Communication Is in the Details

Each day, millions of people log in to their favorite online app stores, looking for the next great app to enhance their mobile device or tablet experience. As a customer, you are bombarded with an endless sea of app icons, each clamoring for your attention, interest, and ultimately, a place within your device. There are literally millions of “micro-conversations” and sales pitches in a typical day.

With so much competition and clutter, how does a great app icon design engage in conversation with a potential customer?

Engage in the Conversation

As an icon designer, I envision how these interactions would exist in the real world, with the icon playing the part of the salesperson, informing the passerby of the amazing attributes of the product and how they can own this “must have” app for a great, low price.

I imagine the conversation going something like this.

Customer: I am looking for a top-quality music app.

App Icon: Music is my specialty, and I am very professionally made.

Customer: I don’t know, I have limited space on my phone and I only want the best apps.

App Icon: That’s me, top quality—from my groundbreaking interface to the love and attention put into my icon. My developers spared no detail or expense. You won’t be disappointed.

Customer: I’m listening, tell me more.

App Icon: Did I mention that I am affiliated with a brand you trust? I play well with other apps in your phone and if you love other products by my developers, you are guaranteed to love me. Plus, I won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Download me and let’s have some fun.

(I used music apps as an example, but this conversation can work for other genres.)

Earn the Customer’s Trust

Now that conversation might sound dramatic, but it’s the same conversation we engage in every time we shop for a new app. So as customers, what criteria do we use to distinguish the best from the rest?

The answer is relatively simple, it’s all about trust. Customers online have the same sensibilities that customers in the real world have. They look for an app that will serve their needs, one that looks professional (i.e., reliable) and is a product worth the price tag.

Invest in the Details

But what about salesmanship? Do the most beautiful icons attract the most customers, or is there a more subtle and nuanced dialogue happening?

As it turns out, it’s a combination of both: beauty and brains. The apps that do the best are often the ones that catch our eye but also answer our series of complex questions. Customers migrate toward quality imagery but still require an explanatory element—the artwork—to make the final sale. For example; our mythical music app icon can’t just look amazing and knock our socks off with aesthetics; it also needs to assuage our fears of what we will get once we download the app. The differences can be subtle, and the smallest details matter. Simple choices like placing a banner that says “Free” over the icon can either make your app look like a great deal or make your app look cheap. Each icon must take into account the audience it is speaking to, just like an effective salesperson needs to know his or her potential customers and understand what motivates their purchases.

Understand the Customer Journey

Understanding how your customers shop and what motivates a mobile purchase starts with the icon and carries through to the app itself. All too often a great app, designed with quality and care, is left unsold and unnoticed because the app icon makes the wrong first impression. By treating every aspect of your app with the same amount of care and insight, you are making a bold statement about what your app and your brand stand for. By communicating authentically with your app customers, you will better understand them and will earn their trust.