icons

Give me back my text labels, GMail!

The new GMail interface includes icons in action buttons instead of old text labels; not a good decision from a usability point of view.

A lot has been written about the new GMail interface; most of it is a matter of opinion, but I’m afraid Google has committed an obvious mistake: using icons (in buttons) that don’t have a clear single meaning.

Let’s take a look at two of the buttons; isn’t this your first guess when you see them?

Guess for two of the buttons in new Gmail interface: download? important? 

Wrong. The real functions of those buttons are:

Real meaning of the icons: archive and spam. 

Using fancy original self-designed icons is a common mistake made by novice interface designers; icons are hard to memorize, and users usually recognize just a few of the most common. Many times, the best way to describe a function is simply a text label.

I’m surprised Google has fallen into that error; maybe they have been paying too much attention to people complaining about their ugly interfaces. Anyway, Google, please, give me back my text labels for actions!