An important element of developing an application is conveying usability through the interface for users of the product. Users need to feel that the application has been developed to meet their needs through extensive market research, as well as finding it simple and straightforward to use.
Too often, however, developers go overboard from a design point of view, concentrating on making their interface designs artistic masterpieces with an array of colours, rather than consider a practical design process. A good application can often be interpreted without the use of instruction manuals, simply from the icons used in interface design. The design should be as intuitive as possible. This can help to reduce costs in the long run, as well as increase the application’s popularity.
Items or icons that have a logical connection should be grouped together on the interface to show users that they are connected or have features in common. It helps to familiarise between the icons and not mistake one function for another. You can use several methods, including boxing groups together or a simple use of white space.
It is not a good idea to create busy user interfaces. While it can be tempting to show off everything that your application can do, crowded screens are difficult to understand and negotiate. A rule of thumb is not to increase the overall density of a single screen by 40 per cent. You can go up to 60 per cent when grouping a “local” set of icons together.
Making your application work in a uniform way is extremely important: if, for example, when you click on one item in a set of icons, a certain function appears, then something similar should occur in another set of icons.
The application’s coIour scheme is of prime importance. The different colours in the icons should “go” well together. This includes the colours of any wording and labelling in or around the icons.
You may want to consider making your application suitable for colour-blind users as well. Using colour in your application means you should be aware of the contrast rule. It is an obvious rule, but one that can cause disaster if not followed. Your application should be readable, so use dark text on light backgrounds and dark on light. There is enough contrast between blue and white to make it readable; blue and red, on the other hand, can end up merging into purple-looking blurs.
Users of the application should be able to interpret icons in a manner that is relevant to the spoken and written language they are familiar with. People of some cultures, notably Western language users, read from left to right, and top to bottom, but this is not necessarily the case for every language.
There is probably not a generic format you can use, but it is worth considering some variations, or even tweaking the final interface design to make it accessible on an international level.
Owner and creative director at Creative Freedom Ltd. Unbelievably cool icon design expert, husband, and father of two awesome girls. A proper decent chappy and thoroughly fab to work with. Ok, so I wrote my own bio…