Revisiting – The Original Sin

The Original Sin (image source: IT Magz – October 2007)

RT @AnubhavSharma: Why is ‘save’ icon still a floppy? <— This question recently on my Twitter timeline prompted me to dig out from our archives this old article by Sunil Malhotra for IT Magz back in 2007, titled ‘The Original Sin‘.

The article had also mentioned the same issue and I post excerpts from it here –

Continuous and aggressive improvement is not as easy as it sounds. There are aspects that we technophiles must make ourselves additionally accountable for. Things that go so far unnoticed that they become absurdities. Here’s a simple provocation:

Who in today’s world would even know what a floppy disk is! The “Save” icon has lost its context but Microsoft does not seem to have even noticed its extinction. This illustrates how oversight or short-sight can create habits; even users stop noticing things that were meant to help them in the first place. The suggestion that emerges from the above example is to design interfaces that communicate at higher levels of abstraction so that their meaning is not lost when products of everyday use become obsolete. To think things through instead of either immediately imitating “œfamiliarity” or rushing into applying our existing skills. Imagine having the graphic of a dinosaur as a signage for a wildlife sanctuary in today’s world.

I can only suggest that we, the IT community, take a higher degree of responsibility for the total software experience – simply, that from our current focus on functionality and performance we must move up a notch into sustained usability.

Definitely something to think about. I love the term ‘Sustained Usability’ used here. Something you don’t get to hear of much, especially not from Experience Designers.

You can view the PDF of the entire article from here or access it from the IT Magz website.

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Officially known as the Creative Team Lead at Ideafarms, all things interactive catch her fancy. Claiming to be comfortably dumb, she is an avid tweeter. You can also reach out to her at @sunainak.

  • Doulos Jose

    thanks for the history bit…never actually noticed the relation..

    but another perspective would be, the symbol grew beyond a floppy drive. Its the symbol which relates to the function ‘save’ first, and then, maybe to a floppy. Just like Hindi relates to India, unlike English (which is now arguably the most widely used language in majority of schools and government communication) or any other regional language.. its a mascot now.

    Naturally, too much resources and time is required to change this symbol, which Microsoft must have felt is un-necessary 😐 .. just a thought.

    • Sorry, we cannot grant Microsoft the intelligence you are according to them. In my view, they haven’t even noticed that the floppy is extinct.

      Habits form without people noticing. As designers we should know this and take the responsibility – regardless of too much resources, time etc. – to design sustainably. Symbols get etched into user minds. Might as well create symbols as abstract as possible so they outlive ‘products of technology’.

  • Sarvesh Syal

    In all fairness to Microsoft, along with the other things related to Microsoft that we have started taking for granted, like the “Start” menu, or “My Computer” the “floppy disk” has always been the symbol of save(at least since I first started using Microsoft Office 97). It has grown beyond a symbol, to a nomenclature, something people are used to. If suddenly they change the symbol, people would be confused and/or unaware of the new symbol leading to consumer unfamiliarity.

    Let us take another example. If now suddenly Microsoft launches a new Operating System with the Start menu positioned somewhere else, and My Computer is renamed to root would be a nightmare for naive users and those unfamiliar to Linux(who by the way constitute more than 70% of Microsoft users in India alone).
    Coming back to the issue, recalling how much I miss the “File” menu in the new Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010, I wouldn’t want any more changes to the “Word” I use and love, be it as insignificant as the changing of a simple symbol. But then again, as I always say, to each its own….