Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Save Icons and the Floppy Disk

Why do we still use the floppy disk as the icon to save? This has been hashed and rehashed a few times in the last few years, but there has yet to be a consensus on the topic. Some good attempts have been made, but overwhelmingly, people argue that the disk is ubiquitous and therefore hard to supplant. A strong argument in favor is the phone icon used on smartphones. A telephone handset? When's the last time you saw one of those?

That being said, I don't remember the last time I saw a floppy and anyone under 18 likely has never seen one other than in a toolbar in Microsoft Office. We don't necessarily save things to removable disks anymore. It could be to a hard disk, an SSD, a CD, a DVD, a network drive, a flash drive, an external disk, or somewhere in the "cloud." Heck, I can save a document to a cloud folder by printing the document. Save is not tied to media. In the case of iOS, disks have never existed on the platform.

Apple avoided the concept of what to do about the save icon by removing it and making save an automatic action you never need to worry about. But, there are times when you need an icon to indicate you want to save, such as when you want to "Save As…" or duplicate or "Save a Copy" of a file. Or, in my particular case, I'm working on an iOS app where the user has the option to save/keep/store his document if he or she wants to. Here, I need some sort of icon to put on a button (other than just using the word "Save" which doesn't fit the UI) that means, to the user, "I would like to save this one for later."

On one level, there's the concept of favorites or bookmarks, but these don't quite match the paradigm here. Down arrows generally mean "download" to me. Using a folder generally means "file" or "organize" (or, gasp, "Open…") to me. I, like others, will be wracking my brain on this one.

Do you, dear reader, have any ideas? Hit me up on Twitter or drop me an email. I'd love to hear your thoughts.