In a dark nightclub there are hundreds of boys and girls blended together. If your intention is to find a pair, you must stand out, otherwise you will be just one more in the crowd. So, what do you do? You might choose a nice clothing item that matches the type of person you are looking for and also one that goes well with the environment. Well, what does that have to do with apps? A lot. - Let’s find out.
The first impression matters
Just like a person in a club, the reason why a conversation starts is because the way the person looks may attract another one. Likewise, the first thing that a person sees in an app store, even before the name of the app, is the icon. The app icon is already the first step of the experience of the user. When the icon looks attractive, the user already assumes that some care was taken while developing the app and that, consequently, he or she will have a good experience using it.
In an app store, like in a nightclub, there are hundreds of apps and if your app doesn’t stand out, people won’t download it. Still, what does it have to do with the appearance? In a research made by the designers Kai-Chun Hou and Chun-Heng Ho, they found out that 90% of the viewers paid attention to the attractiveness of the icon, that is, most users preferred nice designed or concrete objects on app icons.
Tips and best-practice examples for creating a successful app icon
There are some basic steps that are important to be followed in order to create a successful app icon. We have thought about what convincing app icons do have in common and have found the following tips for you. Please keep in mind, that these tips have to be followed carefully. It still comes down to your audience, what kind of app icon works the best.
Make it unique & competitive
The app icon is the strongest connection between the app and the user. So, your app icon must be easily recognizable. A user has to understand what it is as soon as he or she sees it. If the app icon is too generic, inappropriate or complicated, the user won’t make an effort to understand what your app features are about.
By researching and analyzing competitor apps, you have the power to learn from their weaknesses and gain an edge over them. This gives you the best chance to stand out from the crowd.
Here’s a small selection of apps, which do very well in making their app stand out in the store by having a very unique app icon.
It is a hard game to explain, but really simple to play. That’s exactly what the icon transmits, and at the same time, it is still appealing. We love the minimal and clear design.
Just because it is an app for kids, it doesn’t mean that the icon should be tacky. This one is cute enough to attract kids and maybe even their parents. It stands out in the crowd because it doesn’t follow the pattern of super colorful apps for kids. On the contrary, it has a smooth design and it isn’t exaggerated.
A good snowman is hard to build
The icon is as catchy as its name. Since we don’t see the character, only its shadow, it arouses curiosity. In addition, the character is waving goodbye, which will definitely call the user’s attention. It is a unique symbol and it is quite obvious that the app is a game.
Choose the right colors
An app icon should let your app stand out in search results. It can be colorful, but not too colorful. Make sure, it’s not visually polluted, and therefore, the potential user won’t stop to pay attention to it.
If we leave the mobile world for a while, we can already see the relevancy of colors in any product. According to the Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo, around 84% of people agree that color is the most important factor when choosing a product. In addition, between 62% to 90% of people judge the product in less than 2 minutes based on its color.
Bear in mind that many apps follow the same color pattern, so, to stand out, you should leave the comfort zone. The majority of apps are blue and red, and on a small scale, green.
The good thing is that it is possible to split the choices of colors based on category. For instance, Games on iOS are usually bluish or reddish. Study your competitors and choose a different color for your app because color is also about identity. However, mind the colors of your brand as the user should be able to identify your brand by the app icon.
Here’s a small selection of apps, that did a good job in spreading the vibe of their app by choosing the right colors.
It is a game of mystery inspired by literature. The icon brings this vintage vibe, and at the same time carries the colors of the game maintaining the identity.
The lively green inside the black background makes a beautiful image and it’s really comfortable for the eyes to see. When looking at Spotify’s competitors and music apps, such as, Deezer, Shazam, Pandora Music, Amazon Music, SoundHound, you can notice that none of them use green on their icons, they use blue and orange. The icon stands out just by looking at on the search rank.
This is a really smart icon that unites the name of the app with its functionality. As a plus, it uses the pink colour. Google Maps, Waze and most of the transport apps opt for blue or green. Not this one, it is a catchy icon with a color that calls attention.
Keep it simple
Avoid photos and texts in app icons. As an app icon is shown in a small space, photos and texts might pollute the icon making it less attractive. Keep detailed graphics for the website or screenshots.
When talking about App Icon, we go beyond the search rank. An average user has 41 apps, so your app has to stand out. It must invite the user to use it every time he spots it’s on the screen, otherwise, he might even uninstall it.
The app icon is, in fact, a matter of aesthetics, and we are going to a minimalistic phase. The cleaner, the better. So, why not use that in your app icon? Remember that your app must fit the phone and it must have harmony.
Many apps, such as Facebook and Google Maps or even Netflix, chose to use only one letter. Then why not choose a simple symbol that is strong and represents your app? Remember to keep the identity. In addition, your brand should fit for a serif font. Consider this.
The app icon is an extract from the game. The application itself is simple and smooth. When you look at its icon, even on a small scale, you can understand what the game is about, you don’t need much to interpret and it is also a beautiful image.
With a really clean layout, the image plays with the icon of localization and with the C from Cabify. The colors are different from other apps of the same category. It uses a simple layout and a catchy font that stands out.
The icon is so clean that you can clearly read the name. The idea of the app is meditation, being calm, and that’s exactly the idea that the app icon wants to show us. If there were a lot of things in the icon, it would be chaotic, which is exactly the opposite of the message of a meditation app.
Show what’s inside
The icon should let the user identify what the app is about. Keep in mind that the icon is the first thing a user sees. So, make sure everyone knows immediately that your app is what they are searching for.
If we analyze closely, usually apps of transportation adopt the localization icon or the type of vehicle they give support. Sometimes it is difficult to escape from the ordinary, but you can do this by choosing different colors, and also the font. You must never escape too much as the user has to understand your app.
