A user’s ability to recognize an icon for a given action is a good measure of that icon's success. Each user may have different expectations for which icon will complete a desired action based on previous exposure, culture, and other factors.
There is no standard “sharing” icon, which has resulted in a wide variety of icons being produced to represent this action. In this icon recognition test, we aim to measure which icon a group of participants will associate most strongly with “sharing”.
We created a preference test featuring four icons from real-world applications to represent a sharing action, and asked 101 participants to answer this question:
Which one of the following icons best represents "sharing an article”?
- Do your research before testing an icon. Ensure you have suitable alternatives to compare against.
The worst performing icon (selected by only 2% of participants) was the open share icon, which has some adoption but low recognizability.
Surprisingly, Apple’s default share icon (Option 2) was also a poor performer, with only 6% of our participants choosing it over the alternatives.
The written feedback is also worth reviewing. In particular, most participants who picked Option 4 noted that it was “universal for sharing” or the “most used” version.
- Context matters. For instance, when designing software for Apple devices, Option 3 is also commonly used. Further testing may reveal that this is the most popular option for users of Apple products.
- Further testing in the context of the design would also be useful to ensure that the icon is visually appealing and matches the overall design.