Jan 29, 2024 By Geoff Parent 6 min
By Geoff Parent
Geoff is a writer and guest contributor to sidebar Magazine.
TL;DR: Your mobile app icon (for either iOS or Android) is a powerful force in reaching a wider audience on app stores. That's why it's important to consider every possible way to optimize it, make it on brand, and otherwise ensure it stands out in a sea of Play and App Store competitors. If you're looking to design a mobile app icon that sells, lean into these top tips from Median experts.
Developing a mobile app that generates positive end user experiences comes down to a rigorous attention to detail.
So while designing or choosing the icon for your mobile app might seem like a small, simple step, it’s important to consider that:
Instead of treating your app icon like an afterthought, take the time to consider a design that will stand out and represent your brand the right way.
Here are five best practices for how to design a mobile app icon for both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Apple and Google both have unique guidelines and specifications for how to design a mobile app icon. They fall into one of two categories:
It’s important to pay close attention to these store-specific guidelines for mobile app icons at each stage of the design process. Let's take a closer look.
As a general rule, you should never attempt to crop the image yourself to create the app icon.
Instead, use a regular square image and let the devices look after the cropping. That said, there are still specific guidelines you need to follow for these square image files to take full advantage of the different app icon shapes for iOS and Android.
Depending on the geometry of your icon logo, some designs will work well using the same image for both Apple’s square icons and Android’s round format.
However, some logos will require different versions to accommodate these different formats. Here are some examples of how brands will adapt their app icon designs to these respective configurations:
Apple’s app icon best practices cover a broad set of tips to consider:
Google’s list of app icon guidelines focuses primarily on how to use the asset space in the most effective way:
It is important to consider the Apple App Store and Google Play Store guidelines when designing your app icon's size, shape and spacing.
Consider the tips below:
Avoid including promotional or branding badges on the artwork, as they do not scale down properly with the icon.
Get hands-on with Median’s comprehensive documentation, and build your app with ease.
Trying to determine how many details to include in your mobile app icon? Consider that Apple’s first tip for designing an effective icon is to embrace simplicity.
A lot of details may look great when you’re designing your asset at larger scales, but it’s important to think about how they will look at a smaller scale on the app store page.
Considering how fast users will scroll through potential app choices, you want a design that is striking, yet simple to understand and easily recognizable at smaller sizes.
Try to create a singular point of focus rather than filling the asset space with a number of elements. Your icon should aim to capture attention, convey purpose and represent your brand without demanding too much analysis from the user.
It’s worth noting that simple and minimalistic does not mean boring and plain. The challenge of great app icon design is to create something simple that is still intriguing and appealing to the eye.
That is why it is so important to carefully consider your use of color, contrast, spacing and form throughout the entire design process.
The mobile app icon design you choose must align with the look and feel of your mobile app as well as your unique brand guidelines. This is essential for creating an immersive experience for the user.
From the moment they view your app icon and open your app to the moment they close it, they should feel a sense of cohesion between all the various pages and touch points.
Creating an icon that is unique to your app and your branding will also help you create a design that feels original and authentic. The last thing you want is for a user to associate your app icon with a competitor’s app.
Instead, you want an icon that will help to build recognition for your brand, your app and the services it provides.
While it’s true that your design should be unique, it should also be concise and communicate the purpose of your app. You don’t want to end up with a design that is so abstract that the user is unable to understand or decipher what it is.
It’s important to remember that part of simplicity and minimalism is designing something that is elegant yet easy to understand.
Think hard about your brand, organization or business — the products or services you offer, your unique value proposition, the utility of your app and the overall benefits it offers— and use those thoughts as inspiration for a design that gets at the core of what you are offering to the end user.
Your mobile app icon is a key component of your broader App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy. As a result, it’s important to feature an icon that will give your app the best chance of success.
If you’re curious about the effect a new design direction will have on app store engagement, testing and experimentation could be helpful. While they can be time-intensive processes, proper A/B and/or iterative testing can help you gain meaningful insights regarding the effectiveness of your app icon.
Both Apple and Google provide developers with services to help them conduct experiments with their app store assets. While Apple recently announced Product Page Optimization for the Apple App Store, Google has offered Store Listing Experiments for some time now.
What makes these services so useful is that developers can also run experiments on other components of their store listings, including their product pages, screenshots, listing text and videos. That said, Google recommends testing your app icon first, considering the outsized influence it can have on app store engagement.
According to Google, there must be clear intent and strategy behind every test:
Learning how to design an effective mobile app icon is one part of a broader initiative for your brand — creating the best possible user experience for users on mobile devices. And with Median, creating an native app to deliver these types of mobile experiences has never been easier.
Median’s highly intuitive online App Studio makes it easy to convert your existing website or web-based application into an immersive, visually stunning native mobile app that will deliver a rich mobile experience for end users on both iOS and Android devices.
With our app configuration services, we will help you select the app icon, in-app images, fonts, and colors you need to design an aesthetically cohesive app that aligns with your brand’s identity.
We take the confusion out of the app icon design process. With Median, you can upload a single large square image file (we recommend at least 1024x1024px) to use as the app icon for both your iOS and Android apps.
Our service will automatically create all the required compatible icon sizes for both iOS and Android. If you have created separate image files for iOS and Android, you can provide those as well.
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