Given this UI (in HTML), do I need to put texts beneath the large images, or is the small image displayed in the lists enough to make the connection?

Demo. page


The client has signed off on the design above. They feel that the tool-tips combined with a BG on mouseover of the big image, with the BG color repeated for the menu and body links, is enough to make the connection. The colors of the small images have been made more obvious by not giving the image a black line border (doi!). In the screenshot, the mouse is hovering over the image for The Quran - though I missed capturing the tooltip.

The client is happy with the images themselves. (Which now have pretty gradients.)

Thanks to all for the tips!

  • 3
    I got three out of four. Not sure the 'fish' is globally accepted. I have no idea what the 'book' is about. I'm with Kashyap; add a little text.
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 11:35
  • 3
    What's it with the color coding? Any specific meaning?
    – GUI Junkie
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 11:36
  • 1
    Not sure what the book one is, but yes text would definitely help. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 11:43
  • 1
    I have no idea what the book is. Jesus Fish seems to be a much more commonly used symbol in the West, and Westerners tend to be less familiar with the Islamic Crescent. I'm not sure what context you're asking this in though. As @GUI Junkie said, a little label (almost) never hurts when ambiguity is an issue.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 13:41
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    @Andrew, regarding the colors - yellow for the Star of David is not a great choice, because of the yellow patch, while blue is also the color of the Star of David on the Israeli flag, so it could raise the unnecessary connotation of the state of Israel. Also, the Old Testament is as much Christian and Muslim as it is Jewish. I would go for the symbol of the tablets of stone (the 10 commandments) instead of the star. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 15:44

5 Answers 5


I think you mean, does a user recognize the religion based on the symbols? If it's shown to a general audience, the answer is No. Well atleast I don't.

The name of the religion is needed below the image imho. The extra text adds minimal amounts in terms of UI, but could potentially make things clear for a large audience.

after the edit to the question

I still think you need the name under the image. The larger images are more prominent than the icons in the left, so a description under it is important. I doubt if the user will be able to figure out instantly the conventions being used in the site.

If you really cannot have a description, then I guess the least you could do is have a 'tooltip' with the name. It'l also help if you use the same colours as the images for your icons, users may match based on 'colour' quicker.

I'm not a christian, but I've grown so used to recognizing the 'cross' to represent Christianity, that when I saw the 'fish' I figured that it cud've been any religion EXCEPT christianity. :s

  • Thanks for the astute observation. :-) I have significantly edited the question and am hoping it (both the context and the question) is now more clear. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 15:09
  • edited my answer too, Andrew. hope it helps
    – Kashyap
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 15:21
  • Thanks for the update. With you and GUI Junkie both questioning the fish symbol as being a 'generally recognised' symbol of Christianity, I am almost at the point of swapping it for the cross. As to tool-tips - definitely planned. Repeating the colors in the smaller icons. I could use the color (or a brighter variant) as the mouse-over color for that link. It is not a conventional use of the mouse-over color, but perhaps I can get away with it for this use-case. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 15:36
  • You may not even need to have the mouse over colours once your icon/image colours match. By the time the user focuses on the text link, mentally he would've matched the image and the icon anyway. Multiple mouse over colours sometimes don't look good.
    – Kashyap
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 16:33
  1. Jews do not call their religious books the “Old Testament”, for reasons which should be obvious if you stop to think about it. They use the name Tanakh (this is the same set of texts as the Christian Old Testament, but in a different order).

  2. Christians consider both the Old and the New testaments to be inspired scripture, though they may pay more attention to the New.

  3. Mormons are Christians, and accept the full Bible along with the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine & Covenants. Listing Mormons as a separate category to Christians might be considered offensive.

  4. Muslims do accept both the Old and New testaments (but not the Book of Mormon) as inspired texts, but are unlikely to refer to them for theological guidance, as they believe they have been corrupted. They might find them interesting reading, though.

  5. The exact texts which constitute the “Old Testament” are ambiguous, as the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church both accept various deuterocanonical books (and they don’t have quite the same list). The deuterocanonical books are not accepted as part of the Tanakh. Some of the deuterocanon is actually additions to existing books rather than independent books. Some Protestant bibles will include these books (and perhaps some others) in a separate section called “The Apocrypha”. (In Orthodox and Roman Catholic bibles, the deuterocanonical books are not in a separate section: they are distributed among the other books of the Old Testament.) (New Testament Apocrypha also exists, but is rarely bound with the Bible, so you don’t need to worry about it.)

  6. The Book of Mormon was written in English (well, its backstory is that it was translated from golden tablets, but even if you believe that, the oldest extant version is in English). All the others were translated (from Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Arabic). It would be helpful to indicate which translation you’re using. Jews and Christians generally use different translations; Muslims usually do not rely on translations at all, viewing them as a rough guide at best. The Quran is basically considered untranslatable.

