A recent usability test suggested that users had a hard time finding how to complete tasks, mostly because they couldn't find the buttons on a ribbon UI (like Office).

My first reaction was to organize main actions on a "Home" tab and set the this tab as the initial/selected one.

I'm also thinking about icons... but I'm not sure.

Could small icons help users detect better the purpose of a tab, by giving a hint of the main action?


No icon at all:

Only the File tab with an icon or maybe just the selected tab:
Only the first tab

All tabs with icons (except Home, I simply don't know which icon to use):
All (Except home)

3 Answers 3


Icons have always been useful, wether it's common(most used ones) or totally new to user. If it's most used ones like: Home, Copy, Paste, etc., it would definitely increase the readablity.

Also if it's completely new(customized icons) to user, it will create a graphical image when user comes again after visiting just once or twice, and will assocciate respctive functionality to that new icon.

Icons can help in several ways to support your content presentation:

Icons can put content in a nutshell

  • With icons you can quickly sum up what your text is about. Sometimes, icons can even be enough to communicate content, which makes reading additional text unnecessary.

Icons can draw attention

  • Icons can draw attention, but at the same time they can help you structure content and separate different functions or services.

Icons can increase readability

  • Icons are easier to both recognize and to remember, as it communicates with human brain with graphical image / photographics memory created in users brain.

For More:

How To Use Icons To Support Content In Web Design

How and Why Icons Improve Your Web Design

Importance of Icons in Website Designing

Go with this:

enter image description here

Conclusion: User's get motivated by message conveyed by the icons, more than reading or scaning each and every text again and again.

  • Thank you, I was a little bit worried about the icon usage being too cluttered. Sep 21, 2016 at 11:06
  • Glad that it helped you!
    – divy3993
    Sep 21, 2016 at 15:03

How about something like this: enter image description here

Your menu seems to be a combination of task with different "weights" and usages.

  • Make the ones you won't use often secundary: they can be found, but not in a way that interrupts the every day work routine.
  • Group the task by type: edit, file, settings
  • Use a simple house icon for "home". No text needed to explain what the icon does as it universally recognised (keep in mind this is my personal assumption).
  • The most used tasks are available via the File and Image tabs. Indeed I could group by type and put the home tab to the left. I'll make some tests with other users to validade this. Thanks. Sep 21, 2016 at 11:17
  • Just a note about a problem with color: the last two tabs look disabled and the middle three look like they're trying to notify me of something. Sep 21, 2016 at 12:55

The great thing about icons is the association. If I need to save my file I am looking for a little "floppy" icon. Bearing this in mind I would suggest you use universal icons in your application.

You might also find this article useful: Making Your Icons User-Friendly: A Guide to Usability in UI Design

  • I'm wondering when we will see a "cloud" icon to take over the save function. None of my kids has ever used a "floppy", and they only saw it because I keep one for nostalgia. Sep 21, 2016 at 6:58

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