What Is Iconography?

Iconography refers to the visual images or symbols used for identification of a larger concept or interpretation of content. In e-commerce, iconography refers to all images or symbols on your Shopify store, collateral, and various marketing paraphernalia. Icons are usually used in place of words, providing clarity or direction without the use of any text. Iconography is essential for quite a few reasons. For one, using icons can reduce the clunkiness of a site by decreasing the amount of crowded copy. Additionally, the human brain processes icons 60,000 times faster than text. This gives visitors the ability to move throughout your site more quickly and easily. The importance of iconography simply can’t be overstated.

How Is Iconography Used?

With online shopping, you only have seconds to make an impression on a customer — and often, words aren’t the way to do it. Iconography has a huge role in directing traffic and sales. In e-commerce, iconography appears as small illustrations with simple lines and very few colors. They’re created by analysing the content of a section or linked page, picking the most important informational concepts, and developing symbols that best represent them. E-commerce iconography appears in the form of header and footer symbols, illustrated buttons, and informational direction.

Simple Iconography Examples

You’re used to perceiving iconography, even if you don’t realise it. Think of your email provider’s homepage. There’s likely something akin to a plus sign for creating an email, a forward arrow for forwarding an email, a backwards one for replying, and a star symbol for favoriting or highlighting important messages. Take a look at your spam inbox — is it represented by a trash can? A warning symbol? On e-commerce sites, these icons extend to buttons that link to your cart, favorite or “hearted” items, personal account settings, and search query boxes.

Quality iconography goes beyond the intuitive “my cart” or “my shopping basket” illustrations. These visuals show what words have trouble explaining, especially when speed of comprehension is paramount.

Let’s say your Shopify store is for clothing, and you sell a few categories of apparel: tops, bottoms, and accessories. While those words are easily identifiable, the human mind will more quickly process icons for those categories, especially if combined with some form of copy that directs them to a product category page.

You can see how this becomes even more important as categories become more specific. For a store that sells only hats, icons for floppy sun hats, baseball caps, top hats, and bucket hats will help those without a clear understanding of products’ definitions find their desired shopping category.