The effect of mobile app icon design on satisfaction and usability

Inthraporn Aranyanak, Ronan Reilly


Currently there are many user interface design styles using a variety of app icon designs.  The earliest style was skeuomorph which imitates the design of real-world objects.  Flat and material design have emerged more recently and all of them are still currently in use.  The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of different styles of app icon design among different Thai age groups in terms of satisfaction and usability. This paper observed 15 basic app icons from five mobile phone brands representing different icon styles; skeuomorph, skeuominimalist, flat, material design, and broken line.  Young and senior adult participants were recruited into this study to examine their satisfaction with app icon styles.  A visual search task was employed to measure the designs’ efficiency and effectiveness.  The results show that both age groups are most satisfied with skeuomorph and skeuominimalist.  Seniors prefer flat rather than material design or broken line, and vice versa for young adults.  In the visual search task, both age groups took the longest time for flat design and also made the most errors.  In visual search, the skeuomorph icon design was the fastest for young adults, while material design was the fastest for senior adults.  There were also some significant interactions between age, styles, and app icons.                  

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