Use professional icons for better communication between the user interface and the application
Current applications – whether for the Web or standalone – are starting to focus more on the user interface. The time when you have to write lines and command lines or go through several menus to carry out certain tasks has passed. Developers have now implemented a simple wizard, with help on the screen near every important element of the application, which will make even the most complicated tasks look like a walk in the park. And the easiest and most efficient way to create a user-friendly interface is to add clear icons. This thumbnail that takes several dozens of pixels will have the most meaning than a full paragraph of text. It’s more convenient and efficient to insert icons than writing some text that explains a particular function.
The icon is very important for the user interface. People want to use the application’s features to the full, and don’t like it when they can’t find a way to complete a particular task. This is why developers must always create shortcuts to the main tasks that can be completed using their application. These shortcut items should catch the user’s attention, so adding the icon will work in most cases. The icon must be associated with certain tasks, so, for example, the disk icon will be a great visual enhancement to the “Save” button, because the printer icon will fit inside the “Print” button. A good set of icons in the interface will greatly improve communication between users and applications. The icons are colored and, in many cases, larger than the description text of the associated application features; in this way, they are much easier to see.
Most applications today use icons, although almost all developers don’t bother applying specially designed icons into their applications. Actually, finishing with a standard operating system stock icon is not a bad thing as some people might think. Computer users may sometimes have some problems adapting to new applications, especially if they have a different interface than the applications that are already installed on the user’s computer. What happens if you want to save and you’re looking for a disk icon, but you can’t find it because the developer decided to use the star icon? If so, there will be poor communication between the user and the application, because the interface icon is different from what the user uses. Application developers should not fall into this trap just because they like some other icons and they don’t want to use the same old system default icon, because that will do worse than good. The default system icon is preferred because most applications use it, so users will learn to use your application much faster. Functions and commands will be easier to understand, because users will be able to more quickly identify iconic symbols.
If developers want to give a different look to their application, they must use professional icons that are specially made, specifically designed for their application. Today, such services are affordable, and you will be able to tell the designer how you want the icons to look. In most cases, you should not use a completely different look from the system icon (for the reasons explained above), but you should try giving them a unique and personal touch; the application will stand out from the crowd and will look much better than the others, thus attracting more users. Changing colors, for example, is the easiest way to get new icons that are similar.
To have good communication between users and applications, the developer must predict all problems that might be caused by the interface. Is the button too small? Are they too big? Can the toolbar be moved around the screen? What about the menu, can users add new items to it? Also, can they replace other icons and images with others? What about users with special needs?
Unfortunately, there are many developers who ignore such problems, and create a rigid interface, which users cannot change to better suit them. The simple answer to this problem is to make lots of skins, with different colors and different icons. The application must have a “standard” skin to get started, and then several different skins, for example a minimalistic skin with only a few main buttons and large icons, or a “expanded” skin with many toolbars and buttons, each with its own small icon. In addition, skin with colors and high contrast icons will be highly valued by users with eye problems. Apart from all this, developers must also allow users to create their own custom skins and use different icons.
There are several benefits of using icons in the application interface. It doesn’t matter whether an application uses the default operating system icon or has a specially made icon specifically designed for it, there must be some graphic form in it, otherwise people will find it more difficult to use it. This is possible because most applications today use icons to facilitate application learning. Because most applications use similar icons in certain tasks – such as printer icons for printing or disk buttons for saving files – it’s much faster for users to click on those buttons, so they will remember it the next time they use the application , or other applications for that matter. Even if later advanced users will choose to use keyboard shortcuts instead of clicking with the mouse button on the toolbar, it is very important for beginners they will use the toolbar, so icons will be very important in communicating with applications.