When to use icons instead of texts? Are there good practices related to the subject?
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
In this question you can see several answers about when to use text vs icons.
I would go for all text as icons are not always understandable by everyone in the same way and some of them depend on the user's context.
What I would advice in your case is what Google Material says not to do in this note:
Do not combine text labels with icons. Use either all text labels or all icon labels.
Edit: Here is some useful information about the use of icons:
Many researchers have shown that icons are hard to memorize and are often highly inefficient. The Microsoft Outlook toolbar is a good example: the former icon-only toolbar had poor usability and changing the icons and their positioning didn’t help much. What did help was the introduction of text labels next to the icons. It immediately fixed the usability issues and people started to use the toolbar. In another study, the team of UIE observed that people remember a button’s position instead of the graphic interpretation of the function.
In most projects, icons are very difficult to get right and need a lot of testing. For abstract things, icons rarely work well.
I would take into consideration 3 factors:
1. The Icons
How Obvious are the icons? Are they commonly known and used for a single purpose? or you are developing your own icons?
2. The Users
Would you say the users are "power users"? Or they come from an average technical background? Maybe their skills are even weak?
3.The Usage / The Context
How often does a user use the Application?
What device is he/she using?
Any other facts matter?
After answering those questions, we can consider the different options:
I would go for this approach, only if i'm 100% sure that my users are power users, the icons are correct, and still expecting that something might and will probably go wrong.
Investing in Tooltips is the safer approach, for instance when a user hovers the mouse over the icon, a tooltip shows to tell him what this field is, this will teach the user about the icon, so if he/she use the application continuously they will learn what each icon is.
The safest would be:
Although we are using text, we are still empowering it by icons, since our brains can process visuals faster than text, refer to https://www.quora.com/In-UIs-do-people-recognize-icons-faster-than-words
Yet still, notice that i tried to reduce the contrast of the text so that it does not attract a lot, although it won't be as clean as using only icons, you will find yourself many times in design where you have to make compromising decisions, and this is one of them, but still we try to make it as clean as possible in any way we can.
Please note that i am not claiming these are the only solutions, instead to explain to you what are the causes and effects that you may have, and what are possible solutions.
You will always be able to find better solutions the more you research the design methods, and the more you understand the context of your problem and the users.
PS: Some have mentioned about the practices of not combining both text and icons which is recommended by Material Design. There is no real universal thumb rule.
This is Google Chrome, and since Google are the ones who developed the Material Design. Yet, they are using text and icons in some cases.
Dont use icons in this case. Icons are used for different purpose, the main idea is to let user understand quickly. I think you should maintain a consistent lookand feel to avoid breaking user's flow while he goes through thecontent. some of the important use cases for icons are: