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Icons vs. Text

Icons can present complex information, meaning, and functionality in a very small amount of space. A browser’s “Home” icon (typically an illustration of a house) readily conveys rather complex meaning and functionality – activating it will take you to the browser’s defined home page. While such icons can be very useful, care must also be taken to ensure that the icon is understandable to the end user and reflects well-known conventions. The floppy disk icon, for example, is used for “Save”, yet the real-world connection between saving a file and an actual floppy disk (something that is rarely seen and no longer produced) is not present for many people, particularly newcomers to the web and youth. Real text (“Home” or “Save”) should be used in place of an icon, or perhaps in conjunction with an icon.

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