I got a copy of the fourth edition of About Face for Christmas because obviously thatâ€™s the kind of gift that I would appreciate. I read the second edition almost ten years ago and itâ€™s a book that stuck with me over the years.
The thing I valued most when I read that book was that it altered the way I thought about design problems. The example I always reach for is the extended riff on the ubiquitous â€œSaveâ€ button you find in things like Word. Itâ€™s a button that you have to click (or a menu command you must choose) to commit any changes you make to the computerâ€™s permanent memory. Sure, there is auto-save functionality but even in 2015, it isâ€¦ not quite satisfactory.
Cooper argued that this is a button that shouldnâ€™t even exist in the first place. Why doesnâ€™t our software simply remember everything we did? It should save everything as we go. If we make mistakes, it can be corrected by also having extremely effective â€œUndoâ€ functionality.
The key idea here isnâ€™t to design a better â€œSaveâ€ button. The better design is nothing at all. The idea that sometimes itâ€™s better to design nothing at all has stuck with me over the years. Iâ€™m pleased that the core of this idea, saving everything as you go, has been incorporated into more tools (though notably still not Word).