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I'm working on a tool that has multiple options to use "random" values.

For example, you can place down images, and you can have them Offset from the grid. But you can also check a checkbox/toggle-button to use a random offset. Except, I want a icon-button instead of a checkbox because of space constraints.

There are similar needs for a random symbol for other features of the tool as well.

Currently, I use a questionmark (?) as the general symbol for 'random' that I then design the various icons around (the icons are specialized towards the feature, to fit in with the features' other icons).

However, I realized that questionmark usually means 'help' (also 'whats-this') in most icon languages.

Is there a better symbol to use to visually represent 'random'? Note that my uses are not "click to randomize", but "click to enable random when you use this tool". So it's not the same as 're-ordering'.

  • Is space too tight to actually write what the button does? Sometimes, the easy solutions are the best... – Henrik Ekblom Nov 25 '14 at 15:10
  • Yes, space is tight. In dialog windows and other such pop-ups, space is usually plenty, but on the "main window" interface, space is usually a resource you don't want to waste. The wider you make your sidebars, the more the user's main editing view shrinks. In such cases, using the sidebars to have checkboxes with text that extends out horizontally for several hundred pixels is a big no-no. – Jamin Grey Nov 25 '14 at 22:46
  • It becomes a challenge to balance compactness of features (so users don't have to click multiple times just to access a frequently-used feature), and the simplicity of the interface (so a user doesn't get overwhelmed by hundreds of visually contrasting icons each grabbing for their eyes), visual identification (so each icon DOES stand out enough that a user can find what they are looking for at-a-glance), while also minimizing space (to not waste the main editing viewport), and also not cramming so much together that the user gets confused and interface-shocked. – Jamin Grey Nov 25 '14 at 22:48
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If space is really a big issue and you need to use an icon I'd go with the shuffle icon which is pretty universal to mean turn off/on randomise rather than as you say, reorder.

However if you can get the text in there I'd strongly suggest doing that as you may be making users think a bit too much to figure out what each icon means.

  • Thanks, I hadn't remembered the shuffle-icon. That's an excellent idea. – Jamin Grey Nov 25 '14 at 22:42
  • The shuffle icon is probably a more accurate way of saying "reorder my current objects" rather than "randomly add new". Pressing shuffle on an iPod doesn't add new song to the list. It may, however, work out in your case. – Henrik Ekblom Nov 26 '14 at 9:03
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My first idea is a dice, as in "roll a dice". However this metaphor is culture-specific and may be inappropriate in some other cultures.

Another way to recast this question is to forget about the "random" aspect of the feature; instead, tell your user that it is an "automatic, non-deterministic positioning tool", where its complete randomness is merely an implementation detail.

  • Dice is another good idea. I don't think culture is too much of a problem - dice is fairly ubiquitous. – Jamin Grey Nov 25 '14 at 23:06

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