Iconography. Good or bad? As always, it depends

Kayla J Heffernan
Jan 8 · 9 min read

Icons as static elements

Icons are good

Realestate.com.au icons for the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces for a property listing
REA design without icons increases friction
NAB’s Chat icon is clear
Despite my poor Catalan I was able to successfully wash my clothes in Barcelona thanks to icons

Icons are bad

Without the text, does a flower represent ‘spa and wellness centre’?
In the design on the left, the icons do not add any value so we removed them and reduced noise
What do all the different laundry icons even mean? Source

Icons purpose can be confusing

The star is thicker, so I know it’s clickable — but does the average user? It’s separated from the other, non-action, icons — does that mean clickable to the average user?

Icons as interactive elements

Which icon, when?

Microsoft Save icon
Airbnb Save a Property

I love this place, maybe I’ll stay here!

Medium bookmark a story for later
Star a message on Slack
Amazon — Add to List
Labels add context to icons

Understanding of Icons

Imagine there is an icon (a symbol or a picture) hidden by the black square in the image above, and this icon is what you would click to put the job aside for later. What symbol or picture would you expect?
Twitter poll — which icon means save?
What words, phrases or actions do you associate with this icon?

“Most things online confuse me, why can’t every sight[sic] use the same shapes to do the same thing?”

“Icons can be a little confusing as they are quite subjective to the user & the situation they are used in”

“I like to keep things simple — searching for work is stressful enough without having a complicated site to navigate in the process”

“Love, not applicable for job advertising”

Prior knowledge influences understanding

Does this mean Penny to you?

Context matters

If you like it, then you should put a label on it

TL;DR- Should I use icons? Which icons?

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At SEEK we’ve created a community of valued, talented, diverse individuals that really know their stuff. Enjoy our Product & Technical insights…

Thanks to Caylie Panuccio and Rob Scherer.

Kayla J Heffernan

Written by

UX Design Lead. PhD’ing @ The University of Melbourne. Advocating for the voice of all users. www.kaylaheffernan.com

SEEK blog

SEEK blog

At SEEK we’ve created a community of valued, talented, diverse individuals that really know their stuff. Enjoy our Product & Technical insights…