Case studies of current usage of Web icons

The case studies presented within this section have been reviewed on a qualitative basis. Ideally an audience research team would submit these sites to multiple focus groups for review. The focus groups would be assembled in a manner that represented different levels of Web skill and experience.

The first three sub-topics are segmented by the destination/target types, including informational content, system tasks, and site activities. These categories are explained in more detail below. The remaining case studies have been segmented into various categories. This general sampling provides some examples of how functional Web icons have diffused onto the World Wide Web.

Destination/Target Types (the object)

In this example from a difference can be seen between the cart icon on the main menu and the cart button located on the page. The menu icon represent access to a site activity or section, in this case it allows the user to review the contents of the cart. The Add to Cart button performs a specific function, which is to add an item (or SKU) into the cart (database table). While both icons use the exact same symbol, a silhouette of a shopping basket, they perform different functions.

The table below describes the different type of functions an icon can have. Web pages can contain logo graphics and small informational graphics which can look like a Web icon, however a Web icon is differentiated because it has a function associated with it.


Informational content

Specific function

Site activity

Resulting function

if a user clicks the icon then a chunk of content will follow. A by product function is to launch the related  helper application.

if a user clicks on the icon then a specific function will follow.

if a user clicks on the icon then a site feature will appear that for in which the user will perform an activity, such as database entry.

Example 1

Audio Clip

Email functionEmail this to a Friend

A calendarCalendar

Example 2

A Web siteWebsite

Printer functionPrinter Friendly Version

Address book Addresses


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Case studies
Info Content
System Task
Site Activity
Search Engines
Shopping Carts