I'm working on an app that is a bit limited in functionality and the menu is simply a group of icons on the initial landing page. Although the app interface is limited, it does allow for custom icons.

I am stuck between using monochrome or colored icons. Personally, I feel color icons would be a better choice. The reasons being; it is an event app so the user will only use for a few days, so I believe color will help the user navigate to their intended menu icon more quickly than the monochrome. The majority of people using the app will be men in their 50's and 60's.

Does anyone have any contradicting evidence? Or know of any articles that backup "my opinion?"


Icons in general

This may be too contextually dependent to answer decisively. But NN/g has a good article covering the use of icons in general.

The summary tackles the fundamental issue you'll encounter. Especially in light of the fact that your users will not be long-term users.

A user’s understanding of an icon is based on previous experience. Due to the absence of a standard usage for most icons, text labels are necessary to communicate the meaning and reduce ambiguity.

Whether full-color or monochrome, text is probably a necessity to avoid confusion and disorientation.

Where color plays a part

That same NN/g article touches on a couple of other points that are relevant to your concern.

  • Icons can be visually pleasing and enhance the aesthetic appeal of a design.

  • They support the notion of a product family or suite when the same icons and style are used in several places.

This does not imply that monochrome (color or greyscale) or full-color is better at achieving either point. But it does highlight the fact that color can add to the experience through aesthetics and brand familiarity.

A vague answer

IOW, you have to decide in the context of your app, other apps that may be a part of your suite, and what the whole user journey involves. How does your color palette play into those variables?

  • Awesome, thanks for the article. We will be using text underneath the icons and most icons should be relatively familiar to the user. e.g. map, twitter, etc. – Dan May 25 '17 at 18:20
  • Familiar = good 👍 – plainclothes May 25 '17 at 22:29

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