Every app you use on Mac, iPhone, or iPad has icons. There’s even an icon to tap to open the app. Many app icons are obvious as to their meaning, but most are not, and worse, app developers often do not add the button’s name below the icon.
iOS puts the app’s name below the app’s icon. That’s the way all icons should be. Icon. Name. Anything else is just lazy. Here’s why.
Check out the Mac’s Dock. Yes, macOS Mojave and previous versions have the Launchpad; the Mac’s version of Launchpad on iPhone and iPad. Each app has a name below the icon. That is how God intended icons to work. With a name. The Dock doesn’t have a name. You’re required to move the mouse pointer over the icon to see the name.
Frankly, I’m glad that Apple’s design guru Jony Ive is moving on. Maybe now we can get back to function over form in a few places. Jony Ive inspired the flat look on iOS and macOS. Check out the Updates section on the App Store app on iPhone and iPad. Get has a button. Update All does not.
If there is action there should be an obvious button to initiate it. Josh Centers has a similar issue with the so-called ellipsis icons you see scattered all over apps. Usually, the ellipsis button is a row of three dots, or a circle with three dots, or sometimes three lines. Clicking an ellipsis button does something.
While having so many ellipsis buttons—of two different types—seems excessive, at least Apple uses them consistently here: clicking any of the ellipsis buttons displays a contextual menu for the given item. But visually, this interface is a mess. Unfortunately, it’s similar in the Music app in the current beta of macOS 10.15 Catalina.
Many websites have similar buttons that show up when the page is viewed on iPhone or iPad in so-called responsive mode. The menus across the top of the page– as you see above on PixoBebo– get reduced to an ellipsis or three little lines; all to save space on a smaller screen. The problem, of course, is that not everyone knows what they do.
In interface language, should an ellipsis open an activity view or an action sheet? It may seem like a small difference, but any time an interface does something unexpected, users lose trust in their abilities.
This is a problem with icons in general. Too many are just icons without a word below that spells out the expectation or expected action. How do you save a file on Mac, iPhone, or iPad these days? What’s the icon?
Some iPhone and iPad apps use a floppy disk as the Save icon. A floppy disk. How quaint. As it is with emojis it is with icons. They are universal, yes, but not universally understood.
Please, Apple. Fix this app icon mess.