You only have one shot at making the right first impression. Whether you’re promoting your app through pay-per-click, an influencer campaign or organically on the app stores, it’s vital that it stands out from the competition and encourages potential users to download it. But with more than two million apps on the Apple App Store and three million on the Play Store,  making a real impact can be a challenge. According to recent data, app store discovery drives 70% of all downloads, and a good app icon can increase downloads by up to 500%.

Below, we’ve put together some tips on creating the perfect app icon for your new software.


Look at your brand guidelines

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice we can give you is to follow your brand guidelines when designing an icon for your app. Though you’ll likely deviate from your usual logo or wordmark, your users should be able to recognise your brand right away, and there should be unity between your app icon, company website, and social media presence. If the app icon is too different, it’ll be hard for existing customers to connect the dots and find you.


Check it’s scalable

With iOS and Android apps now portable on macOS and Windows, it’s vital that your app icon is scalable – it should look as crisp on an iPhone 4 as it does on a 32-inch monitor. On iOS, icons are scaled down to 180px but must be submitted to the App Store in high quality at 1024px. Note: it’s possible to submit different icons for different devices and screen sizes.


Forget about your logo

Although brands like Uber, Vitality, and BBC News use their company logo as their app icon, most apps don’t. Decide whether your logo is instantly recognisable and necessary to include on your app icon – instead, most developers now create a symbol that catches users’ attention and drives downloads. If you’re adamant about using a logo, make sure it fits inside the icon and consider spreading your wordmark across two lines or using initials instead.


Look at your background

Most users customise their smartphone home screens to within an inch of their lives, and that includes setting a custom background. For developers, that makes the job of designing an app icon difficult – you want to create something that pops whether it’s on a black, white, or bright orange background. Avoid very dark or very light icons and test it before you use it.


Keep it simple

Your app icon will be no bigger than your users’ thumbs when it appears on their phones and tablets, so try not to overload your icon and include too many ideas. Facebook’s now-famous app icon is an F on a blue background, whereas Headspace uses a simple orange circle. Be bold and don’t be afraid to “trim the fat”. The clearer and more straightforward, the better.


Cut the text

Avoid adding text to your app icon where possible, as readability is significantly reduced on smaller screen sizes and it could make your design illegible. Using visual elements instead – such as a drop pin for a taxi app or a list for a productivity app – immediately tells the story of your app and ensures there’s no confusion. Your icon should explain what your app is about.


Consider seasonal updates

Though more common in mobile gaming than other sectors, updating your app icon to celebrate a new season or limited-time event could help you demonstrate that your app is up-to-date and capture the attention of potential customers. Popular money-saving app Hot UK Deals, for example, updates their app icon to celebrate Black Friday every year, pivoting the app and its App Store description into a Black Friday-focused offering. You could do something similar with your app, though be cautious not to update your icon too frequently to avoid confusion or water down awareness. Keep your brand guidelines in mind at all times.


Analyse your competitors

Something else to consider when designing an icon is your competitors. Some industries are dominated by particular colours, fonts, or styles, and you could follow suit or try to reinvent the wheel. For instance, most productivity apps feature a blue background – the App Store, Zoom, Skype, and Outlook. Check out this the colour theory guide and use a colour palette that reflects your vision – for instance, red symbolises love, orange is health and creativity.


A/B test your icon

Instagram’s app icon has changed three times in its decade on the App Store, from a retro instant camera to the purple-pink gradient we all know today. The truth is that your app icon will likely evolve as your product and industry trends change, but A/B testing can ensure you maximise conversions when you first launch. Google offers native A/B testing on the Play Store, but for iOS, you’ll need to use a tool such as SplitMetrics, or instead test one on the App Store and another on the Play Store, factoring in discoverability when analysing data.


Take your icon for a spin

Finally, before you submit your app to the App Store and Play Store, make sure you’ve tried it out on both Android and iOS devices. Try it out on different smartphones and tablets using different wallpapers and screen brightness, noting down any problems. Once you’re happy that your app looks great – and consistent – across different devices – it’s time to publish it!

Do you need help building an app – and app store icon – for your business? Reach out to the development experts at Zudu today on 01382 690080 to discuss your project in more detail.

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