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Semiotics in Usability: Guidelines for the Development of Icon Metaphors

The User Prompt blog is running a summary of its recent findings about icon design in the LibreOffice project. The work involved user testing to see how well common icon metaphors perform at the task of communicating to the user, and in many cases the results are not good news. "A lightning bolt can stand for ‘fast’ or ‘immediate’, but at the same time it can be interpreted as energy or hazard. The guiding principle should be deemed: The better known a function, the more abstract the metaphor can be. However, less known functions need explicit metaphors and a figurative support. In LibreOffice there are a few seldom used functions (e.g. the Navigator: Where does the Navigator lead you?), that should be placed less prominently or require a more pictorial icon."

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