Does the save icon need to be modernised?

Is there a problem?

In a word, no.

Let's face it, when I say save icon, what do you think of? Bingo. That floppy disk inspired icon. This is exactly my point.

The floppy disk inspired icon has grown into something so much more than what it used to represent and is now known both in new and old generations alike as the save icon, rather than the floppy disk. If you ask a child what a floppy disk is, they will probably have no idea (in fact, only 14% do), however they all know what the save icon looks like and would probably be able to draw a version of it.

My point is mainly for those who want the icon to change purely because of its resemblance to the good old floppy disks which used to serve us all so well. Just because we don't use them anymore, doesn't mean the icon doesn't still function as the desired purpose. After all, there are plenty of icons out there which have no link to their purpose other than the fact people are used to using them as such, anyone thinking we should change the voicemail icon? No? So why is the save icon such a big deal?

The challenge to change the function of save

More recently, an interesting topic appeared on Branch which is what has inspired me to write this post.

People don't want the save icon to work how it has worked for decades anymore. With the dawn of cloud computing, so has the want for everything to be constantly backed up to the cloud, or even better, live save to the cloud. Due to this the save icon is in fact, in my opinion, un-needed, or rather, not the correct icon for the job. You see the save icon's purpose is to empower the user to save, not to represent the program saving. Wherever it may be saving to is not a requirement, if the user is saving then the save icon is fine, it works, and computer users around the world know what it is. If it were to change, I would have the same amount of confused phone calls I had off my parents when the menu icons turned into 3 lines instead of a spanner or a cog.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that there is room for more than one save icon, depending on the situation and the purpose of the button. I've seen several now which incorporate timers into the icon and have varying levels of complexity. The problem here lies with the hugely diverse area the save button covers, it's not just for saving your Word documents. It can be used in varying levels of a user interface, from preferences to pictures to Microsoft Paint.

One thing that the Branch discussion did bring up is probably one of the most valid points, how do you symbolise data?

Keeping an icon such as the save icon simple is why it hasn't yet been altered, everyone has their own opinions (just like me with this article) and everyone has a way which they find simple. However I really don't believe that there is a need to change something that we might not even need in the future. That doesn't mean it can't be given a modernised look and feel, but I think that its function and link to the floppy disk needs to remain.

The need to save is disappearing

In a world where cloud computing is kicking off and more and more of us are taking to web apps and programs which automatically save, it is only a matter of time before the save icon could bite the dust as well.

I use that as an extreme, but in context, all that would happen is it loose its current prominent place in a user interface and be moved under the 'File' menu for example as a text label rather than an icon. Some programs have been doing this for years, even those which have only just recently included autosave features (anyone else thinking Adobe Photoshop?) and personally I see this as a route which will be taken in the future.

In conclusion

I guess, in the end, I sit further into the 'leave it alone' group and will stay here quite happily until a case is made which keeps everyone happy.

Signing off

that sdmix guy Matt Allen

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