Choosing icons that communicate effectively can be a tricky process.
This blog post provides 3 options for one tricky icon situation for the SRM Suite. We’d like to hear from you on which option you prefer and why.
We are wrapping up the design for a new grouping feature for SRM Suite. This feature will allow you to create groups of devices. In our design, the groups appear in the left pane. The contents of the selected group appear in the right pane.
Groups can be nested, so a group can contain devices and subgroups. For example, in the mockup below, the group “ABC App” contains virtual machines, hosts, and a subgroup called “Chicago”.
Groups can contain devices and subgroups
The Problem..or is it?
We are not providing any indicators showing when a group contains subgroups. Our first question for you is – Do you NEED to know when a group contains subgroups? Is this a problem for you when the group is closed? For example, “System Groups” contains subgroups, but you cannot tell this by looking at it.
How should we solve this problem? We came up with a few possible solutions.
Option 1 is to add expansion triangles to groups that contain subgroups. The triangles show the expansion state, expanded or closed.
Options 1: Expansion arrows with the group icon
This approach clearly shows when a group has subgroups. However, some may feel that the group icon is meaningless and adds useless clutter.
In Option 2, we eliminate clutter by removing the group icons and show only expansion triangles.
Option 2: Group arrows without the group icon
This approach is in sync with the current trend towards minimalism. There are no icons to interfere with mental processing. However, now we have a new problem. We use the exact same approach in our navigation pane. In your opinion, will it be confusing if the group pane looks exactly the like the navigation pane, except for the background color? Does this approach provide enough visual differentiation to make it clear that managing groups is different from navigating from one system page to another? Option 2 is shown below in the context of navigation.
Option 2 in context with the navigation pane
For comparison, the mockup below shows Option 1 in context with the navigation pane.
Option 1 in context of the navigation pane
You could think of Option 1 like this: navigation takes me to system pages, while the group pane is where I create and manage these blocky things.
You might be wondering, why not use the traditional folder icon? After all, a group can contain devices and subgroups, just like a folder can contain files and subfolders. We have traditionally used the folder icon to represent file systems; therefore, we wanted to pick a different concept to use for groups.
If we decided to ignore historical precedence and use folder icons after all, it would look like this:
Option 3: Folder icons
For comparison with the other options, here is Option 3 in context with the navigation pane:
Option 3 in context with the navigation pane
Do you think that this approach looks too much like Windows Explorer, and not like groups of devices?
What would you do?
What option would you choose? Option 1, Option 2, Option 3, or do you have a better idea? Add a comment to let us know!