the pencil icon to edit or the page icon for a file: not obsolete but, as the accepted answer states, idiomatic
I think some might even argue that the 'save' functionality is going to be obsolete because of the popularity of web applications compared to desktop applications.
Most printers don't look like that anymore also. But people still would associate that image with a printer as that is the image that is commonly used for a printer. A triangle does not look like caution but it has been associated with caution by use.
"Saving" was an unnatural action (real-world things are not ephemeral) and hopefully it will not be needed as a concept much longer (computer data could be made not ephemeral). It is hard to come up with a natural association for something that never existed before technology created it. This will be an ongoing issue.
I am having the same dilemma. Despite I agree that iconography is symbolic and, the "save" floppy disk still means "save", for many the reality is that we live more and more on a ubiquitous society based on the web and web applications. Users in my opinion are starting to expect just the word "Save" as a button instead of a floppy disk. Is there any biography and research on this?
The floppy disk icon is an idiom, not a metaphor. It doesn't matter that we're no longer writing files on 1.44MB 3.5" disks. It doesn't matter that many users don't even know what a floppy disk is. What matters is that users associate the icon with saving.
Great point - for instance, I have very little experience with physical folders, yet folder icons are ubiquitous.
So you're saying it's an idiom and must be learnt. But floppy disk icons between different apps look quite different (compare Office, Windows Phone 7 and Nintendo DS games like Scribblenaughts that all use one) so that learned experience is not easily reused. In my own experience with new users they didn't recognize this icon and they don't know what it is. Somebody tells them to click it or they experiment and click it and do it next time. I don't feel that is good user interface design at all hence my original Twitter post.
@DamienG - What experience is that? I don't think I've seen anyone fail to understand what that icon means. As for the different look, they aren't THAT different. They are all similar enough that one can easily confer meaning from one to the next. Even a VERY below average intelligence knows a phone when they see it, even though different phones look nothing alike.
Kids mostly. Idioms, as was said above, need to be taught or learnt. Often that's okay, people can play with the functions and figure out what the icons do but that's not acceptable when the action is whether their data gets kept or lost.
I agree, i think it's like the shutter sound of digital cameras. Or "horse power" as a physical unit.
Unless there's a more appropriate icon that is easier to learn or more intuitive, the floppy disk icon is still relevant. The people who are unable to recognize a floppy disk icon just because it's a different size/color or illustration style are going to have just as hard a time with any other save icon. That's why you add tooltips and text labels to important functionality.
@DamienG: You say the icon look different in different apps, but you list examples from different platforms. When designers choose icons for an application, they are quite consistent choosing icons that reflects the platform it is built on.
@awe: Thats exactly the problem. Somebody who has never seen the original object is in a poor position to recognize an abstraction let alone two completely different styles.
Having no floppies any more makes them even the better icons. An HDD-Icon could mean there is a distinction, where you like to save your data, and many people, while using hdds, have never seen one. USB-Sticks are to widely used (as modem, wlan, drive, lock, bluetooth, ...).
When I was in school, the class was told to "Click on the little picture of the television to save". And that was when floppy disks were still well known and used!
@NickChammas Thanks. I've replaced the link with another, better one. Also, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63Y5XjlO4vk
We don't need to stick with dead technology, it can lead to dead idioms. Libre office and linux gnome already learned the lesson and replaced it by something else. "Put file to the folder" icon would be good for any media in the past or in the future. Who knows how we replace USB stick or HDD in the future,...
Don't know if someone already linked to this comic, which basically proves that it doesn't matter if a younger generation don't understand the origin of this symbol anymore as long as they know what it does.
I feel like being a troll, using 5.25" floppy drives as the save icon in my next prototype. Anyone born after 1985 will be clueless! Besides that, check out this story about the history of the cmd key on macs. Shows how it started out becoming an idiom and then eventually Susan Kare discovered its true origin again: http://www.tested.com/tech/mac-os/461757-origin-apple-command-icon/