Recently I noticed several popular web applications which go for sidebar navigation without labels. E.g. Evernote or Taiga

Sidebar Evernote, Taiga

Is it ok for sidebars? As most users will use those applications several times a week and they get to used to it?

2 Answers 2


Saying 'a user will get used to it' is really a design excuse: people may not be willing to take the chance of just clicking on your icon to see what happens. Not used these apps, but Google Ventures uses a good technique where the labels for the icons are shown onMouseOver. I'd recommend that as a good way to teach people what your icons mean without the need to display them on the screen all the time.

  • Both sites have a mouse-over text (only one item, not all like Google Ventures). Still you don't understand the user interface at a first glance.
    – Gustav
    Jul 27, 2015 at 10:33
  • 2
    Just know that icon only is a bad choice, because icons are always ambitious. It may mean something to the designer because he/she already knows what to design for, but for the end user, it could like numerous things
    – UXerUIer
    Jul 27, 2015 at 12:53
  • imo the example you gave looks pretty jumpy
    – Gigala
    Jul 27, 2015 at 13:17
  • 3
    MouseOver is not a good method to rely on, because it leaves out the ever-increasing percentage of touch devices. Jul 27, 2015 at 15:19
  • To add to what @DigitalChris is saying, also it kind of comes back to the whole "why not to use a hamburger menu," mainly because discoverability is on the down low. Let's imagine the whole site is iconography, no way is a user going to hover over every single one, let alone click everyone to see what it does. Could be risky business.
    – UXerUIer
    Jul 27, 2015 at 19:13

It depends on the icons & the functionality

Like with any icons that don't have labels, it can work really well if all the icons are super transparent. Good all-time examples are Add, Search, Settings, Menu, or Home. As the functionality gets more complicated, usability problems might arise.

Hover captions might help with that, but keep in mind they're not visible on touch devices.

It's up to you whether to use this or not, indeed the user will be able to quickly empirically learn what's hidden behind the icons (the lesser evil).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.