User interface design is plagued by conventions and for obvious reason, familiarity and usability. The conventions are obvious, which is why they have been successful, a house for the “homepage” or a piece of chain to represent “links.” Arguments about creativity of these conventions aside, there is one such convention that needs to be abandoned. The particular convention that I am talking about is the floppy disk as “save” icon.
When was the last time that a computer even shipped with a floppy disk drive? 2002? And even at that time they were definitely well into the stages of decline. When the icon is a reference to a physical item which is no longer in use, shouldn’t it as well be changed? Additionally, consider the effectiveness of the icon when the viewer is unfamiliar with the original object.
Children new to the computer who are not old enough to know what a floppy disk is have no frame of reference to understand the icon’s meaning. When designing for an age group such as this, it would actually take more explanation to describe what a floppy disk is than it would to explain the concept of “saving.” In this situation, the use of a floppy disk as a pictographic representation of “saving” is an obvious failure.
WE NEED A MORE CONCEPTUAL SOLUTION.
When trying to solve this new visual problem we are left in an interesting situation. For one, more often than not data is being saved to a hard drive rather than a removable format. While saving to a centralized hard drive is somewhat abstract in concept, consider the recent move to “cloud” based storage solutions. Each of these situations demands a more conceptual solution, to avoid becoming obsolete as soon as they are developed.
Change happens quickly within technology which means that references to technology need to change just as fast. The conventions found with interface design need to be flexible enough to adjust to these changes. As graphic designers, we need to question our choices when designing interfaces, are the conventions we rely on actually ineffective?