Yesterday I started up all that mess of software, that is essential for my work/fun/whatever process. And suddenly I was unable to find Notepad++. I knew it was there, knew I had just killed few more lines of code from google charts class.
I didn’t know it looked nothing like day before that. Icon got changed.
What in the icon
Icon is probably most distinguishing visual cue for software. It defines how it would look:
- in start menu;
- on desktop;
- launched on taskbar;
- minimized to tray;
- ready to be switched to with Alt+Tab;
- as visual hint in numerous launchers;
- as document type on files created with it.
While it doesn’t matter much what exactly icon is, it matters a lot that is it original and easy to distinguish.
While I think bulk of modern users could really benefit from better keyboard/hotkey skills, there is a reason we do not spend most of time in console.
Console has no visual distinction. If you type fast you can issue commands fast. But even if you read fast such wall of text is still hard to process.
Graphical interface as whole creates visual anchors. Change of anchor, such as new icon I had encountered, can show that it is easy to become overly dependent on it.
Visual anchors make it much easier to work with unfamiliar interface. Do we still need them after interface became familiar? Is subconscious mental overhead of look-click-look-click loop better than hotkey?
While we remember distinct visual clues no less important is how we get used to their placement. Want to spoil someone’s mood – sort icons on their desktop (that’s why my desktops have no icons :).
When Windows got “smart” with showing and hiding items in menus I had stopped using menus. Knowing and using precise positions of element makes much faster experience that selecting out of most used set.
Some launchers are built explicitly to make use of patterns – fixed grids, circular shapes and the like.
Again, when does pattern of clicks is no longer beneficial and becomes poor replacement for shorter method? As for me – if used multiply times each day.
Visual clues are essential for getting used to new things. But I feel we tend to forget that gradual learning and daily usage are different processes.
How often do you perform series of multiply clicks just because you got used to it? How often do you minimize everything to look for something on desktop?
Spend some time to notice these routines and you might be surprised how many of them you can cut or improve.