Paul Smith

Motivated by irrational hatred and overstated claims of the continuing utility of a 3.5" floppy disk icon to mean “save”:

  • Handset icon, meaning “phone,” on every iPhone, Android
  • email
  • Website (implies a physical place)
  • Wrench or cog icon, meaning “settings” or “preferences”
  • Shopping cart icon
  • Clock with analog hands, meaning “time” or time-centric application
  • Incandescent light bulb, several meanings, including energy settings
  • Bound, paper book, meaning “book”

Of course there are many, many anachronistic interface elements and metaphors in the world, and we get by okay. Mainly, this is because new generations don’t suddenly appear next to us and start using our computers without any foreknowledge of the metaphorical items. They spend time learning with the old fogeys for whom information was sometimes stored inside square pieces of plastic and metal. This overlap is necessary in general because knowledge about tools is not encoded in our genetic material. All understanding of use is part of a multi-layered strata of culture, experience, and relationships.

The real problem anti-floppy-disk people have is explaining a harm, specifically, a harm that matters. Often when we think of user interface improvements that matter, we think of examples like improving medical devices to reduce user error, changes that literally save people’s lives. Or tweaks to software that improve user efficiency and productivity, saving money. It’s hard to conceive of what might be improved by finding a better metaphor for “save” other than some designers’ personal sensibilities.