How to Create an App Icon That Will Be Easy to Understand

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Although the app icon might be physically small, optimizing the icon will have a positive effect on each step of the user’s journey in the App Store, as it’s the only graphic asset that’s shown in the search results, on the product page, and on the category page.

While 65% of App Store downloads come directly from searches, one of the best ways to find out how well your app icon stands out from the crowd is by testing your variations on the category page. This is because category pages are the only pages where you can minimize the impact of other factors (e.g. the impact of screenshots when testing icons in the search results) on your conversion rates.

That’s what the developers from Darby did with their How To Videos app. The main objective of the experiment was to test two competing approaches: relying on trends and popular styles or creating an easy to understand icon.


Developers did a great job reviewing some of the top performing apps across their categories. They found a wide variety of styles of app icons and started with series of icons in wildly different directions inspired by different top-performing apps. Each icon version was designed with a different idea in mind:

No 1 Would a simpler, sleeker icon seem more legitimate?


No 2 Would a more branded icon with a prominent name be easier to quickly identify in a list?


No 3 Would a photograph stand out more from the crowd?



As it turned out simple things always work, no matter what you do. People are afraid of something they don’t understand and, therefore, don’t install such apps. An app icon has to visually reflect the main idea of what to expect from the app. In terms of conversion, the winning icon managed to achieve 73,7 percent more clicks on “get” button and the same amount of clicks as the closest competitor. Alternative variations were likely confused for Photo & Video apps.


However, increased conversion is not the only thing developers received: Due to the fact that there were designs that had very little impact, a clear losing design and a clear winning design, developers managed to find exactly what’s working for their app and what’s not.




1. App icons should not only grasp for attention but also accurately convey the concept of the app.

2. The most difficult part in testing app store assets is generating variations for testing. To start with, you can simply review some of the top performing apps across your categories and you will see a wide variety of the styles of designs you could try.

3. When testing icons, make use of category testing. Doing this helps you find out how good your app performs against your competitors.