Larger icons, more pictures and generally less text on a page. We’ve noticed a trend in the design world, using less text information to convey a message to the target audience and using images to get the idea across instead. So why are designers in all mediums be it web, print, video and apps moving away from the most common form of information: text?

The Why

Pure and simple answer? Mobile. Mobile devices call for less text and utilizing beautiful images to keep mobile users engaged and for the most part, it works.  Think back to a text heavy website and how painful it is to read the copy on your mobile device.

Mobile devices were responsible for 30% of traffic … in 2013 – Greg Sterling, Marketing Land

We expect this number to continue to grow as our mobile devices and wearables increase capacity and power.  Google emphasizes this point with it’s “Mobile First” shift, launching several design changes for their search platform for mobile devices. Only after the changes launched on mobile were they launched on the desktop platform. In 2012, Google reported a staggering statistic: 65% of searches begin on mobile phones.  Two short years later it can be assumed this number has grown.

The Implications


Visual design isn’t a bad thing but as with all things it must be used sparingly. An article written by Aurora Bedford outlines research on Icon Usability, in her article she talks about how icons should communicate meaning first.

A user’s understanding of an icon is based on previous experience.

Due to the absence of a standard usage for most icons, text labels are necessary to communicate the meaning and reduce ambiguity. – Aurora Bedford, NN/g

Icons and pictures alike, when displayed without directive text need to have a clear and universal message to ensure the user experience is still smooth. The problem is, there are very few universal icons and images and it takes a long time to establish a universal icon. Human attention span is so short, finding a balance between usability and design aesthetic is imperative.

Size Matters. Relatively.

Size matters for your pictures and icons but only as they relate to the other images on the page. A full width image is going to capture the maximum attention but using relative size to direct user attention can drive and change consumer behavior. Particularly for icons, ensure your call-to-action icons such as a menu button or a click through are larger than the items relative to your button.


Marketing Land
Nielsen Norman Group

Also published on Medium.