Icons in interfaces

A 45 minute Tutorial by:

Matthew Standage

Oxford Computer Consultants

Slides from session

The slides used for this session are available to download from here.

About this Tutorial

Icons often play an integral role in modern computer interfaces. With the rise of mobile devices and the responsive web, designers of interfaces are using icons more and more to convey important pieces of information to users. But poor use of icons and poor icons can have a negative impact on user experience.

This session will aim to answer questions about icons, including:

  • how effective are icons at conveying information?
  • do users understand what we are trying to convey with icons?
  • what makes some icons more effective at communicating information?
  • can icons ever be used without textual support?

I will present a study of icons commonly found in mobile operating systems. The study demonstrates the characteristics of effective icons and how these characteristics relate to icon comprehension and a user's ability to interpret the icon function relationship. Drawing on existing research in the area, I will show a schema for icon characteristics and how these interplay with the icon's ability to convey meaning. In addition, I will draw on real-world examples of both effective and ineffective icon use.

The session will give designers of icons and those who specify icons for interfaces practical advice on icon choice, a framework for evaluating the potential effectiveness of an icon and tips for testing icons.

About the Speaker

Matthew Standage is a user experience designer at Oxford Computer Consultants working on software, web and mobile apps for health, science, engineering and social care. Prior to this, he spent 4 years studying typography and information design at the University of Reading. He is particularly interested in how we can use good design to improve people's lives and aid informed decision making.