“What’s that icon?”
All I see is a mess of red, green, yellow, and blue. By now, you probably know exactly what I am speaking of — Google’s new set of icons. When I first received the update for Gmail on my iPhone back in October, I was looking at my phone for quite awhile trying to understand what happened to my app. Finally, I discovered that the icon design had changed. Not long after that, my other Google icons changed to the new design. A jumbled mess of primary and a lonely secondary color was all my eyes could see.
I wasn’t such as fan of the new design. And after a quick look across the internet, I wasn’t alone. From a user’s perspective, the new design is confusing. The different icons are not easily distinguishable.
Although the consensus was obvious from from the various comments across the interwebs, I conducted a survey to validate my assumptions. I posted the survey to social media and received 135 responses in just a few days. According to the survey, 80.7% of people do, in fact, prefer the old icons over the new ones.
In the survey, I asked how easy it was to recognize the meaning of the new vs the old icons. 63.7% of those surveyed said the new icons were difficult to recognize, whereas 88.9% of people said that it was easy to recognize the meaning behind the old icons.
I asked users a couple short answer questions as well to get a better idea about what they specifically liked or disliked about the designs. For those that preferred the new design, the main reason was due to colorfulness and consistency. They felt like the icons seemed like more of a family now. For those that liked the old icons better, they felt like the new icons were too similar to each other and that they were hard to tell apart.
“Some of the new icons (particularly docs and email) have become too abstract and are hard to understand. I also think that, while I get what they were doing with the super uniform color and line across all products, I think they look too similar now. I would have preferred having the on-brand colors one per icon.”
“The new ones just all look the same. I keep clicking the wrong one.”
Senior Experience Designer at AKQA Josh Munn came up with a very good solution to the new icon frustrations. Using different shades of one single color for most of the icons makes them more recognizable. I will admit to not being a UI person, but in my opinion, Josh did a very nice job with this redesign concept.
Until we wait for an actual update from Google, there is a partial fix in the meantime. Restore old Google icons is a Chrome extension that promises to restore the old Google icons on Meet, Calendar and Gmail so that your browser tabs are once again more recognizable. (I have not used it so I cannot verify its effectiveness).
So, there you have it folks, my rundown of the new Google icons. I think it was big fail on Goggle’s part, and as you can clearly see, I’m not alone in that thought. And what about you? What do you think about the new vs old icons? Let me know your thoughts in comments.