Do Icons and Glyphs Improve Software Usability?


Imagine that currently you are working on a desktop app, where you see that the majority of buttons have some text on them. If you add some images like icons and glyphs on the buttons, you may have an application, that looks great. However does it really improve the software usability or not?

We can surely say that one of the biggest advantages of using icons and glyphs on the buttons is that it becomes easier for people to associate the icons with the buttons. This is particularly good in responsive design, where the space is limited. When we use the icon with a text on large viewport, this allows a good comprehension of the meaning of that icon when they are being used without text on a small viewport. However, though there are some advantages of using icons and glyphs, we can’t definitely say that they improve the software usability, because different users have various wants and demands, which depend on the app itself and on the level of their skills. So there is no certain answer to this question and it depends on different factors, such as:


1. Level of familiarity with images among users 

For example, if Android users are asked to use an interface, which is designed in the same way as Android, these people will get used to it in a short time. On the contrary, those people, who are not familiar with Android, would require some learning before getting used to it.


2. Type of device and connection 

Device and connection are very important, because if a user has problems with loading the images, the interface may be broken. In addition, it can also delay loading of the interface if the images are not cached.


3. Language that is used 

It is worth mentioning that images cannot be translated, so it is one of the first things that may distract users.


4. The size of user interface 

Just because images do not always scale, users, who need a large interface may break the interface with some mechanism. In addition, for example a graphic that is at 16PXx16PX may not be legible when it is decreased to 10PXx10PX.

So, there are the main factor that you should take into account in order to understand whether the icons and glyphs improve the usability of softwares or not. If these icons help users to understand the tasks of buttons, then you should use them. However, if they divert  from that task, it is better for you to avoid using them.


Here’s another article you might like: The Advantages of Icon Fonts