  7. The word “Bible” is also ambiguous. To Jews, it is synonymous with the Tanakh. To Christians, it means the Old and the New testaments together.

The practical upshot of all this is:

  1. Do not use religious icons to refer to the books. There is no one-to-one mapping between a book and its religious audience (except, perhaps, for the Quran).

  2. List the books as Tanakh, Christian Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon. This is chronological order, so it shouldn’t be offensive.

  3. If the user chooses Tanakh, they get the texts in Tanakh order.

  4. If the user chooses Christian Bible, they can then choose between the Old and the New testaments. The Old Testament is the same texts as the Tanakh, but in a different order.

  5. If your Old Testament set includes any deuterocanonical books, give the users the choice of including them (in Orthodox order or Roman Catholic order), excluding them, or listing them in a separate section (Apocrypha).

  6. For translated texts (all your texts except the Book of Mormon), indicate which translation is used. (Even if it’s a sectarian translation: Tanakh: King James Version might not be a Jew’s first choice, but it’s better than giving no indication at all of which translation you’re using.)

  • Spot. On.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 10:28
  • We have a winner! Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 13:41

I understood the faith references, but did not immediately relate them to the relevant texts. The problem is that they relate more significantly to the faith than the book. In particular, the fish for Christianity (and while it is a recognised symbol within the Christian community, I do not think it is so widely recognised outside) would relate to the entire Bible - Old and New Testaments. Some Christians would be quite offended by the reference to the New Testament only.

I would interpret them as relating to the Talmud, the Bible, the Quran and my filofax. Which means that they are not immediately working. I would consider far more seriously the images you are using to reflect more closely the appropriate images, and definitely put text with them to clarify exactly what they mean. In this case, where there is some confusion or overlap between the different sections, I think it would serve better with text labels. Given that the links are to text, this may be more appropriate.

One problem is that people can get very heated up about religious iconography. They can easily become offended by this being used wrongly, and then refuse to use the site. Getting it correct is important.

(And I am an active Christian, and so know personally that some religious people are pains.)

  • Any better in the latest edit? Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 19:33
  • Is it an improvement, but my other points are still valid. I don't know if the writing on the book would be considered offensive to Mormons. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 20:48
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    +1 I understood each symbol to be a reference to the faith as well (in stead of to the book). Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 6:15

Generally speaking (I guess this is a heuristic) symbol + text is better than text alone which is better than symbol alone. So I'd use symbol plus text.

Despite that, I'd use a cross for the Christian symbol. There are too many alternate religious interpretations of fish iconography.

And I'd also look again at the book. I understood it immediately, but I see other commenters did not. The beehive symbol would be an obvious choice (I think...) for Mormon followers (I may well be wrong here - if I am, apologies in advance), but it does not have wider recognition. You may have to do something banal like put the name of the Book on the symbol itself.

  • it's noteworthy that the fish used to be Christian's secret handshake, but anyway I agree with the requirement of a text (at least on mouse-over) Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 16:46
  • The beehive symbol? I can't say I've encountered it. In any case, I doubt my ability to figure the geometry for it and reproduce it in an image. (OK - a hexagon is not hard, but start to wrap them around a beehive and it goes beyond the geometric logic I can muster at ..5:30 a.m. ;) Hopefully the title on the cover will save the 'book icon' from the same fate as the fish icon. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 19:32

It depends. You can leave out the text in two situations:

  • Your audience is highly educated in world religions and can be expected to know already.
  • You want your audience to discover what the symbols mean through a process of exploration.

Otherwise, include the textual name.

Also, you've made an error: You've used the Star of David for the Old Testament. But that symbol actually refers to Judaism, or in this context of books, perhaps the Torah. They are not equivalent. Therefore the Old Testament should also get the cross symbol. If you're going to include Jewish texts, then you can use the jewish symbols and names.


I know little about the Mormons. A google search for "mormon symbol" doesn't yield a definitive response, but it appears that perhaps a picture of Angel Maroni blowing a trumpet might be correct. "LDS symbol" gives an 8-pointed star. Here's a link: http://www.inplainsite.org/html/masonic_and_mormon_symbols.html

  • I could not let this rest. I have started a thread at Is there a freely distributable English translation of the Torah available? to get the opinion of the people I consider to be the experts on the matter. I have yet to approach the client with this matter - but they have given my 'wide approval' to make decisions on the matter, so I'm hoping they will follow whatever advice I can determine from the expertise available here on SE. Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 10:48
  • glad to hear it Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 2:39

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