Icon Size for Mobile App Best Practices | Webiotic

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Icon Size for Mobile App: Design Tips & Best Practices

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover”, but that doesn’t mean people don’t.

We judge things all the time based on how they look—books, people, design labels on products, and certainly mobile apps.

When you’re scoping out an app store like Google Play or Apple’s App Store, you’re always going to be presented with options.

Type in “sleep apps” in your app store search, and you’ll find the listings of apps in that category go on and on, interminably. 

How an app looks in the app store, particularly the app icon, is a crucial component of whether or not someone skims past your app or decides to download it.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about mobile app icons, like sizing and design, so your app is prepped for launch.

Table of Contents

  1. App Store Icon and ASO
  2. What’s ASO
  3. The Importance of Your App’s Icon
  4. Prepare High-Quality Images
  5. Write a Compelling App Description
  6. Use the Right Keywords
  7. Mobile App Icon Size
  8. iOS Icon Size and Dimensions
  9. Android Icon Size and Dimensions
  10. Image Size and Resolution
  11. App Icon Design Guidelines
  12. Embrace Simplicity
  13. Design a Recognizable Icon
  14. Use a Simple Background
  15. Use Words Only When It’s Essential
  16. Don’t Reuse Your App Icon
  17. Test Your Mobile Icon Against Different Backgrounds

Chapter #1: App Store Icon and ASO

Before we dive into some tips and best practices for designing your app icon, it’s important to first understand how it can affect not only first impressions by users but also the part it plays in your app store optimization (ASO) strategy.

1.1 What’s ASO?

App store optimization is an essential part of the app development process. 

It’s responsible for ensuring your mobile app gains visibility in app stores with the goal of attracting users to your listing and, more importantly, getting them to download your app.

This involves a spectrum of factors, like app icon, images, descriptions and more—all of which contribute to the efficacy of your ASO and how well your app ranks in app stores.

1.2 The Importance of Your App’s Icon

When users are browsing app store listings, visuals weigh in heavily to their decisions.

The app icon is the first thing their eyes will see in an app listing, so it needs to be designed so as to capture their attention.

Things like color-scheme, size, geometry, and included text are all important factors to consider when designing your app, but we’ll get into this more later.

For now, just know that your app icon needs to be unique and it needs to stand out from its throng of competitors.

1.3 Prepare High-Quality Images

Images are another important visual element to your app’s listing, and will help users decide what your app can do.

Not only should these screenshots of your app be high-quality, but they should also work to convey the features and functionality of your mobile app.

PRO TIP:
Visuals like app icon and images are the most influential factors when it comes to convincing users to download an app, so impress your users by giving them a visual story of your app.

Remember, visuals are a very valid and fundamental form of communication.

1.4 Write a Compelling App Description

Your app description is meant to provide users with information about your app in a concise, yet compelling way. 

It should work to demonstrate the primary features of your app and the problems it solves, how much the app costs, whether or not it’s free, and overall, how it can benefit your target users.

This description and the keywords it includes will weigh in on the app store ranking algorithms, so make it count.

1.5 Use the Right Keywords

Just as is the case when it comes to SEO, keywords are also a big part of crafting the perfect ASO strategy.

Utilizing the right ones in your app’s title and description will ensure your app is discoverable by the right audience within app stores.

When creating your keyword set, conduct thorough research to find keywords that describe your app’s primary features, keywords that are synonymous with your app’s features, keywords that include the app’s category, and keywords that are common terms within that category.

Photo Credit: appradar.com

PRO TIP:
Keyword performance can change over time, so always check your keyword relevance and strength.
Remember, visuals are a very valid and fundamental form of communication.

There’s a wealth of online analytics tools that can help you monitor how well your keywords perform and help you track their rankings.

Chapter #2: Mobile App Icon Size

As mentioned earlier, the icon size for a mobile app and its overall design will have a huge impact on users.

It leaves a lasting impression and is one of the biggest determining factors as to whether users choose to download your app or not, so it should be crafted with care.

Let’s take a look at how to design a mobile app icon.

Photo Credit: learnui.design

2.1 iOS Icon Size and Dimensions

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to your app’s icon is what platform your app will be available on.

Each platform and app store has its own set of icon guidelines as well as best practices, which we’ll get into in the next chapter.

For Apple devices, you’ll need a small icon for the Home screen and throughout the system, and you’ll need a bigger icon for the actual app store.

