Science behind an app icon

A good app icon isn't just a coincidence. It's like a sophisticated art to draw a meaningful painting in a small canvas. There are many elements that needs to be considered while making an app icon.

Over 9000 apps are submitted per month in Apple's App Store alone. Customers now have variety of apps to download and now they need to decide fast on their selection of apps. We need to look into human psychology that what are the factors that lead to app download from the app store. We will find out the importance of app icon in this process.

App Store Featured Page

Customers usually check for the latest apps via App Store Featured page. Apple selects few best performing apps to show on this page. Once your app appears on the featured page, chances are high that the customer will download your app.

At this point you are competing among the top performing apps. Your aim is to "win a tap". Always keep in mind that your customers have limited 'tap' available, they won't have time to tap all the app icons and check the details. For example you want to try any new game, which app icon will you tap first? You will either click on "SummitX Racing" or "Top Gear" but not on the icon with balloon. Why is that so? It's missing an important factor. A Message!

Message in the App Icon

A good icon is the one that conveys the message about the app. It gives a glimpse of what's inside the game. The quality of the icon image tells the customers what graphics they are going to get. Right now your customers have very little knowledge about your app. Let's take a scenario.

You are standing in front of a shop and deciding whether to enter into a shop or just pass by. Ask these questions to yourself:

  • Should I enter into a shop that's entrance is not attractive?
  • Should I enter into a shop that's offerings are not clear to me?
  • Should I enter into a shop or try the adjacent one?

Your app icon should convey a message about your app, whether it's a prominent feature of your app or a brand it belongs to. Let's take an example of Candy Crush Soda app icon. It says all about the game, they have added a Soda shaped bottle and a candy to tell the customers about the prominent feature of the game. They have added their company name King so customers can get an idea about the origin of this app.

App Detail Page

Welcome to the Shop! Now the customer has decided to tap on your app icon and enter into the App detail page. You have achieved one objective to make your customer enter into the App detail page but remember that your main objective is to fascinate them with your offerings that leads to downloading your app. They have now entered into your territory and now you have supporting elements like App Icon, App Rating, Description and Screenshots to increase the chances of getting the app downloaded. On this screen the role of app icon isn't very important because your customer is busy in finding more info about your app via App Rating, Screenshots and Description.

Search Page

“I want to play best car game!”, “Is there any cool racing game?”, “I am bored, I want to play a new puzzle game!”. That's what usually is in your customer's mind while they are trying these keywords on App Store: “Best Car Game”, “Best Racing Game”, “New Puzzle”. Search these terms on App Store and you will see thousands of results. Now try to find the best app against your query. Do you really have time to check each of the game? Are you really able to compare which game is the BEST?

You have thousand of options and you need to decide which option is best for you. So you start comparing the apps. Picture says thousand words and that's true, you check for the app icon and screenshot first and decides is this what I am looking for? Is this the best thing that will serve my purpose? You check for the ratings to see public opinion like how many people have reviewed this app and what's the average ranking. At the end you'll either download the app or you'll scroll to the next one. It takes less than 3 seconds to decide whether you need to find more about the app or just skip it for the better one.

Home Screen

Congratulations! Your app has been downloaded and your app icon is now residing on the home screen of your customer's device. They are occupying the real-estate of your customer's device. This is how the normal screen looks like:

Testing your App Icon

Before launching your app you need to find out how your icon looks on various screens and various sizes. Sometimes icon looks good on large sizes but on small size the icon becomes messy. The first priority is that your icon should look good on Apple App Store and Google Play store. No matter how impressive they look on your phone or tablet screens. With a new service you can see your app icons on iPhone, iPad, Android phone and Android Tablet home screens. Moreover you can see how your app icons appear on Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Unbiased evaluation

You need to evaluate your icon honestly. Since you are developing the app it's natural that you might think your app icon looks amazing. Just ignore the fact that you've created this icon, now start comparing it with other apps. See if it is getting lost with the other crowded icons or not. Is the icon interesting enough the you wish to tap on it? Is it modern and trendy? Is it delivering a message about the app? If the answer is yes, congratulations! you have created an awesome icon!


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