How Icons Affect The User Experience?

the present day, icons play a pivotal role in affecting user experience by not only expressing various objects but also enables us to portray ideas and interfaces. If the designer does his job the best way, then icons can deliver the key idea of a product effortlessly and also add a layer of creativity to interfaces. Icons also helps in bringing out the aesthetic aura of an interface. You will also see these days that most commercial websites and applications on the web have icons because of the familiarity users share.

The prime existence of icons is to guide users to the destined location without fail. In this article, we’ll be delving deep into types of icons and how it affects the user experience. You can try out Adobe Experience Design if you are a beginner and want to get started with creating icons.

Now let’s look at the types of Icons:-

An icon can be rightly defined as the representation of an object or an idea through visual experience. So it’s essential to create icons that add meaning to the idea; otherwise, the icons become nothing less than visual noise, which will cause a bad user experience and delay in execution.

Let’s have a brief idea about all the types of icons and how it affects user experience.

Universal Icons

These are the types of icons that are well known and recognized by everyone. Few examples of universal icons can be the symbols you use for searching, cart in e-commerce websites, printing, etc.

These icons are quite rare, apart from the examples I stated above, there are ones that can not be interpreted easily as these icons can mean different in different interfaces.

Conflicting Icons

These are the type of icons which can have conflicting meaning depending on an interface to interface. There is a problem when you try to implement a pictogram that has different meanings. Suppose, for example, a star and a heart, these icons can have varied functionality differing from one application to another, and also compete with each other.

Therefore, you will find that these icons are very tough to interpret by the users. If you even apply for understanding them, they can deliver an outcome which you will be least expecting thus it will leave a sour experience. Thus users won’t be encouraged to rely on them for future use.

Unique Icons

However good icons can be in displaying the true intentions of a product or an idea visually, they lack in the representation of anything about abstract. It’s a tough job for the designers to design an icon to portray a unique idea. If you take the example of Apple, you’ll find that they use a group of circles as an icon for Game Center. However, you might ask, how can a group of colorful circles have any relation to gaming. Therefore, they lack in adding any meaning to gaming. I’ve seen that Google has also simplified the interface of Gmail and hid everything behind the abstract icon.

How can icons affect User Experience?

One of the most important aspects of icons is how it affects the user experience. This is a basic thing you’ll find that people will get more drawn to interfaces which they can recognize easily however will be intimidated by something which they have not seen before and they will think twice before taking an action due to the consequences that may follow from an unknown product.

ow to improve the usability of icons?

One of the best ways to improve the usability of icons by following the KISS principle. This principle means to build simple icons, to the point, and portray the basic attributes of the object or idea you’re trying to represent. The best way to approach the usability of the icons is by testing for memory and the recognizable nature of it. You can easily figure out the drawbacks and problems of your icons by testing them in real time with users. This will tell how your icons are fairing among the common mass. Now let’s look at a few benefits of icons.


According to Don Norman,users can memorize only a certain number of icons. Use icons that everyone knows for common things that every product has like a triangle for play, magnifying glass for search, a trash can for deleting. Don’t ruin the user experience trying to be unique.

For example, using an eye for searching(or looking) won’t be as good as using a Magnifying glass.

Icon for Search
Icon for view

Avoid similar icons for different purposes in the same app, this will confuse and frustrate the user.

Use Labels

Most of the icons used are not universal, thus some kind of explanation is required for those. Use labels with each icon, which clearly describes it. Try using labels of one or two words. As you can see in the image below, it is quite difficult to understand the icon’s functionality if it weren’t for the labels.

Icons with Labels

You need not display the label at all times, but it can be a pop containing the name of the icons when the user mouse over the icons. It will save up space and meet the goal.

Maintain Consistency…

Keep in mind to be consistent while designing your icons. Don’t use random designs that may look great individually, but overall they don’t seem neat.

Inconsistent icons look bad

… but don’t make them over consistent

Consistency is a major aspect of user experience, but don’t be consistent in a way that your users can’t tell your icons apart. Use both color and shape to make icons easily distinguishable.

Make them large enough

Icons are supposed to be small and elegant, but they should be large enough that their shape is understandable.

5-second rule

This rule states that if you take over 5 seconds to think of something that represents your purpose for the icons, your users will never understand what you want to convey with that icon.

Now test

It doesn’t matter how much time or confidence you have put in your icons (or product for that matter); it is nothing if the user is having difficulty in achieving the goal he was supposed to with it. Test the usability of your icons with your users. Your icons should provide definitions and information scent.

If your users need to think about what the purpose of a particular icon is, there is a chance that it’s not the correct icon to use.

cons play a vital role in improving user experience, and after discussing the advantages you can rightly understand. However, there are certain drawbacks to icons too, as they can cause usability issues if the designers don’t design them in consideration of the downsides. The very basic job of icons is to guide the users in reaching their specific destination with no effort. Only use icons in real-time if they bring out the 100% meaning of the object or idea you’re depicting. This will allow users to have an enjoyable and engaging experience.

Innovation, Creativity and Change | Visit us: