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Computer Icons

A picture tells a thousand words, or does it

Nurses and doctors use machines to help give medicines to their patients. Machines don't always have enough space for instructions so people who design them (computer scientists!) use pictures, also known as 'icons', to show how to use them instead. The machines you use at home use icons too - do you know what these icons mean?

The first set of pictures are found on computer keys and buttons – what would you expect to happen if you pressed them? Do you know or can you work out what they mean?

Computer Icons

The second set of pictures are also seen on computers (and phones). You might see some of them when you’re surfing the web or writing a document. What information are they giving you?

Do you think they are all easy to work out the first time someone sees them? Once you know are they all easy to remember? Those are two properties that make computers easier to use: learnability and memorability. A really well chosen icon can help a lot. Sometimes though, if bad pictures are chosen, it can make a system harder to use than if words were just used. Sometimes it's better to have both words and pictures to be really clear.

Here are the answers.