Design is all about communication. It doesn’t matter how useful or relevant information that you’re sharing is if you fail to make your visitors interested in exploring more about it. Let’s look at why icons enhance user experience and why they are a good solution to catch user’s attention and guide them in an efficient way throughout the website or a mobile app.
KEY BENEFITS OF USING ICONS IN UX DESIGN
1. DRAW ATTENTION
When initially viewing a website, most users will first scan the page for visually interesting content, and only after something grabs their attention they will actually start reading and finding out more about the topic they are interested in. Icons are a simple and effective way to draw users into the content of your website or a mobile app.
Pictures are worth a thousand of words, so are icons. Websites without icons and pictures can be quite boring. Besides catchy headlines, images draw our attention to certain content or product. That’s why we tend to read that information first where we see attractive elements. Therefore it’s important to integrate visuals into your design.
2. PUT CONTENT IN A NUTSHELL
With icons you can quickly sum up what your text is about. They are the visual expression of a brand’s products and services. Simple, bold, and friendly! They communicate the core idea of a product or a service in a very easy way, as most of us are visual people, we get the idea of what the brand is trying to communicate faster!
3. INCREASE READABILITY
Icons serve the same psychological purpose as paragraph, but more visual and fun: they visually break up the content, making it less boring. A well-designed page, with text broken into short easily accessible paragraphs and highlighted by icons, is a good way to sustain the user’s attention. So, the tip, that we can give you here, is – stop wasting time writing so much content that no one will read, and start using icons! Don’t forget, we live in a visual era! More visuals, less text!
And don’t limit yourself just to using icons for products or services, you can use them instead of bullet points as well! Instead of using standard bullets, you can use engaging icons to draw attention to paragraphs and other blocks of content. Just don’t overdo it. Too many elements can distract users from the core user flow and make them tired of so many visual elements on the page. Too many bullet lists can also become confusing and counterproductive regarding the readability.
4. ENHANCE THE AESTHETIC APPEAL
When icons are used properly they make the UI more visually pleasing and bring personality and visual delight to the user experience.
5. SIMPLIFY THE LIFE OF THE USERS
The main idea of the icons is that they should help your users do what they need to do without requiring additional effort or brainpower.
In fact, the primary goal of using them should be to help the user absorb and process information more efficiently and in a more engaging way. This is usually done by using a lot of white space and using icons that don’t distract from the content but rather augment it. Using icons well enriches even minimal content by giving it more live, enabling effective communication without too many words.
They’re there to help your users navigate your website and take actions more quickly. They usually serve as a visual guidelines. When done correctly, they can help you guide users intuitively through a workflow without relying on too much on the words. But when done wrong, they can confuse your users, lead them down the wrong paths, and ruin their experience with your product or service.
9 TIPS FOR DESIGNING WITH ICONS
1. DO A RESEARCH FIRST
Familiarize yourself with icons used by your competitors and with icons commonly used on the topic you are working on. Look at what your target likes and knows, to use those that will be most recognizable to your users.
2. KEEP THE DESIGN SIMPLE
Reduce the amount of graphic details by focusing on the basic characteristics of the object rather than creating a highly realistic image. Small details are difficult to distinguish at smaller sizes.
4. USE THE 5-SECOND RULE
If it takes you more than 5 seconds to think of an appropriate icon for something, it is unlikely that it can effectively communicate that meaning. If it takes your users more than 5 seconds to think what it means, the icon is unappropriate for it.
5. INCLUDE A VISIBLE TEXT LABEL
A user’s understanding of an icon is based on previous experience. As there is no standard usage for most of them, text labels are necessary to communicate the meaning and reduce misunderstanding.
Picture taken from: Adobe blog
6. KNOW THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
It’s important to remember that there may be huge cultural differences in the recognition of everyday items. For example, what might be the recognized shape and color of a mailbox in one country, might be totally wrong for another.
7. PROVIDE CONSISTENCY
As each product icon is visually distinct, all product icons of a brand should be unified through concept and execution. When designing multiple ones you should provide consistency between them not only in style but also in the details such as the light source to provide a pleasant user experience.
8. USE UNIQUE COLORS AND SHAPES
Design is all about creativity and uniqueness. Check out the icons of your competitors, you need to know exactly what’s popular and what’s lacking. Using strong colors and an interesting shape that reinforces the object will help the icon to stand out. Usually there will be a lot going on around them, so they’ll need to be visible and catch the attention.
In recent months there have been a lot of icons that use single color backgrounds with a white text, flat design techniques and long shadows. Don’t get stuck inside the trends, do something different with your icon. Be unique, set the trend !
If everyone works with square edges, consider something more rounded. Don’t feel like you must follow the trends! Leading designers know the trends, but they are creating a new ones!
9. TEST IT
Test the icons for recognisability: ask people what they expect the icons to stand for. Or what type of icon they expect to see when they think about a particular topic. Find out if your icons communicate what they are supposed to communicate and if they serve the mission.