I figured, that I’ve got more ideas and wishes that I’ve got time and skills to make them real. So, I’ll be posting something like a wishlist every now and then. Let’s start with a simple request.
You prolly know these little fellas and hopefully use them often.
These are the icons that represent the function of a program to save the current state of a document – or whatever you are working on – to a file, the save icons.
The icon itself was derivated from a floppy disk. The floppy was a major storage medium back in the 70s and 80s and there were several variants of it. The one the save icon was modeled on – the 3.5″ floppy disk – was introduced in 1981 and looked like this:
However, technology advances fast, especially when it comes to computers, and so new kinds of storage media were developed. The hard disks got bigger and affordable, the CD became a major medium for computers, followed by the DVD, Blue-ray and USB sticks. So the floppy became obsolete and in the late 90s more and more manufacturers began to ship their computers without a floppy disk drive. So it’s not unlikely, that you’ve never seen a floppy disk like the one in the image above.
When Pluto was still a planet, the floppy disk was state of the art (and the term disk-jockey did not only refer to someone who arranges music). To use a floppy disk as a save icon was a very logical step, since it was really representing the function. But let’s compare storage media a bit. A standard floppy carried 1,440 KB (around 1.42 MiB), which was a lot back in the days when Twix was still called Raider and usually more than enough to save a bunch of documents. But as I said, technology advances fast and so a standard 700 MB CD (actually 737.28 MB or 703.1 MiB) already carries as much as 512 floppy disks. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A standard 4.7 GB DVD (or 4.38 GiB) is equal to about 3,264 floppies, a single layer Blue-ray disk (25 GB) can store about 17,378 floppies, a dual layer Blue-ray disk twice as much and a common 1 TB hard disk can even save almost 695,000 times as much as a standard 3.5″ floppy disk. So let me reassure you, the floppy disk is more than outdated. You could even have a hard time purchasing a floppy disk drive or the floppies themselves.
But we still click on an icon that represents an archaic medium to save our work. We do not save it onto a floppy disk anymore, we didn’t do that anymore for over a decade. We save to hard disks, USB storage, Flash cards, optical drives, network storage and even the great interwebs. And people who are new with computers have no idea what a floppy disk is. They cannot intuitively connect the symbol to the function it represents. But we still stick to that old icon.
So here’s my wish and a task for every UI designer out there:
Create a new standard save icon!
One that does not represent any kind of storage media, since we all know that those will outdate someday. Don’t use the arrow to folder icon, since that is already out there and not good enough (otherwise the floppy would’ve been replaced years ago and it also represents an even older way to store and save files). And also refrain from using a cross, even though Jesus saves (and does incremental backups). The icon should be coherent in any language and culture. Create something new, something great, something that any software developer will immediately want to use. Your win? Fame and glory!
And if you’re really good, you’ll create matching icons for „Save“, „Save as/Save new“, „Save all“, „Save draft“ and „Open“. (And to be really, really, really good, also add matching „New“ and „Close“.)
Thanks in advance!