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Icon selection and standardisation

Hi all, a collection of pointers I’ve picked up when researching into iconography, UX and benefits for inclusive design.


Icons are an essential part of many user interfaces, visually expressing objects, actions and ideas. When done correctly, they communicate the core idea and intent of a product or action, and they bring a lot of nice benefits to user interfaces, such as saving screen real estate and enhancing aesthetic appeal. Last but not least, most apps and websites have icons. It’s a design pattern that is familiar to users.

Despite these advantages, icons can cause usability problems when designers hide functionality behind icons that are hard to recognize. An icon’s first job is to guide users to where they need to go.


  • Where possible universal symbols should also be used so that consumers with lower English language proficiency can find their way around digital government platforms. For example, a small intuitive icon (e.g. “?” ) could be placed next to a question on a digital government form, which links to an explanation on why the question is being asked (‘Why am I being asked this?’)

  • Icons used for file types eg. PDF attachments may not be universally recognisable for users from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. Some users suggested that the type of attachment be mentioned in the hyperlink text or in plain text immediately after the link text (eg. PDF, 1.4MB)

Icon usability
Icons as part of a great UX
Breaking down barriers to Digital Government
Understanding Non-text Contrast
Optimising UI Icons for faster recognition
Designing for non native speakers


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