Icon Usability Testing: Keep Your Product Names Out Of It

Time To Test Some Icons

Recently we launched a mobile icon usability test to help us select icons to represent several areas of our product in an upcoming mobile app release. We split our testers into two groups.

Test Setup (Words Matter!)

The first group got a test that asked them to select the icon they felt best represented the product we listed. (For example: Select the icon that best represents MyView.) These users are familiar with our products, and know how MyView functions.

The second group got a clickable test that sent them through the same flow, but rather than listing the product names, we listed descriptions of what the products do. We did this because the icons were going to be for general public use, not for folks who were necessarily familiar with our product names. These users are also familiar with our products, and know how MyView functions, but we explained it rather than listing the product title.

Results = Fascinating!

Our results were really fascinating. When we asked the first group to pick an icon that best represented MyView, a large proportion of them picked an icon that contained an eye. When asked why they selected that icon, they mentioned associating the word “view” with an eye.

When we asked the second group to pick an icon that best represented a screen which they could customize to make it display content that was most important to them, they overwhelmingly selected an icon with a star included. When we asked them to explain why they selected the icons that included a star, they explained that the description made them think of a screen full of their favorite content, and they associate “favorites” with a star icon.

The Moral of the Story – Stay Away From Product Names When Testing Icons

When you’re launching a usability test, especially one that will be used to help select iconography, keep your product names out of the equation. Describe the areas or products or features that you’re trying to represent instead, to ensure that you’re not accidentally tainting your tester opinions and results.

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