When we talk about music apps, most of them use some type of sound waves or sound vibration, but each one in a different and creative way. In addition, a lot of them use music notes. Research about your market in order to represent your app in an innovative and clear way.
We chose this icon as it is both, clean and informative. Fretello is an app for practicing your guitar skills and the icon shows it. The “f” for Fretello reminds of a clef and the lines in the background may represent guitar strings. With its accuracy and color scheme, the icon stands out from the other competitor ones.
Bring! Grocery Shopping List
This app has an icon that summarizes everything that it does in a simple and creative way. It didn’t abandon the typical symbol of shopping, but it is a nice 3D image that shows what you can do with this app.
In a creative way, the app icon plays with the idea of lab and nose. So it transforms a test tube in a nose. At the same time that they unite these two concepts, it is still a clean image. Thus, even in a small scale you can identify what the app is about.
Update frequently & at the right time
If there is something happening that has to do with your app, don’t hesitate and put your costume on. You don’t need to change entirely your app icon, but you can add something that will turn it attractive and show the user that something is happening within your app.
For instance, if you are having offers for the Black Friday, why not indicate that in your icon in a nice and harmonic way? Or if you have a dating app, why not benefit from Valentine’s day? Check the important dates of the year and choose some to focus on promotions actions on your app.
Apart from this, if you are adding new features to your app, you can make that clear to the user by adding something to your app icon, or do something different. You are not losing your identity, but changing from time to time is a way of bringing attention to yourself.
Memrise: Learn New Languages, Grammar & Vocabulary
The app decided to go for a Black Friday offer. The best way to make the user know about it, was adding the tag of 50% OFF. Due to the season, people already imagine that this is a discount concerning Black Friday. It invites the user to go to the app to check out more information about it.
The Simpsons: Tapped out
Homer is always running towards the same direction in this app icon. At the moment, since “winter is coming”, the icon is all winter thematic. On Thanksgiving, Homer was running away from a turkey. This a nice way to show that your app is fresh, always updated and most of all friendly.
The Sims Free Play
The game is known for being a simulation of life. Of course the dates when people engaged should be considered in this app. Hence, on Halloween, the icon was thematic as well.
Test it in various situations
Don’t forget to test the app in several variations. You have to find out what your users like, so A/B testing is recommendable. Also, test the icon in different backgrounds, to know how it looks like in search results, on your app page or as a launcher icon (app shortcut on the smartphone). The users must easily find your app, so that they keep on using it and don’t forget about it.
For instance, you can use an icon just with a symbol to test and then add a character to see which one performed better. Also, try different colors. It doesn’t hurt to try app icons as it doesn’t affect your credibility with the app stores algorithms. However, bear in mind that if your app is already established in the market, you shouldn’t change your icon too much, otherwise, it might lose its credibility. Here are some suggestions for you’re A/B test:
- Test different background and symbol colors;
- Test an icon focused on your main feature and one on your brand;
- Test adding an additional image to your icon to see how it responds;
- Test using letters or short words that represent your app.
At Google Play there is a tool for doing A/B testing in app icons. You just need to go to Google Play Console and choose the app. At “Store Presence” section you must click on “Store Listing Experiments”. If you are just testing your app icon, you can select “Global”, but if you are also testing texts, you must choose “Localized”. Select the box with “hi-res icon”, name your test and upload the image. Ready! Hit “Run Experiment”. After that, you can regularly compare both versions on the platform and check the performance of your app icons.
Think outside the box!
Creativity might sound easy, but it’s actually one of the most difficult tasks when creating an app icon. The app icon is a small space, you cannot fit everything that you would like and it still needs to be appealing. A beautiful icon gives a great first impression. If the icon is attractive, the user will feel the need to learn more about it.
Maybe your app is about lists and you cannot leave the concept of the list behind, but you have several ways of showing this, with several colors. Look at your competitors and make it different. Think outside the box!
The app icon uses lively colors and shows exactly what the app does. It is different from the competitors and also manages to have its brand on it. It looks beautiful, clean and it instantly invites the user who wants this functionality.
Daily Budget Original
The app icon unites universal idea of saving money, the safe pig, with the coin. It is simple but straight to the point. Even though the image is made up of two icons, the yellow degrade with the clean background emphasized what the image wants to tell you.
The icon of Doo is so pretty and lively that the user is already opening it before knowing what is it about. However, the icon has everything to do with the app that is focused on completing tasks.
When the app is of a well-known brand, the logo can be enough, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Uber. But if your logo doesn’t relate straight to your app features and your brand isn’t famous yet, you might consider using another strategy and working on your logo later. Bear in mind that if people are going to look for your app because of your brand, your logo must be included in your app icon, as people must connect the app with you.
Some brands have more than one app, such as Instagram. The brand always uses the same color and structure of icon, so, the user recognizes that they are all from the same place. Just look at Instagram, Boomerang, and Layout from Instagram.
Another example is King. The brand has several games. At first it might seem difficult to relate one to another, but it isn’t. King uses the same type of drawing, colors and also the same way of presenting the images in the icon. Thus, it is easy to recognize that they belong to the same brand.
Fitify has an easy and efficient way to show the user that the app belongs to them. The icon is always the same, but the only thing that changes is the icon of the sport that the app is about. It follows strictly an identity. This helps the user who already knows the brand to download it quickly as it still keeps its credibility.
Optimizing your app icon is one way of boosting your app downloads. This makes it a valuable part of App Store Optimization.
Don’t forget there are also other types of optimization that can be crucial for the success of your app. For example optimizing your textual metadata in a regular manner.
App Radar helps you in regularly optimizing your app store appearance at ease and to measure the performance of your app. Check out the fastest tool to grow organic app downloads.