Don’t depend too much on Icons

I’m developing web and smartphones application to live my life. Recently I was developing a management application for Japanese local company, and I found the fact that the simple UI design was rather difficult to understand for old-fashioned. Therefore, I would like to share it here.

Don’t depend too much on Icons

For example, younger generations like us, or those who are used to using devices, it’s not hard to imagine what you can do by touching that icon.

Such an icon above, you could imagine that something could be downloaded.

Such an icon above, you could imagine that something could be downloaded from Cloud.

However, if you don’t know Cloud, or if you are not using to downloading in daily life, it seems almost impossible to imagine what kind of thing the icon would trigger and what kind of event would occur for people who live before these icons existed and were used in life.

Originally, icons are effective for intuitively communicating functions without taking up space. However, if the meaning and intent are not communicated, users would misunderstand and confuse its function. It’s hell for those who don’t understand at all. This is like trying to get someone who can’t read Japanese to read it in Japanese.

Therefore, the icon should be written together with the label and should be considered as a role to assist the meaning of the label. I think that it should be designed on the premise that the meaning of the icon would be learned by being used repeatedly.

Users don’t try to touch something they aren’t familiar with

It is a mistake to think that users, especially mobile users, click on all the icons to know what each icon means and works. In fact, users are often reluctant to engage in unfamiliar interfaces.

“What kind of function does this icon have ?”
If you are interested in technology in the first place, or you have high IT literacy, you might explore the function of icons. The creators usually have high IT knowledge, so there is a gap here.

labeled vs. unlabeled

User testing results for the “labeled vs. unlabeled” icon show that:

With labeled icons, 88% of users were able to correctly expect what would happen when they tapped the icon.

For unlabeled icons, the rate is reduced to 60%. In testing the app-specific unlabeled icon, only 34% of users were able to correctly expect what would happen when tapped.

Since Icons are not just replacement of labels, we should be careful to use icon.

Happy coding and designing!

80% is the creation, the rest is depression. Frontend developer and data scientist, designer. Looking for Physics Ph.D Twitter: @T_I_SHOW