Well-designed icons can improve device user-friendliness by saving screen space as they substitute text labels, they make it easy for users to identify apps, they can be easily understood and do not require translation for international users, and they are good targets for mouse or finger. A good icon design does all, so here is how to develop a good icon.
The first step is identifying the three types of icons.
First are universal icons, which are conveniently named as they are represented by universally understood pictograms. If there is a music app, it is represented by a musical note, making it a universal icon. It goes without saying that your icons need to be represented by something simple that can be universally understood.
The second type is a conflicting icon. These are icons represented by ambiguous pictograms. For example, a star or heart as the choice of your icon will be confusing as they both can be taken to represent liking a post, so if both are used, users might be tempted to confuse the two and dread the experience of having to learn the difference, therefore avoid this practice.
The third type is a unique icon. These are icons that represent products of unique functionality, out of the scope of universally understood pictograms. If you find yourself in this situation, avoid creating icons that will require the user to learn. Although a unique product, design a simple icon but provide a suitable label that can be easily understood; for example, Facebook’s icon is just an “f,” but the label is “Facebook.”
Using labels to enhance icon usability
This brings us to the next step, which is using labels to improve icon usability. It was found by a UserTesting study that icons with labels had an 88% predictability success rate by first-time users, compared to 60% for icons without labels. This data indicates that having a text label that supplements a well-designed icon makes it easier for users to identify icons, thus improving user experience. Take this into consideration when designing icons for your user interface. This is also powerful in avoiding the pitfalls of conflicting and unique icons.
These tips will aid you on your journey of developing a great user interface. Always remember to keep your icon design simple and focus on the functionality of the object. You do not want to keep users in suspense over the icon design but rather want it to be easily identifiable by any user, thus making a seamless user experience, and unless your product falls under the bracket of being represented by a universal icon, it is best to provide text labels. You also need to test your icons out on people to identify whether all objectives have been achieved. Can users identify the icon, and can they remember it?
It is important to take the user experience into account when developing any product and user interfaces are no different. Our devices are the most important things in our lives, and it is important that they are easy to use. Use these tips on how to improve user experience through icon design.