“My Life” by Milosh, turn it on, and turn it up.
When was the last time you saw a floppy disc?
Unless you’ve recently accomplished some spring cleaning in your office, my guess is that it has been too long to remember the last time you saw a floppy disc, and arguable that it has been over a decade since you have used one.
Then why is it still common for designers to use an icon of a floppy disk to indicate the function of ‘Save’ even though floppy disks have not been used since Y2K?
‘Save’ is Dead
It has been discussed amongst my fellow Mad*Power’s that “saving” is no longer an isolated action, and that the lines between saving and sharing have been increasingly blurred. Rather than storing information into the depths of your hard drive, behaviors and technology have evolved to the point where we no longer want to strictly ‘save’ a file; we would rather post it, tweet it, upload it, text it, or email it. With the addition of Apple’s “Time Machine”, which saves everything automatically, it is implied that the need for a user to proactively protect their files will soon be obsolete.
The question remains, is the floppy disc still a relevant icon? When Mad*Power’s were challenged to find a new icon that represented ‘save’, the following icons below were chosen, and illustrated how a single word can have a variety of interpretations:
The word iconography means “image writing.” In other words, to be able to suggest to the viewer, what something means without having to write it. A great icon will suggest to the user the primary purpose of that function without having to read accompanying text. The very best icon will accomplish the above and be instantly and universally recognizable.
Why then, when given the task of selecting a “save” icon, did Mad Power’s select so many different icons?
It’s important to remember that words can have many meanings. Save, for example, can also mean secure, savior, savings, conserve, storage, rescue, etc. Each person, therefore, selected the icon that best fit “their” interpretation of the word “save.”
Outdated? Who Cares!
With so many icons to choose from, how is it that everyone still manages to navigate our complex iconographic world?
The answer is universal association.
Does it matter if the floppy disk icon is outdated and untrendy? My answer is no. People have a strong understanding and universal association of what is implied by that disk. This is where the rule of grandfathered icons comes in.
Some icons aren’t accurate or current in their depiction, but still have a strong understanding and universal association for a particular function or meaning. For example, what about these “grandfathered” icons?
• Suburban house » Home
• Envelope » Email
• Eraser/Pencil » Edit
• Magnifying glass » Zoom
• Light bulb » Idea
• Trash can » Delete
• Paper clip » Attach
• Heart » Bookmark (Favorite)
• Head silhouette » Profile
• Gear cog » Settings
• Zipper » Compression
My ultimate opinion is, use whatever (floppy disk or not) resonates best with the broadest set of users, knowing that ultimately, if the user has to think about an icon to 'get it', the metaphor is too complex or irrelevant.