Published On :22 July,2010
Icons have been an integral part of the human culture long before the evolution of the Web. Right from stone age, humans have been using icons as a form of communication. And till date, icons act as an effective tool to establish instant communication and overcome linguistic barriers.
Web icons play a very crucial role in enhancing the user experience on your website. When used effectively, they can declutter the web pages, improve the navigation and consequently increase the sales as well. An ideal icon is immediately familiar and uses a repeated design pattern in order to help users understand, interact and navigate the website in a better way.
Types of Icons
Based on their design, Icons can be classified into 4 broad categorical types. They are:
They are the most common type of icons that use pictures of objects to communicate the message. For example, clock to represent time, Polaroids to depict images etc.
They are used to represent action. For example, left arrow for 'back', right arrow for 'forward' etc.
Object + Symbols
Often, a combination of both objects and symbols are used to represent certain actions. For example, when a file has been saved, you can use a folder with a check mark to show it.
This is a rare type of icon where an arbitrary symbol is used to represent certain actions. For example, the pause button.
Benefits of Using Icons
Quick Summary of Web Page Features
Icons make it easy for the users to scan the web pages quickly and understand the features therein. This further helps to enhance the navigation of the website. Icons can help depict various categories and therefore, cut down the users time of reading through content. With the help of these small pictorial elements, users can understand the various elements.
Icons also help explain actions and behaviors and thus save space on the web pages. This in turn speeds up things for the users as they can view and understand more things in less time.
Attract User Attention
Icons can also be effectively used to attract users' attention to specific areas of the web pages. Generally, you would want to focus user attention on call-to-action areas like Download or Sign Up etc. Icons help you establish just that. Just make sure you use familiar icons that users can easily comprehend
Overcome Language Limitations
This is perhaps the most powerful advantage of icons. Because of their universal nature, they help you transgress all the barriers of language and communicate a message across multi-lingual audiences. This is especially beneficial for websites that offer a range of different language options. With a simple use of icons, they can direct users to perform the desired action!
In case of comparison tables i.e. where you need to run down a comparison between a range of products or services within a chart or table, icons are an easy way to cut down on the text and improve the look and feel of the table. Instead of using repetitive text, you can just list down the features in a tabular form and place a 'check' or 'cross' icon to represent the availability of the same.
Maneet Puri is a Managing director at LeXolution IT Services, a professional web design company located in India that specializes in a range of web services. Some of the services that the company provides include website design & development, website maintenance services and internet promotion.