It is quite possible I have commented on this before now, but I felt like a rant and I’m too lazy to search through the old posts to see if I’ve ranting on this subject before.
Windows, Icons, Mouse Pointer … or the gooey. Icons are an integral part of the gooey experience. Or so we are led to believe.
But really aren’t they just a little bit shit?
And I should clarify, I am not talking about file icons – pictures of folders (although given the lack of physical folders these days, a bucket might be more appropriate), and pictures of the kind of contents to be expected within files. Although I’m sure there’s a rant to be had with filesystem browser icons, and I do think they can be a bit silly, this rant isn’t about those.
It’s about those silly little icons in the toolbar of an application … or similar ‘functional icons’ which when activated perform some function. All it takes to misinterpret the icons is lacking the perspective of the icon designer, and then they take on a whole new meaning.
For example, the browser I am using to write this has a bunch of icons just below a strange “V” symbol (because it’s uncool to use a sensible word-based button like “Menu”).
The next stupid icon is an arrow in a circle – obviously intended to indicate a function to rotate the web page (although it’s actually to reload the web page), the left and right arrows are obviously a way to navigate between tabs, and there’s a cloud icon; no idea on what that one does.
In ‘normal’ applications there is of course the classic floppy disk icon, which just about everyone has attacked because it is just such an obvious target. Who uses floppies these days? And how many people under the age of twenty actually know what a floppy is anyway?
And my DAP has an icon that looks like two snakes getting friendly – no idea what that is supposed to represent although I believe it has something to do with “shuffle”.
We have a perfectly adequate way to communicate; one which we spend years learning how to use. It’s called writing.
What’s wrong with writing? Well there are two problems :-
- There isn’t much in the way of space inside of an icon to get too wordy.
- Words have to be translated which can get expensive.
When you come down to it, pictorial icons are just a half-arsed solution to save money.