To get an inkling of how powerful icons can be in applications, you just need to watch a kid playing video games. They’re brilliant at figuring out what those little symbols in a game represent, quickly figuring out how following trails of icons in a particular order would lead to dramatically different outcomes – such as winning or losing a game. People can almost instinctively understand and relate to icons, as if they are keys to deciphering a coded language fast. That shows how powerful icons are. As most modern applications are icon-driven, users have become very good at understanding and using icons. It’s second nature.
Icons are indeed little things that make a big difference. For those little graphical symbols are merely doorways to instructions, from the most simple to complex powerful operations. Pressing the delete icon in a program at the wrong time can ruin your day, if not your career! Differentiating icons at an instinctive level is key to a safe and seamless interface.
However, icons are not only utilitarian: there are design, aesthetic and even fun elements to them. If the icons in an application look cluttered, unfriendly and confusing, users may not enjoy working with the application even if it is a good one or capable of leading to good results. It pays to bear in mind the multi-faceted role icons perform in an application and to work with a design company which can pull together all these different elements into a coherent, friendly and functional package that meets your requirements.
- Icons aid navigation: this is the primary purpose of icons in most applications. The icons enable users to navigate applications quickly and consistently. The icons are like doorways to a consistent language: short-cuts to orders, instructions and various elements of functionality. So the clearer they are designed, the better the icons will serve to achieve the specific results required.
- Icons encourage familiarity with an application: if you’re above a certain age, you’ll remember the old, early versions of the Word Perfect program which had no icons at all and how it was a nightmare to navigate the menus. Computer programs have come a long way since those ancient days. So users generally expect high standards in the usability of programs. A properly designed set of icons will enhance how users quickly and easily get familiar with an application and find it as aid to productivity rather than something to be wrestled with.
- Icons can give a professional look to your product: if the professional look is important to you, it makes sense to have an icon set exclusive to your product or brand – rather than using off-the-shelf boring icons. In this role, icons are similar to the way in logos are exclusive to particular companies or entities.
- Icons can help present a consistent and user friendly look to an application: this is one area where a bit of creativity and flair comes in. With user friendliness in mind, you can get a set of icons designed for your brand or applications that will make users love using your software and at the same time make their work easier.
If it is true that icons have multi-faceted functions that involve utilitarian as well as artistic, and fun elements, it pays to give attention to getting the best icons developed for your application or brand.
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…