Icon Recognition Test

Identify the best icon to use for a given action in a user interface.

Introduction

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”.

Test Setup

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”?

Preview this test

Results

Icon recognition results

View test results

Insights

Icon recognition insight
In our test, the clear winner was the share icon first introduced in 2006 by ShareThis, which was selected by 64% of participants.

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.