While reading a slideshow on How People Really Use the iPhone. It seemed a lot of users are confused when looking for a "zoom" icon; finding the magnifying glass to mean "search" and the plus sign to mean "Add", while both have somewhat classically been used as zoom symbols.

Perhaps important to note; there very rarely is a zoom button in iPhone/smartphone apps because the pinch-zoom gesture is usually used where applicable, but this is not always the case. This does mean that some of the user's confusion was due to the zoom button not existing.

My experience with Android and Web Apps also leads me to believe the magnifying glass and Plus are very commonly used to mean Search and Add respectively.

So what visual metaphor or icon can uniquely and intuitively suggest "Zoom" rather than Add or Search?

2 Answers 2


While writing the question, the obvious solution dawned on me:

enter image description here
(from Design Downloader)

A plus in a magnifying glass! But still, that just suggests zoom in, not out. This could be a problem if only one icon is used.
Or what if it means "add search"?

  • 2
    You could take the + out and put a mini-document partly behind the magnifying glass, suggesting the object in use. That would open it up to being a toggle rather than one-way switch. Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 7:27
  • 4
    put a minus underneath the plus if you only want the one icon Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 11:27
  • 1
    I like those solutions. I think I might have seen the document in a magnifying glass before as well
    – Zelda
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 14:40
  • hmmm. My first reaction was that the graphic meant "add a search", as if there were a way to save and recall multiple searches. Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 15:04
  • You could also go the google maps approach which is a plus and minus next to each other
    – Mervin
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 18:13

If we get out of the iOS setting, I'd suggest a scrollbar with a + inside a zoom icon where the ^ is and a minus inside a zoom icon where the V is. Just like google earth and google maps uses.

enter image description here as an added bonus, this also indicates the current zoom level.
And it lets you instantly zoom to a required level by dragging the slider to a setting.

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