We normally replace text designs with icons where necessary on websites due to limited screen space. Icons take less space, they don’t have to be translated and people understand with them, right?
Taking care of icon usability is an essential aspect of making your website user-friendly while benefiting from all the positive results they bring. Let’s delve further into why icons are important and how creative web icons can improve User Experience.
Benefits of Icons
When users visit a website and look through the page for the most visually appealing content, icons help by drawing the user’s attention to what you want to promote. They are recognizable and seen on almost every site. They support text content by summing it up with an image. Even though smaller icons are less distracting, they still receive the same level of impact as larger icons.
Icons Increase the Readability of Your Web Page
Cluttering your page can cause users (both new and repeated) to leave your site early. Most of the pages on your site may naturally be more mundane due to the quality of the content. This can cause a decline in user experience. Icons are the best way to cut out some of the confusion without losing content, at the same time managing the page more interestingly and increasing readability.
Need to Be Authentic
This is a simple point: icons are a significant part of your visual language and brand, so they should fit. Sometimes key icons are almost as relevant to your brand identity as the logo itself.
Google’s logo is the large word that graces its search engine and other products. But in Drive, Google has Material icons that help an incredibly important purpose: you can instantly locate and utilize Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. All of the icons fit their brand and afford quick access to important applications.
Icons Point Your Users to the Important Stuff
On most sites, particularly on social media, icons have completely replaced text when it comes to the major functionalities of the site. For example, the multiple icons on the top right corner of a Facebook page (e.g. Messages, Notifications), or the social media symbols on a web page that tells you how to engage with the services further.
Common UX Mistakes
Unfortunately, UX designers make many mistakes with icons that result in poor user experience. The most important one is assuming that users will know what icons mean:
When Microsoft Outlook designed an icon-only toolbar, users did not know what icons designed. This resulted in poor UX and frustrated users. Once icons with text labels were introduced, people began using the toolbar as expected.
Other common errors that have been shown to cause usability issues include:
- Not having proper text labels.
- Using icons that don’t convey the meaning.
- Leaving too little space for icons on mobiles.
- Being ‘too creative’ with icons at the time of recognition.
- Reinventing the wheel as opposed to using generally recognized icons.
- Designing icons with too much graphic detail.
Tips for icon usability
Considering conversion performed by icons, many aspects should be considered in their design.
Give them enough space
When we know about icon usability in terms of simple clicking, it’s not just their sizes that matter but having enough space between them as well. Good website usability testing could be helpful in this area.
Icons are not only used for the sole purpose of being a decoration and to show creativity. Each should clearly convey its purpose, so the user grasps it at a glance. Completely recognizable pictograms work best.
Relying on both colors and shapes
If you only rely on colors, like green for positive actions and red for negative ones, you can let your color-blind users down. Both colors and shapes are important for icon usability.
Icons make your website easier to navigate and helps it seem less intimidating. Properly using icons will help make your site more visually appealing as well. Stick to simple metaphors that are well known and don’t confuse users with overly complicated imagery.