In this article we will cover the results of our study on what people look for in icon packs.
The Size of the Icon Pack is Very Important
When we asked a mobile UI designer to show us how he looks for icon packs, he ran a Google search for “free icon packs” and opened a few tabs with articles listing several dozen icon packs each. He quickly scrolled through the text, scanning for articles. When we asked him what he was doing, he said he was filtering out the smaller icon packs:
“No one needs icon packs of 260 icons or so. Over 500 starts to be interesting,” he said.
This was an eye opener! Surprisingly, these articles listing freebies don’t concentrate on size, but rather on other, probably subjective, criteria of the author.
We even started our own collection of large icon packs on Pinterest. Icon packs with 500 icons or more are accepted; previews are proportional to the size of the icon pack so a larger preview means a larger icon pack.
The advice to icon designers should be: create larger icon packs, don’t split them into multiple ones by topic.
Icon Packs Should Contain the Desired Icon
As a user in another unrelated study pointed out: “The best dating site is where your dream girl is”.
The same is true for icons.
As one of the UI designers demonstrated, when she needs an icon, she searches for an icon in IconFinder, and after she finds one, she downloads the whole icon pack.
The advice to icon designers: make each of your icons discoverable. Submitting icons to icons search engines like IconFinder is a great way to achieve this.
Licensing Terms Are Important for Developed Markets
As a user from Belgium demonstrated, once she downloads the icon, she bookmarks the page with the license.
In contrast, a user from Russia claimed that he only uses free icons from IconFinder as he lacks the understanding that even free icons may require giving credit to the license holder.
However, our statistics show that violations occur more frequently in the USA than any other country. Although, this is most likely in proportion to the size of the IT industry in general.
The advice to icon designers and especially icon search engines is: make licensing terms clearer. NounProject is very good at this as they make the user click a checkbox agreeing to publish the link.
How Was the Study Conducted?
We have conducted a series of interviews with clients of Icons8 or free downloaders of Icons8 icon packs.
We admit that our interviewees were inclined to like our particular icon set, and we also didn’t focus on our website, but rather spoke about icons in a broader context. All interviewees used multiple icon packs rather than only one.
We have used the methods described in the book Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal, combined with our experience of recruiting users and remote usability research.
Interviewees were not paid any compensation.