Re: icons vs. buttons?

Subject: Re: icons vs. buttons?
From: Tracy Taylor <ipsque -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Susan W Gallagher <susanwg -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 10:52:52 -0700 (PDT)

I'm not having an issue differentiating icons vs. buttons, I'm wondering if there's any value in differentiating them to the people using the software. Does it make any difference to a user of a software product if they are clicking an icon or a button? Do they really have a mental model of one versus another? Or does using multiple terms for what to them is the same thing create a cognitive difficulty when learning the system?

So, has anyone done any usability testing on this? Thanks, Tracy

Susan W Gallagher <susanwg -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote: The word "icon" means "a usually pictorial representation" (, and has meant so for more years than there have been computers. In software, icons are used in three different ways.
1. As stand-alone, interactive representations of software applications, documents, and the like on the desktop.
2. As non-interactive identifiers, such as the small icons you see in file explorer that tell you what kind of file you're looking at.
3. As labels on interactive command buttons and toolbar buttons

Your UEP has the definitions correct, it's the use of icons for multiple purposes that was throwing you.

-Sue Gallagher

On 7/31/07, Tracy Taylor <ipsque -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
Hiya - this may only be relevant to those of us who write about software.

In my opinion, within most software applications one has buttons. The toolbar in Word has buttons, not icons. And icons open programs.

However, I got this definition from my user experience professional:
Button ? an affordance that leads to an action, which is surrounded (generally) by a border that looks somewhat 3-D.
Link ? an affordance that leads to a new page or site and is generally text.
Icon ? a small picture that represents (we hope) an action, some information, or an idea
Any thoughts, or generally agreed upon principles? Thanks, Tracy


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Re: icons vs. buttons?: From: Susan W Gallagher

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