Episode 2: Icons in the online shop

Conversion hacker Jörg Dennis Krüger talks about icons in online shops. These can be very helpful - but also quickly become a picture puzzle. And the same applies to online shops as to jokes: if you have to explain them, they're bad.

thinkCONVERSION on 5.11. in Berlin: https://thinkconversion.de


Welcome to the second episode of the Conversion Hacking Podcast. My name is Jörg Dennis Krüger and as my lovely anteroom just said: Yes, I'm the conversion hacker!

Thanks in advance to Uwe Hamann from Gifts 24, because he gave me some feedback after the last episode, which I was able to implement wonderfully to make this podcast more exciting, interesting and better for everyone.

And so the podcast is already available on Spotify, iTunes and Tynan. And if someone still misses their service where they would like the podcast, just let me know and I'll be happy to register the podcast there as well. And don't forget on November 5th, so not that long, ThinkConversion is in Berlin - my own little event, there are still tickets for both seminars, just look at ThinkConversion.de or in the ShowNotes for the episode. Because actually on JDK.de/Podcast I will now always have the show notes for each episode, where all the links are in it and so on, so that everyone can quickly click on them. 

This episode is about icons. Because icons are a wonderful tool for doing many things, especially in the online shop. And they are simply used for everything, especially in the online shop, but also on landing pages and so on.

And somehow we also know icons or signs or whatever. So symbols that somehow help us out of traffic. We know warning signs everywhere, symbols have somehow dug themselves into our brain because they are somehow easy to understand. The psychologist would perhaps say that they are easy to decode in the brain, because you know them, you have learned what certain things mean, what certain colors mean and so on, and then you immediately recognize what it's all about.

Without thinking about it for too long, just a look – okay: we're familiar with the computer in the same way, that is, ever since Windows or graphical interfaces have existed, there have been many icons and symbols that are much easier to work with. 

Here my start symbol on my Windows 10 computer is the Windows flag, whether that is intuitive now we will come to that later, but I know it doesn't have to be the start menu, as it might have been before, but the flag. But the best-known example is of course the little floppy disk for saving that we see everywhere, even though floppy disks haven't actually been used for a long time. But as a symbol it's burned into the brain, into the global brain, collective brain, so let's do it.

But the whole goal is to get there quickly and without thinking, and we use icons for that. What does that mean for e-commerce now? We want to use that so that users can reach their goal quickly and without thinking, and icons are a cool thing. You can use icons really well there, i.e. as a shopping cart symbol, in the shopping cart, as a magnifying glass when searching, as an arrow to click on “next” or for such a next button, as a telephone receiver of course for a telephone number, where you then really understands; Ah, what is this about?

You don't have to look long, it makes it easier. And so, from my point of view, icons can really help. So for example navigation, or especially when I have such a mega drop-down, when I have a somewhat more complex shop, or when I have several products and it opens up so nicely, there are a few nice examples where beautiful icons are easy shown, which products are we really talking about here? And the user doesn't have to read what's written there, sees at a glance, for example in an online print shop, it's a NOL up or it's a business card. 

You can see that at first glance by showing the product in a highly standardized way, and the user can make a decision very easily and doesn't have to read a lot. And then the icon is often easier to understand than the text, because the user does not know exactly what the text means, he may not know the technical term.

But the standardized icon shows him the product and then he can make a decision. And of course you can also use that on category pages or if I have filters, visits and so on.

In order to display product properties in a great way, there can also be things that I can really display beautifully in the icon. Colors are the best example, even if it's not really an icon, but somehow it is. But other things, or if they're learned things, we know it from Amazon: the Prime icon. I know Prime immediately, I might want to see these products because they are delivered faster, so I click on it. 

And I can also use such icons nicely, for example to present shop unique selling points, USPs and simply have them everywhere in the shop. Fast delivery, maybe delivery on account and so on and of course on the product detail page to really compare the product properties. And if I then have to decide between different products, then I can see at first glance what kind of material it is, there are also official symbols and icons that have been learned with them. But maybe something like battery life or something, that's a wonderful way to show whether something is waterproof or, or, or.

There are very, very nice ways to really make these products easy to understand and not burden the user with actually reading the product properties, but simply seeing them at first glance; Yes, okay the product can do this and that! And so he can penetrate the products much faster, decide and then hopefully buy them. 

