Icons – decoration, yes, but so much more

Because I care a lot about search engine optimisation, and because search engine optimisation is primarily about the words, I constantly have to remind myself of the importance of graphical images on a website. By that I don’t mean the product photos (which are also important), but the little touches which can make all the difference to readability and – ultimately – conversion rate. Let’s face it, a page of text is ugly. It needs breaking up, and not just with endless rules and boxes.

In web design, the nicest way to do this is with icons. I was reminded of this the other day when I saw the article How To Use Icons To Support Content In Web Design on the brilliant Smashing magazine website.

Like me, you may have an instinctive distaste for icons in life generally, because you’ve come across really badly-designed equipment where the controls are labelled with icons (and no text) and you can’t make out what they mean. Don’t let this put you off. Decorative use of icons on websites really can make the difference between a visitor taking one look and leaving, and a visitor taking the first step towards becoming a customer. If your website designers want to break up lists with nicely-designed icons, let them, because as you’ll see in the article, they can serve a functional purpose as well as an aesthetic one.

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