✯ Mike's Site

To icon or not to icon

Pretty comprehensive writeup about the use of icons from the makers of iA Writer, one of the App Store's most popular overpriced minimalist writing apps.

The long and short of it:

  • Icons alone can't convey the meaning, causing usability issues
  • Text labels without icons are dry and not compelling, which is a UI problem of its own (whether we like that fact or not)
  • Both is almost always going to feel like a compromise

So... everything is bad, more or less. They advise getting things right without icons in the IA and wireframing stage, then adding on the emotional component as part of UI design. Sound approach, but ultimately we're still left with icons as a pretty good solution that are still mostly unable to convey verbs and abstract concepts.