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I have a feature which, given the information entered so far, suggests a more complete version of what the user is entering. I'm thinking that when I have something I can suggest, I will show an icon next to the current field which the user has focus on.

I'm having trouble coming up with a good icon to represent this.

Here is a real scenario: I'm entering the book "Code Complete" by Steve McConnell. I enter the author, but that is too vague to give a suggestion. Next I enter the title "Code Complete" at this point the program can suggest a couple books that match. I've moved onto the year field at this point, and the program wants to make a suggestion - the icon would show up next to the year field.

There will often not be an image of the item the user is entering, so showing a picture (of the book in this case) won't work. I need some sort of generic icon that says "hey user, I think I know what you're talking about, click here to see the result".

Any ideas?

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closed as off topic by Benny Skogberg, Rahul May 20 '12 at 9:26

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3 Answers

You could use a lit bulb...

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

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Perhaps it's just me, but lightbulb says "idea" rather than "suggestion" –  Jeffrey Jones Nov 17 '11 at 17:28
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You're right. It was just a suggestion... –  Roger Attrill Nov 17 '11 at 18:39
    
This is actually the closest we've come up with for a meaningful icon. We combined the lightbulb with the common document icon - a document idea if you will. This is competing with the autocomplete like ui which is mentioned above. It's all a matter of how "in your face" you want the suggestion to be. –  Jeffrey Jones Nov 17 '11 at 19:14
    
How about a 'half lit up' lightbulb ? (as a suggestion is a bit less forceful than a fully fledged idea) ? –  PhillipW Nov 17 '11 at 21:17
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Can you just show them the results inline whenever they are available? A common pattern is to see results below the current field, or in a nearby sidebar.

Here's SE's rendition: enter image description here

The results arrive if you leave the field or stay inside it for a while.

I could see this technique occupying too much real estate in already packed layouts, but might be worth considering because it removes one more click and icon that needs interpretation by the user.

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This or just use text instead of icon. Icons are good when they are common enough that users recognize them from other experience or if your users use your application enough to remember the meaning. Even considering those options text would still be my favorite choice. –  Illotus Nov 18 '11 at 13:37
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I have a few suggestions:

  • An idea baloon might work better than a lightbulb. You know, like the ones in comics. It still has the notion of "idea", but more of a consideration, a thought, instead of the "eureka!" that a lightbulb is usually associated with. Could the icon be animated? Popping from one bubble to two bubbles to the full speech bubble may work best.

  • How about "..."? Here animation would also help--having it go from one dot to two, then three and cycle could give a good hint that it wants to suggest/autocomplete something for the user.

  • A hand with index finger pointing to the suggestion could work.

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I like the speech balloon actually, I see it used frequently to mean "comment" which is occasionally similar to a suggestion. –  Ben Brocka Nov 18 '11 at 17:40
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