This is one of the example from Google's approach with almost all online products these days...

In Keep, when you create/edit a note it is automatically saved(ofcourse) but you don't get any confirmation as such and even if you could, user's mental model of saving something after creating is avoided. This kinda seems to work in Desktops but as user only has option- to go back, in case of mobile screens, it seems to be a lot confusing at first and users have to try out to see how it works.

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So, are we moving to similar models in UI these days or only Google is creating this and is this really a better approach?

EDIT: Adding further, the problem is that the only option out is Back button which can be perceived as not wanting to complete the task as in case of most website and mobile apps. So, Isn't user's mental model different? I know this is a learnable design but is this a right approach to take?

4 Answers 4


This has been around for quite some time now and I can think of one app that does this very well. Word Online accessible through OneDrive looks like the following. You get a saving notification and a saved to OneDrive when done. But that is desktop, looking like the following:

enter image description here

On mobile Word, you have the same text, but you enter an editing mode and have the option to make auto-save or not. That way users are in control of what happens when, and that's a lot better than just confuse users with questions like "Does back mean delete?", "How do I save?".

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  • Yes, this could be a better way to handle this. So, do you suggest that Google needs to take care of this or make some changes? Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 17:17
  • 4
    I don't say this very often, but ... Microsoft gets it right here. There should be a confirmation that the file has been saved. Done is also a more explicit statement than the back arrow. What you do with the done action is up to the context, but that can get tricky too. There are also use cases where users will want to cancel, which is better than turning auto-save off. Users only think they want auto-save off until they need it. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 17:38
  • Smart way to handle this scenario, just keep Auto save switch in preferences.
    – byJeevan
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 10:53

This technique in itself is usable because ti allow you to remove one passage in the process of saving. In a scale of intuitiveness that goes form unusable to intuitive i inserti this technique in the middle: usable. More precisely learnable because, as you have said, it requires a quick learning for the user to understand how it works. Once learned the technique of automatic saving the user doesn’t take care. Mobile ecosystem is young and it grows up very quickly. With the smartphone we can do everything so, i don’t know if in future we this technique will become a normal method but i think not in every situation it works good.

  • The problem is that the only option out is Back button which can be perceived as not wanting to complete the task as in case of most website and mobile apps. So, Isn't user's mental model different? I know this is a learnable design but is this a right approach to take? Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 14:58
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    You point is valid, but its progression in a way. Why do we want to 'save' the old way .. mind needs re-tuning, correct. when we can just type and forget (evernote, keep etc).. it auto saves everything. This is more efficient, more intuitive way.. and easiest in terms of user experience. The mental block will go away soon.. its 'progression'
    – PK2016
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 16:04

Yes, this approach is better—but not just for mobile! In general, “save” needs to be eliminated entirely.

The Save command exists because computers were originally not powerful enough to save automatically. If an ancient computer did that, you might have to wait a while every time you typed a letter; so the Save command was introduced. This led to a whole host of unfortunate consequences: save dialogues, lost work, and users expecting to have to “save” their work constantly. All this happened with the introduction of the Macintosh. Amazingly, the Apple Lisa saved automatically, because it was a more powerful machine.

Consider a normal person’s mental model: what you see on the screen is what’s on the computer. They don’t necessarily know that there’s a difference between memory and storage, and that the screen represents the former and not the latter. Instead, they’ve been conditioned to press Ctrl+S compulsively because the computer can somehow lose what it already has unless you press this magical key combination. Do people expect their books to lose information? Of course not! So why do computers sporadically lose “unsaved” work? This is not a humane way to treat users.

Nowadays, computers are orders of magnitude more powerful than the Macintosh was. Despite that, applications like Word still act as if it’s still 1984. Web apps, on the other hand, have been eliminating Save (despite it actually being slower to save stuff online); so now users don’t even need to know the difference between memory, local storage, and online storage. This is a good thing.

Eliminating Save comes with a few provisos:

  • Notify when saving. Since people have been trained to expect their stuff not to be saved automatically, you might need to notify them that everything is saved. Do this subtly without interruption. Many web apps do this, like Gmail.
  • Provide undo. Imagine you accidentally typed some gibberish into your document, the system saved, and now you have no way to go back to the correct version. Undo is essential when you remove Save.
  • If you want to go even further, add the ability to create milestone versions, so it’s easy to go back to specific versions of the document. This was suggested by Alan Cooper as a proper replacement of Save. Mac OX X Lion implemented a similar feature—finally bringing back the Lisa’s automatic saving.

Versions if OS X Lion

So, to answer your question, it’s a good idea to remove Save in all environments— but make sure that users can always undo and that they can clearly see that their stuff is safe.

  • Making an explicit choice that a certain version of the document needs to be preserved is a part of users' mental model. Indeed, you go on to suggest "milestone versions" which are a kind of explicit save. Your real-world analogy is of limited value: the power of the computer to store and manipulate data is what causes this to arise (you can't "undo" books either). Clearly no app should allow accidental loss of unsaved data. But can be solved whether or not "save" exists as a concept. I think whether save should exist is still an open question (maybe domain dependent).
    – user31143
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 9:11
  • Although I believe 'save' could be eliminated entirely but Keep's approach seems a bit harsh for same as it also kinda changes the mental model for 'back' button. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 14:44

I use moto x2.. I don't know it was pure android or moto's own.. But adding contact did not have save button n so neither cancel button.. The back button would automatically save the contact.

Now, after marshmallow update they added save tick at upper right corner..

add contact after marshmallow

Also, the back button now asks for confirmation if you want to discard changes!

  • Interesting but this doesn't really answer the question directly, it's just another example.
    – Matt Obee
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 11:24
  • I believe there might be a reason why Moto has updated the same and given a save/tick button and which is what I wanted to check with the community. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 14:40
  • Yes.. I have not given answer, but the example may help him to judge what is better..
    – SurajS
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 14:42

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