The system I'm currently working on includes phrases which the operators (call centre) must read to customers. Some can be paraphrased (i.e. "Your installation will happen on 01/01/2001" may be vocalised as "We'll be there next Monday") but some phrases must be read verbatim for compliance reasons.

The plan is to have an icon beside each paragraph depicting whether it should be read word for word or if it can be paraphrased.

Is iconography a good way to go with this? Will it be obvious enough to the user that icons differ?

If so, which icons would be the easiest to understand?

3 Answers 3


It is professional interface, so it is more vital to be more efficient than to be obvious (because obvious solutions usually require more space — for instance, for labels, but professional users usually study the system and remember it's model and features). Simple analogy — road signs are simple to read on the speed, when you know their meaning, but can be misunderstood by nondrivers.

So, it is good to use icons to distinguish phrases, but I'd also recommend you to use color-coding: for instance, gray icons for phrases that are allowed to be paraphrased and red/orange for verbatim phrases. You can also consider different colors for background of phrase (i.e. pastel orange tones for verbatim phrases). This will allow operators to immediately distinguish phrases in realtime talking with the client.

I'd recommend not to mark by special icon phrases for which paraphrasing is possible — just mark by any special icon (you can simply use standard triangle with exclamation sign — if there are no other vital warning cases) verbatim phrases.

  • Hi Alex, we do have colours too but there are a lot of them floating round so I'm hoping we can choose icons to help the cause alongside the colours. +1 for the road signs example - hadn't though of that before even having spent 2 years working as UX Lead on traffic management software!
    – TJH
    May 2, 2014 at 15:00

Iconography is definitely a good way to approach this problem you have here. I'm assuming that these call centers that would be using this system are trained and if the icons differ enough than it could definitely make a large difference for the user. You might even consider adding color to the icons especially if it is not printed material and simply something they are reading off of a monitor. For example if it needs to be read verbatim make it a red icon, and for a sentence they are able to paraphrase make it a green icon. Green for "go ahead an paraphrase" red for "stop and read". Just an idea but I definitely think you're headed in the right direction to solve this problem. Hope this helps.

  • Hi Nick, thanks for the answer. Colour is already being used to looks like the solution the designers are using is about right!
    – TJH
    May 2, 2014 at 14:59
  • Hey TJH, no problem. It's a great idea just have to make sure it's very clear what you are specifying and it should work out. Good luck.
    – Nick_M
    May 2, 2014 at 15:12

You will definitely want to play around with the typography to make it clear which paragraphs are which. Experiment with weight, color, indentation, maybe even typeface and find what's clearest. Look at this example:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Curabitur dignissim purus libero, vitae lobortis nisi rutrum congue. Nunc porta tortor vel molestie pellentesque. Ut ornare turpis ut elit elementum aliquam. Sed vel sodales sapien. Cras tincidunt tellus at quam aliquet vestibulum at a augue. Vivamus sit amet tincidunt turpis. Nullam consequat dolor elementum mauris porta luctus. Sed a est felis. Donec ut pharetra libero, non placerat turpis. Morbi eget risus diam.

Fusce vehicula sollicitudin placerat. Nullam eget erat auctor, posuere nunc ut, porttitor odio. Donec lobortis, tellus eget luctus semper, lorem nulla adipiscing est, id suscipit tellus felis ac risus. Cras pellentesque non turpis auctor gravida. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Curabitur non ultrices mauris. Duis sed interdum elit. Praesent massa ipsum, pharetra vitae nisi ac, euismod mattis odio. Aenean posuere dapibus tellus, a malesuada nunc hendrerit at. Curabitur sollicitudin velit eu elit tristique, sed venenatis tellus iaculis.

Etiam nec commodo velit. Suspendisse placerat nunc arcu. Cras varius fermentum diam, non dictum magna. Nam laoreet faucibus cursus. Nullam tempor quis sem sit amet eleifend. Etiam ac imperdiet lorem. Curabitur lobortis odio et dui ultricies blandit. Nullam vitae massa ut augue accumsan convallis. Nunc a eleifend elit, et adipiscing arcu. Cras ipsum justo, ultricies vel ultricies ut, euismod in est. Quisque non metus mollis nulla rutrum hendrerit vel non nunc. Vivamus ultrices massa dui, quis sodales orci elementum ac. Vivamus faucibus ipsum ac felis ultricies ultrices. Nulla luctus quis mauris eget adipiscing. Nulla in nisi iaculis magna rutrum cursus at a lorem. Fusce suscipit placerat nisi in laoreet.

In eu diam sapien. Etiam quis viverra lectus. Proin eu leo elit. Duis vitae condimentum velit. Aliquam erat volutpat. Duis ut nulla ac massa tempus bibendum. Nunc fermentum risus id eros faucibus blandit. Morbi cursus velit eget mi auctor, vel feugiat justo suscipit. Integer nec risus sem. Nam pellentesque lorem vel elit ultrices elementum. Nulla quis laoreet sapien.

Sed venenatis lacinia purus vel congue. Fusce ipsum arcu, mollis eget placerat sit amet, vestibulum nec sem. Aenean arcu tortor, pretium quis molestie id, tincidunt ut arcu. Praesent placerat consectetur scelerisque. Vivamus sit amet dignissim felis. In sollicitudin consectetur magna, eu tincidunt justo placerat nec. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Quisque sagittis urna justo, at venenatis nisi posuere rutrum. Etiam mattis quis massa in semper. Sed in lorem turpis. Quisque sodales velit vel neque elementum, quis tristique justo tristique.

The block quotes are meant to be read verbatim. The indentation and background make all the difference. This specific solution might not work, but something along these lines. You want to use icons as well, I would just use a bold V and no icon for paraphrase.

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