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I have a desktop application that serves as a smart, software-based router. Each of multiple nodes in the GUI can be either a UDP or TCP connection. We have the following status icons for the node:

TCP Connected: Green arrow
TCP Not Connected: Yellow warning icon
UDP: <Same as TCP working>

Customer has asked for a different icon set to distinguish UDP and TCP connections just for the information. We also have an internal usability concern that a green arrow for a UDP connection gives a false sense of it working (i.e. - the data being received on the other end).

We would like to add a third icon for the UDP connection, but have not been able to find a common standard for what they should look like. Is there any standard? If not, does anyone have any ideas?

Edit/Additional Info:
There is already a small text description on the node that says UDP/TCP as well as Server/Client, an IP port, the node name. The problem is that there may be dozens of ports, so we have some icons for important, at-a-glance information. This includes the connection status, logger status, a filter indicator, and an indication when a node shares a socket connection with another node.

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...why? Who is using this info? what skill level do they have? what task will they use the info for? –  Alex Feinman Oct 28 '11 at 18:01
    
If my users actually knew what TCP and UDP were I would never think to use icons to represent them, they're three whole letters and perfectly representative of themselves. If it's a one way/two way issue I'd frame it like that, not TCP vs UDP –  Ben Brocka Oct 29 '11 at 20:49
    
Added comments above that might help. I wanted to put this to this forum because I think it's an important question. I don't think there's any commonly-used way to distinguish TCP and UDP. –  Dano Oct 31 '11 at 4:11
    
We expect our users to understand the difference between UDP and TCP, but see the additional info. The main reason for the need is for at-a-glance status of potentially several "nodes." The user may need to glance across several connection nodes, see that the TCP connections are fine, but we don't want them to have quite the same assurance from the UDP connections. Briefly, the application routes network packets from input nodes (going into the computer running this software) to output nodes (going out). Filtering and QoS can also occur in the application. –  Dano Oct 31 '11 at 4:15

3 Answers 3

When you are working with terms that are so short, I don't think you will get any better than icons than text icons.

There is going to be no confusion over what they represent, no learning curve, and they don't have to be any bigger than another icon.

enter image description here

Edit (to answer the additional information in the comment below):

If you're looking for something specifically so that people can scan and quickly pick up whether a node is TCP or UDP, then use colour and shape in addition to the text. Something like the image below.

enter image description here

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1  
I think using text icons would probably be the best way. Depending on the user's technical knowledge, TCP and UDP could mean and represent different things. For me TCP, is a reliable communications channel and UDP is something that is unreliable and best effort. To represent this using an icon can be immersely difficult and perhaps give an ambigious picture. –  F21 Oct 28 '11 at 11:44
    
There is already a small text description on the node that says UDP/TCP as well as Server/Client, an IP port, the node name. The problem is that there may be dozens of ports, so we have some icons for important, at-a-glance information. This includes the connection status, logger status, a filter indicator, and an indication when a node shares a socket connection with another node. It's a good answer, and we may just move the text status to a more prominent location. Thanks. I'd up vote if I could. –  Dano Oct 28 '11 at 15:50
    
@Dano: Could you please add that to your question and I'll update my answer to respond to it. –  JohnGB Oct 28 '11 at 17:20

So it's basically one-way vs. two-way. Maybe one way arrows vs. two-way arrows?

If it's big enough for text you can also just write UDP or TCP - it's short enough.

Green for connected, red for disconnected. Or, do it like Facebook's status icons in their iPhone app (sort of sunken 3d outline when not active, and filled with white when active).

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so, for TCP, and for UDP? –  Erics Jan 17 '12 at 23:44

It depends in what ways it's significant that a connection is one or the other. Generally speaking, any icons or images you use should echo this significance somehow.

Let me give you an example. Let's say that the real 'purpose' behind telling users the connection type is so they know which connections are fast, and which are accurate. We'd express this by making our UDP imagery represent speed but also lack of stability, and our TCP imagery express solidness and reliability. I've shown one way you might do this below: imagery for connection types

Of course, the 'significance' behind TCP and UDP might be different for your users, in which case, you'll likely need very different imagery.

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