The Curse of the Save button.
As I was burning the midnight candle last night, and getting some work done after I had spent my evening watching the Eagles vs Panthers game, I came across a topic that I think has been forgotten in the world of UI and UX…
The Save Button.
I remember being 7 years old (2001), and being very curious about the floppy button on Microsoft Word. One of my favorite pastimes was making stuff through word-art and making it look neat. I thought the floppy button was for the computer to create a floppy of the document, and spit it out, I was wrong.
It was a horrible time period. I had yet to discover the internet.
Many years later, I learned what that floppy button did, and just like water to a plant, it became a vital resource for the technologic homo sapien, who likes to create and save things on the computer. Just like how most people get used to things, I got used to the save button, since it was the only button that ensured me a good grade in school, and bragging rights in Microsoft Word’s Word-art.
Nowadays, Word-art isn’t like it used to be. There’s no fun in creating the most hilarious nor exciting word art, since there are thousands of different ways to create better “word” art. Using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or the countless online generators that give users the power to create.
But do they give the power to save?
Last night, after the eagles suffered a devastating lost against the panthers, I came back to my desk, and started doing some work. My workflow consists of switching between Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome since I work with websites and do a lot of front-end editing which requires me to view the site live as I deploy my changes.
I had used Firefox’s search engine that is built into the browser in the top right position, to Google if in CSS the text-weight attribute could use inherit (i used normal), and the question went straight into the Yahoo Search Engine.
Yahoo? Yah No.
Every single time i’ve tried a different search engine, i’ve had a bad experience. I’ve been sticking with Google ever since i’ve had a regular access to the internet, and it has yet to let me down with finding what i’m looking for. Comparing with other search engines, Google always wins when i’m searching for what I need.
But this article isn’t about search engines, it’s about the Save Button.
Right! So as I ventured into the Mozilla firefox settings to change my default search engine and homepage, I came across a frightening situation.
THE SAVE BUTTON IS MISSING!
This immediately gave me a short anxiety attack,
Did my settings get saved?
One of the worst things you can do as a developer or a designer is to not let the user know, confuse them, and then create doubts (problems) in their mind. User experience is best when the user accomplishes his goal in the most shortest, minimal, and satisfying way possible.
If I get a parking ticket, I am let known. If I get an email from a nigerian prince about a free billion dollar trade deal, I am (unfortunately) let known. If my grandma makes me a nice sweater, I am let known.
But if I change my default homepage in firefox, I am not let known?
The Save button serves a bigger purpose than what it accomplishes. It not only saves your stuff, but it gives you a pat on the shoulder, letting you know that it’s there to get your back, and ensure that you are not a victim of “I forgot to save the file, now I have to do this all over again”. The Save button is the mental equivalent of returning your mom’s calls when you are a teenager.
She’ll be less worried, since she knows that you’re still alive and not passed out drunk in the middle of south street in philadelphia at 2 AM.
Having a mental approval process is helpful when making decisions. I’m quite confident in saying this without backing it up with any real world tests; but the inclusion of the Save button must give the user more confidence in their work. Since they can testify themselves to the validity of the existence of their work. Rather than depending on an auto save system that does not let them know of the situation.
As much as I love the save button, I do think it’s getting old.
When teenagers grow up, they stop calling mom back, and moms all around the world slowly start to accept the fact that their kid is growing up, and they’ll be responsible enough to not eat a cockroach on a dare, or chug an entire bottle of grey goose for five bucks.
That’s how technology has been turning nowadays. In many User Interfaces, we have the auto-save functionality, which is a life saver if you ask me, but a menace if you cannot save manually, or be let known when it is saving.
It’s like ordering a kebab, without knowing the delivery date.
Since it's 2015 and everyone is slowly downvoting the use of the save button and the implementation of auto save, as best practice, we should always implement a way to let the user know that their settings have been saved.
This is vital for the user since A) User can rest easy knowing that their hard work is saved. and B) User can create without having to worry about saving.
Letting the user know when it’s a manual save system is also crucial. If your system is limited and auto save is not possible, warning the user about saving manually can really help out a lot.
The Best Option? All of the Above.
Let’s Save the User’s work automatically, and let’s inform the user when their work is being saved, while also giving them the option to manually save.
It’s not that i’m attached to the floppy icon, i’m attached to the character and purpose behind it.
Ask anyone in the streets, they will most certainly refer to the floppy icon as the save button. It has (no pun intended), become iconic in it’s own way, and accomplished something that a CD will never be able to do —
Stand the test of time.
So incase you’re a developer at Microsoft and you’re reading this, Please for the love of all that is holy, upgrade Word-art so that I can create some neat stuff, I would also love to see a lot of the vintage styles, as hideous as they might look today. “Vintage” is the keyword.
But more importantly, if you are thinking about implementing an auto save feature. Let the User Know! and Let the User Save!
Pardon my grammar, all my english teachers were on drugs.