How to Attract Users with a Great App Icon

A great icon is going to attract users faster than just a great app design on its own. The app icon is the gateway for your mobile app. A user is going to build a set of assumptions about your app based on what they can perceive from the icon. Just by looking at the icon, a user can guess that the app inside will be well designed, better than its competition, and easy to use. There is a huge assumption about quality before they get through that gate and choose to download.

So what can you do to make sure that your icon won’t hold your app back? Simple. Keep these guidelines in mind when designing an app icon.

1. Keep it simple.

The main rule of all design, but it especially applies to teeny tiny app icons. Your design might look fantastic at a large size in your Photoshop file but always remember to check it on a phone first. Simple works at all sizes. Also remember that this app icon may be used against a variety of busy photos and backgrounds on your user’s phone. You want the icon to look clear against anything.

2. Don’t use a gloss overlay.

We’re a few iPhone generations past that design trend. Flat style is in right now but, that also doesn’t mean it has to be plain and boring. Stick to minimal gradients, solid shadows, sharp lines and good contrast.

3. Let your brand stand out.

If you have an established brand make sure that it is both clear and recognizable right on the icon. Yes, you have the option to use a bit of text under the icon, but people are visual creatures and want to be able to scan through their apps quickly to find the right one.

4. Don’t include words.

Keeping in mind how tiny app icons are, any words will often appear pixellated or just too small to read. Stick to your brand icon, or maybe the first letter of your logo to keep it brand recognizable, but also clear at a small size. If the app is more about function than your brand, decide upon the iconography that will represent the app best.

5. Consistency between icon and app.

The app icon is the gate of your app, and needs to give the user a good idea of what your app is going to look and feel like. If you use a flat design in your app the icon shouldn’t be skeuomorphic. Use the same style for both and you’ll better manage the user’s expectations.

Put your research into other current app icon trends while you’re designing your app. It will quickly become apparent which companies use an icon to represent their brand well and which ones don’t. With this level of care for your icon, you’ll drive user interest and desire before they even download your app.

For those interested in doing more research into icon design, iOS Icon Gallery is a great website to browse current icons.

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