Why we should take care when using image icons for menu items

Streamline.net my web host provides a useful online ftp capability. However, their use of icons as… well I’m not sure exactly what their purpose is, which is exactly the problem.

Take a look at them below.
icons

It is not immediately obvious what each of them does. What does the heart mean? The use of alt tags told me it was to add the site in your favourites menu. Ok, now I get the connection, but why should I have to think about it I just want to use it. Furthermore, the use of alt tags is not sufficient to convey information as it took me a few attempts in rolling my mouse over the icon for it to appear.

The standby button at the end I assume is to log out, but I’m not completely sure. I don’t want to click on it just to find out where it takes me, in case it does log me out. I’ll then have to log back in gain which will be really frustrating, so instead I ignore it completely. How do I log out? When I’ve finished I’ll just close down my browser session, rendering the icon useless.

Ultimately, it is confusing to me and a waste of design and development time as they are not achieving their purpose.

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2 Responses to “Why we should take care when using image icons for menu items”

  1. red lobster menu Says:

    red lobster menu

    red lobster menu

  2. sonyal1 Says:

    I urge caution when using icons as a means of navigation as they are often open to misinterpretation and so from a usability point of view can interfere with a positive user experience.
    The primary goals of a labelling/navigation system whether formed of icons or text are to:

    Communicate effectively
    – cause the right association for the user
    Communicate efficiently
    -don’t take up too many cognitive resources

    In deciding whether to use icons you should consider who your audience are and what type of tasks they are expected to complete on your website. For example, an ecommerce business relies on users completing transactions through their website. If users are unsure of the meaning of an icon and it is not clear what to click next to complete a transaction, they are likely to feel frustrated and anxious about whether they should handover their credit card details.

    However, they are not always bad. If the purpose of your site is for fun, then there is less need to be concerned. They can be useful for more efficient use of space and are generally more effective alongside or with embedded text. The general rule would be to use icons that are simple and universal… don’t try to be too clever 🙂
    Hope this helps.

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