How to Make Your App Icon Stand Out: 11 Expert Design Tips for 2024

An icon is one of the most crucial graphic elements of a mobile app according to ASO. It is the first component seen by users on the store page and during the search. It is associated with the brand and has a significant impact on conversion.

Due to the design of the icons, you can stand out from the competitors. The RadASO team has developed key criteria that will help you create an icon to increase the conversion rate of installations and thus the profit from app downloads.

Join the discussion on unsuccessful icons for mobile apps in our open ASO & User Acquisition community on Discord — ASO Busters!

Search

Tip. The role of the icon is all the more important when searching for non-branded terms. When a user is still undecided, a quality icon can be essential in making that choice.

#1 Minimize the amount of text or elements

A large number of graphic and text elements look too “dirty" and messy on the page and have no value for the application. It’s hard for the user to read and focus on the icon.

The design case study below shows failed icon designs that look poorly due to bad colors, oversaturation of graphic elements, small text, etc. These are mistakes to avoid.

Many elements

#2 Build associations with the niche

Use elements on the icon that are associated with the niche or topic of the app. For example, a yoga app can display exercises, equipment, or just the word “Yoga.” An audiobook app can display book covers, graphic elements associated with reading, and audio.

Well-known brands are the exception. In this case, you can display the brand icon directly. Because users recognize the app by the logo.

Icon=Functionality

#3 Stand out from competitors

Before designing an app icon, examine your competitors. Analyze their experience and how to stand out among them. 

Note: It’s important to keep a balance between making sure that the icon is associated with a relevant niche and highlighting something special that will attract potential users.

Be different

#4 Pay attention to the seasonality

Remember holidays, events, and seasonal changes. Due to thematic graphics, you can make the user feel joyful and thus stand out from the competitors. For example, add Christmas elements to your icon during the New Year holidays. Or, add trendy elements during the period of their popularity.

Seasonality

#5 Associate with the brand

Users should easily associate the app icon with a brand they recognize. Colors and graphic elements on the app icon should match those that are used in the web design or advertising. Rebranding should be implemented in all communication channels at once.

Brand=Icon

#6 Harmonize graphics 

Icons, screenshots, and videos should be harmoniously combined, creating a single impression of the brand. This method will help users associate it with specific colors and elements.

Visual Style

#7 Adapt the app icon to different themes

The icon should stand out clearly in a dark and light user interface with contrast and a catchy look, not merge with the background, and have expressive accent colors.

These recommendations remain relevant even after installing the app, as users can use light and dark themes. A thoughtful icon design in both versions increases the chances that the app will be used more often.

Black_White

#8 Test, test, and test again

A/B tests are an effective method of how to identify what attracts users the most. Sometimes unexpected solutions can lead to great results that have a positive impact on conversions.

For example, adding a short description of what the app is designed for can significantly increase its conversion.

Although the results may be unexpected, it’s best to test several methods beforehand. Try to generate as many hypotheses as possible about the icon design. This will help you find out which option is more popular among users.

Icon Testing

Note: When updating an icon in the app store, it is important to update it on the user’s device as well. Sometimes, the icon on a smartphone differs from the one seen in the store. This can confuse users and affect their decision to launch an app for the first time. Therefore, developers must remember to update it within the build.

Different icons

However, it is important to keep in mind that the icon on the user’s device will not be the same as the icon in the B/C test, as the current application icon will be installed on the smartphone.

#9 Localize the app icon to different countries*

Pay attention to the national differences of each country. For example, it’s important to consider the popularity of a particular color and elements in the search term. You should also find out about possible cultural peculiarities and restrictions in each country.

*Localization is only available for icons on Google Play. The App Store has a single icon for all countries.

Localization

#10 Use colors that are specific to your niche 

If your app is associated with specific colors in its niche, use them. This will allow users to associate your product with the right field without having to analyze it.

To illustrate, imagine an app that tracks the amount of water you drink per day. Choosing a red color for such a mobile app icon may look strange. Users expect to see something related to the color blue, which is associated with water, balance, and calmness, even before they enter the app page.

Colours

#11 Follow the guidelines

Design your mobile app icon by following the key guidelines for each app store platform. There are differences between the App Store and Google Play. For example, the App Store recommends:

  • Create an extremely simple app icon for iOS, as Apple believes it is easier to find and understand.
  • Develop a design that will look effective on all platforms (iOS, tvOS, watchOS, macOS, visionOS).
  • Use text on icons only if it is an important part of the app’s functionality.

More information can be found in the official App Store guide.

Google Play Store has its own rules that are crucial to consider when designing an icon:

  • You cannot indicate the app’s rating on the icon itself.
  • You cannot use text or graphics to indicate participation in a Google Play Market.
  • You can’t add a shadow to the app icon for Android; shadows are only allowed for elements located on the icon.

For more information, you can read the official Google Play guide.

*Illustrations are taken from the official Google Play page.

Google Play (1)

To sum up, an icon is a key element of UI/UX design to the success of every app. Further work on its design and functionality can be crucial for increasing conversions and attracting users. Make the icon not only visually catchy but also reflect the core of the app.

All you have to do is experiment, find inspiration for implementing new ideas, and express the idea of the product. Remember, an amazing icon design is a great way to stand out from the competitors.

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