Episode 2: Icons in the online shop

Conversion hacker Jörg Dennis Krüger talks about icons in online stores. 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 front office just said: Yes, I am the Conversion Hacker!

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

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

This episode is about the topic of icons. Because icons are a wonderful tool to do many things, especially in the online store. And they are used for all kinds of things, especially in the online store, but also on landing pages and so on.

And somehow we know icons or signs or whatever. So symbols that help us somehow, from road traffic. We know warning signs everywhere, somehow symbols have dug themselves into our brain, because they are somehow quickly understandable. The psychologist would perhaps say that they are easy to decode in the brain, because you know them, you have learned what certain things say, what certain colors say and so on, and then you immediately recognize what this is all about.

Without thinking about it for a long time, a look - okay: we know the same on the computer, so since there is Windows or graphical interfaces, there are many icons and symbols, where you can simply work much easier with. 

Here my start icon on my Windows 10 computer is the Windows flag, whether that's intuitive now we'll get to it later, but I know there doesn't have to be start menu, as it may have been earlier, but the flag. But the most famous example is of course the small floppy disk for save, which we see everywhere, still, although you actually do not use floppy disks for a long time. But as a symbol it's burned itself 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 for a long time, but it makes it easier. And so, from my point of view, icons can really help. So navigation, for example, or especially when I have such a mega drop-down, when I have a somewhat more complex store, or when I have several products and it opens up so nicely, there are a few nice examples where beautiful icons simply show what products are really about here? And the user doesn't have to read what's there, sees at a glance, in a print online store for example, it's a NOL up or it's a business card. 

This can be seen at first glance by showing the product in a strongly standardized way and the user can decide very easily and does not have to read a lot. And there it is then often the icon probably even better to understand than the text, because with the text the user does not know exactly what is meant with it now, he does not know the technical term perhaps.

But the standardized icon shows him the product and there he can decide after. And of course this can be used on category pages or when I have filters, visits and so on.

To represent product features great, that can also be things that I can really represent beautifully in the icon. Colors are the best example, even if it's maybe not a real icon, but somehow it is. But other things, or if it's learned things, we know it from Amazon: The Prime icon. Prime I know right away, these products I might want to see because they're delivered faster, so I click on it. 

And I can use such icons also beautifully around for example Shop Alleinstellungsmerkmale, USPs beautifully to represent and simply everywhere in the Shop to have. Fast delivery, maybe delivery on account and so on and of course on the product detail page to show the product features in a really comparable way. And if I should decide then between different products perhaps, then I see at first glance what kind of material is that, there are also official and thus learned symbols and icons. But maybe also something like battery life or so, that can be wonderfully represented, whether something is waterproof or, or, or.

There are very, very nice possibilities to really make these products easy to understand and not to burden the user to really read the product features, but to simply see at first glance; Yes, okay the product can do this and that! And so he can much faster penetrate the products, decide and then hopefully buy. 

But I don't want to be misunderstood at one point: I would not say icons are generally good for the conversion rate. Most of the time, I have to say, actually quite the opposite, because far too often people just go to the trouble and somehow come up with their own icons to represent and show whatever it is that makes my individual products so special. And how can I put it? This quite often becomes a picture puzzle. 
Because then the icons have to do with the actual statement only something about one, two, three, four corners. This happens especially often when I use icons that are in standard templates. So an asterisk, if it is to represent the particularly outstanding things, or an asterisk over it. That does not help me. Then I have to read what's underneath, the asterisk itself I can actually leave out and only takes away space, just like a heart or something. 

Then icons are often only so decorative elements and quite often they even displace the actual message. Because then the icons take up so much space that the text next to them 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 hard to read that this whole construction of icon and text doesn't work at all, doesn't represent what it's about any better at all, doesn't help at all that the user has to think less, but then it confuses him completely and he has to start now and try to figure out what does that mean then?

He doesn't understand the advantages, this whole effect fizzles out and all these nice features of the products, the store and so on are not perceived. Either he thinks, well, I don't understand, or he starts looking for explanations in the store. Where is explained now what that means? Or he has to read more and so on. And then I have to say that I wouldn't even start. 

My conversion hack to icons is really not developing 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.

After all, you always have to think about all these icons from the user's perspective: 

The user has to understand that! And that's where online stores are actually like jokes for me. If you have to explain them, they're bad and icons can make you really have to explain and what's the point? Then I come into 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 am looking forward to your feedback! Either on jdk.de/Podcast, there you can find all episodes including ShowNotes, but there is especially the possibility to comment and there are also the links to all platforms where you can watch the podcast. And of course you're also welcome to just email us at jdk@jdk.de. And if we then look at the page, the 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 at all happy with it, is a little heart that shows how often the blog post, the podcasts are organized as a blog post, have been liked on my website. 

And there, the heart is maybe just okay, because it is also used on Twitter and so on, but a like and thumbs up is perhaps better understandable, but probably the plug-in provider has not taken here, because there are brand problems. And there you can already see where these problems often come from: This is in the template, this is in the PlugIn, this was in the icon set. I thought now this heart I can leave, but if I had an online store and should now really describe my products, then I can not use the standard, I have to think about how I can do that much better individually? And there would be then just the text without icon probably much better.

So don't make bad jokes and don't build bad online stores and be back for the next edition of the Conversion Hacker!

The next issue will also be a small special episode, because I have recorded some of my talks and will publish them piece by piece as special issues of the Conversion-Hacker and the Conversion-Hacker will be weekly in the future. Always at the weekend the new issue, always on Sunday, that you can hear a Conversion-Hacker first thing in the morning on Monday to start the week and the special issues, I will try to publish on Wednesday. And already next Wednesday it starts!

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