How to Effectively Use Icons in Web Design
No matter how much experience you have using icons on web design jobs, it never hurts to review the basics.
Stop looking at icons as visual dressing. Far too many web designers choose icons for all the wrong reasons, thinking that their appearance may help dress up an otherwise drab looking site. Icons deserve more credit.
Start thinking of icons as words. The best chosen icon for any specific task will convey a certain idea or function. For example, take a look at the now universal “envelope” icon and you know exactly what it means: e-mail. Likewise, the frequently used “wrench” icon is immediately associated with tools. Icons bring an immediacy to a website that limits the need to read and speeds up procedures.
Try to think of how someone who doesn’t read English will see a website. People with web design careers have to be able to see things with fresh eyes. A big part of that is remembering that a potentially massive segment of visitors to any given website may not understand English. One of the best ways to determine if the icons you’re using adequately express their function is to view them through the eyes of a non-English reader.
Good icons are easily recognizable. Some websites get into trouble by implementing icons with features and details that are not discernible. If someone has to think too hard about what an icon is, they’ll probably give up trying long before they make the connection as to what function it actually represents. Pay careful attention to the design of icons and ensure they’re simplistic and easy to identify.
An effective icon eliminates the need of the user to overthink. Similar to making the features of your icon easy scannable, you’ve also got to ensure that the image you’re using matches the function or the concept that you’re trying to get across. For example, using the image of a magnifying glass can get across that by clicking it, the user will be able to perform an in-depth search through a website for a specific topic. But if you replace that magnifying glass icon with the image of a desk, it won’t make any sense. It will only wind up confusing your audience.
Icons should look like they were designed by the same artist. While some may feel that having icons which vastly differ in style of design may imbue a website with zing or pizzazz, that sort of approach can actually cause confusion. Aim for uniformity when selecting the icons you use for a website. It makes it easier to users’ eyes to gravitate to them.
Look beyond mere design and think big. A beautifully designed set of icons can do a lot more than simply guide site visitors to the right functions. Over time and with the proper amount of refinement, icons can become synonymous with a company’s brand. This should be the ultimate goal when brainstorming and developing icons.
If you’re looking for a job as a web designer, Artisan Talent can help connect you with companies seeking to hire your services. Contact us today to learn more.
Vince F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.