But I don't want to be misunderstood on one point: I wouldn't say icons are generally good for conversion rates. Most of the time I have to say, actually quite the opposite, because far too often effort is made and somehow own icons are devised to represent and show whatever characterizes my individual products. And how should I say it? This often turns into a picture puzzle. 
Because then the icons only have something to do with the actual statement about one, two, three, four corners. This happens especially often when I use icons that come with standard templates. Such an asterisk when it comes to depicting the particularly outstanding things, or an asterisk over it. That doesn't help me. Then I have to read what's written underneath, I can actually omit the asterisk itself and it just takes up space, just like a heart or something. 

Then icons are often just decorative elements and very often they even displace the actual message. Because then the icons take up so much space that the text next to it becomes so small that I can hardly read the text and then I see a star or a heart or whatever and the text next to it is so difficult to read, that this whole construction of icon and text doesn't work at all, doesn't represent what it's about any better, doesn't help at all that the user has to think less, but then it totally confuses him and he has to get started and try to find out what that means then?

He doesn't understand the advantages, this whole effect fizzles out and all these nice features of the products, the shop and so on are not noticed. Then he either thinks, well, I don't understand, or he starts looking in the shop for explanations. Now where is it explained what that means? Or he needs to read more and so on. And then I have to say I wouldn't even start there. 

My icon conversion hack is really not to develop your own icons at all. 

If you really have icons and there are icons that represent very one to one what is shown here. Product characteristics, products and so on. If you can really do that without having to think about these icons, what they say, then you can use them. But if you then get going and maybe set up a meeting and think: "Oh man, how can we show that our icon, that our product does not contain this substance, for example, or has this feature or something similar." Then that will happen to a big art project, it gets hugely creative and of course, if you suddenly have a really good idea to represent an icon, then it can really be worth it. 

But most of the time it's just not worth the time to put in work here, only to be wrong in most cases, because developing really good icons, developing really good symbols is incredibly time-consuming and then maybe it's worth it not to think "How can I now show that my product is vegan?" I've seen that so often lately, so vegan icons and nobody really understood them. Then you can rather write vegan next to it and without the icon you have more space to write big vegan next to it.

Because with all these icons you always have to think from the user perspective: 

The user must understand that! And then online shops are actually like jokes for me. If you have to explain them they are bad and icons can make you really have to explain and what's the point? Then I come to a meeting and ask: here what does that mean?

I've been trying to find out. What does this icon mean? And then, somehow from marketing, he starts to explain: "Well, that represents this and that... and that means here... and that's why we used the icon..." Do you have to say, yes, that's exactly like when I look at a comedian like, "Huh? I didn't understand that, can you repeat it?" And then he says, look around three corners here, haha - yes, then it's no longer funny and the icon doesn't help anymore, because it's an online shop yes to earn money and is not an art project.

So reduce, reduce, reduce, don't get creative unnecessarily and don't develop any graphic things unnecessarily that just take time but are of no use to the users. And I actually see it every day in some online shops, that there are unnecessary icons that nobody understands. And whenever I talk to the online shop operators, which I don't do every day, I get statements like "Well, the icons were there", or "Some icons should go there", or "That's a draft of ours graphic artist” and – no, get that out of your head! Icons can work, but we don't have to We want to earn money, we don't want to have to explain anything, everything should be immediately understandable and text is bad if it's a lot of text, but if I describe my product features in clear, beautiful bullet points can display, then that's better than if I develop icons for two weeks. 

What are your experiences with this? 

I look forward to feedback! Either on jdk.de/Podcast, there are also all episodes including ShowNotes, but there is in particular the possibility to comment and there are also links to all platforms where you can watch the podcast. And of course you can also send us an e-mail to jdk@jdk.de. And if we then look at the page jdk.de/Podcast, there are almost no icons on it, namely only those where logos are used. From Spotify, from Facebook, from Twitter, from Linkedin. And the only icon that's there, and I'm not too happy with that, is a heart, which shows how often the blog post, the podcasts are organized as a blog post, has been liked on my website. 

And the heart might be just about okay there, because it's also used on Twitter and so on, but a like and thumbs up might be more understandable, but the plug-in provider probably didn't take it here because there are brand problems. And there you can see where these problems often come from: It's in the template, it's in the plug-in, it was in the icon set. I thought I could leave this heart alone, but if I had an online shop and should really use it to describe my products, then I can't use the standard, so I have to think about how I can do it much better individually? And then just the text without an icon would probably be much better.

So don't make bad jokes and don't build bad online shops and be part of the next issue of Conversion Hacker!

The next issue will also be a small special episode, because I have recorded some of my lectures and will publish them piece by piece as special editions of the conversion hacker and the conversion hacker will be weekly in the future. Always the new issue on the weekend, always on Sunday, so that you can hear a conversion hacker right away on Monday morning at the start of the week and the special issues, which I will try to publish on Wednesday. And it starts next Wednesday!