Here are a few sizes you’ll be needing depending on the device:

Photo Credit: appradar.com

  • iPhone: 60×60 pt
  • iPad Pro: 83.5×83.5 pt
  • iPad, iPad mini: 76×76 pt
  • App Store: 1024×1024 pt

Having various sizes of your icon will ensure it looks great across all devices. 

PRO TIP:
There are many sizes you’ll be needing, including a small icon that gets displayed when the name of your app matches in a spotlight search, for example, so read up on Apple’s full icon guidelines for more information.

2.3 Android Icon Size and Dimensions

For Android app icons that will be displayed throughout Android devices and the Google Play store, there are some guidelines you should keep in mind when crafting your icon.

For example, Google Play will automatically render rounded corners and drop shadows for your icon, so you don’t need to add them yourself.

Here are some rules when it comes to sizing your app icon artwork:

  • Final size: 512px x 512 px
  • Format: 32-bit PNG
  • Color space: sRBG
  • Max file size: 1024KB
  • Shape: Full square
  • Shadow: none

2.3 Image Size and Resolution

iOS uses a coordinate system for onscreen content, which is based on measurements in points. This maps to pixels in the display.

A standard-resolution will have a 1:1 pixel density display, or @1x, meaning one pixel equals one point.

Higher resolution displays have a higher pixel density and will require images, including mobile app icons, to have more pixels.

Chapter #3: App Icon Design Guidelines

In this section we’ll review some basic guidelines to help you with designing your app icon, but before getting started, make sure you choose the right style for your icon.

After all, an app icon style conveys a message about your app and your brand, so think carefully about who your target audience is and how you can design an icon they can connect and identify with.

Now let’s take a look at what you should always keep in mind when designing your app icon. 

Many of these points are taken from Apple’s very own Human Interface Guidelines, which covers everything from mobile app icons and images to app architecture and user interaction design.

3.1 Embrace Simplicity

While it’s tempting to create a unique or visually stunning app icon, you always want to remember that a simple and clean design is best.

Avoid creating shapes and designs that are too complex or difficult to discern.

Your app icon should find elements that convey the essence and purpose of your app in a simplistic, yet unique way.

3.2 Design a Recognizable Icon

This ties into the last point about embracing simplicity, but takes it a step further. Your app icon should be simple and not overly complex, and it should also make sense and feel recognizable to users.

For example, the iOS Calculator app uses a calculator as the icon design. Very simple and straightforward, and universally understandable.

Same thing for their Mail app icon, which uses an envelope.

Work to incorporate a symbol or design that represents your app’s purpose in an artistic yet clear way.

3.3 Use a Simple Background

If you take a minute to look at the top apps in the app store as well as Apple’s own pre-installed apps, you’ll notice that the background of the icons are fairly simple and avoid any kind of clutter.

Keep your app icon background simple so there’s no risk of it overpowering other nearby app icons. 

PRO TIP:
While it’s tempting to go all-out on your app icon design, remember that you don’t need to fill the entire app icon with content. And you shouldn’t try to.

3.4 Use Words Only When It’s Essential

Remember, the name of your app will appear right beneath the icon on the app’s home screen, so including your app’s title or words from the title as part of the icon design really isn’t necessary.

If you choose to include text in your icon, it should relate to the content your app offers. 

For example, the iOS Calendar app doesn’t include any imagery or design at all. It only includes a white background with some text, which is the day of the week (abbreviated to three letters), and the current numerical day.

This immediately gives users some insight as to what the app does, which is provide a full calendar that includes the current day.

3.5 Don’t Reuse Your App Icon

What I mean by this is don’t place your app icons throughout your app interface. Using your icon for different purposes in your app can confuse users.

What you should do instead is to create a color palette for your app that’s based on your icon’s color scheme.

The use of color throughout an app is a key component of visual design, and it can be used to call attention to important information as well as to communicate your brand.

3.6 Test Your Mobile Icon Against Different Backgrounds

It’s impossible to know what kind of backgrounds and wallpapers users will have set for their home screen, so don’t just test it against light or dark screens and call it a day.

You should make sure you test your app across a wide spectrum of photos and colors on real devices to see how it looks and what adjustments you can make to your icon to ensure it always looks good.

Your app might not look perfect against every wallpaper, but testing it will at least ensure it looks as good as it can.

Final Thoughts

Creating the perfect app icon sizes and app icon design is a process that shouldn’t be rushed.

Just like every other step in the app development process, your app’s icon deserves careful consideration and strategy.

In our Simple Starter package, we include mockups and wireframes of your app, including your app icon, along with a technical writeup of your app and thorough market and user research.

Which icons from the App Store are your favorite and which do you hate?

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