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The design of icons and their effectiveness

Authors Goonetilleke, Ravindra S.
Shih, Heloisa Martins
On, Hung Kai
Fritsch, Julien
Issue Date 1999
Summary Icons are a very important component of graphical user interfaces. However, icon design has been predominantly artistic by nature. Selection of appropriate icons is mainly by usability testing, after the alternative designs of each icon are completed. In this research we address the issues of what should be depicted in an icon, given the function it should represent, and how a short training making the design rationale transparent affects the performance of novice users when using an iconic interface. The experimental results indicate that trained participants had shorter response times than untrained participants. Results show also that superior performance may be achieved for both untrained and trained participants through complete representations, i.e., by representing all elements of the function in the icon. Further analysis indicates that when representing only part of the elements of the function in the icon, three important aspects to consider are ambiguity, uniqueness and dominance. Applications of this research include design of appropriate icons for graphical user interfaces prior to usability testing and an effective short training that could be provided to novice or occasional users.
Language English
Format Preprint
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