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I'm making a site which requires users to review and tag information.

The interface would benefit from icons, but many of the tags represent abstract concepts that I'm struggling to represent. I'm worried some of these are more confusing than helpful.

As a quick test (in a totally non representative group) here are the concepts in a random order, followed by the icons.

  • Do these map without an explanation?
  • Suggestions for the obscure ones?

Concepts:

  1. Legitimate
  2. Accurate
  3. Complete
  4. Precise
  5. Clear
  6. Relevant
  7. Balanced

enter image description here

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I misread the question and closed it when I shouldn't have, but reopened it upon review. It was closed for only a minute, but you still got dinged a (meaning just 1) rep point, but I have upvoted the question to makeup for it. Sorry about that. –  Philip Regan Aug 8 '11 at 13:00
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2 Answers 2

I hate to say this, because I have some idea of how much thought and sweat equity went into these, but I don't think most of them map without explanation. I'd venture the following. Parentheses are other suggestions.

  1. A
  2. ? (A circle with a center dot, or cross-hairs)
  3. G (Also a box tied up with string)
  4. ? (Micrometer)
  5. ?
  6. ? (Circle with no center dot, baseball diamond {"in the ballpark"})
  7. F

I hope these are useful. Perhaps I can add something helpful, keeping in mind that it's hard to give a meaningful response without knowing the audience.

Only three of these icons communicated fairly unambiguously to me, but in some highly specialized context the others might be more meaningful. Part of the difficulty, I think, is that you're using very different icons to communicate what are really nuanced (and/or progressive) concepts. You don't say if all of these are independent or if any would imply (and therefore would replace) others.

By a progression, I mean that "Relevant" --> "legitimate" --> "precise" --> "accurate" --> "complete" seem like they follow one to the next; something could not be "legitimate" without being "relevant", "accurate" without being "precise", "legitimate" and "relevant", and so on. That may not be your use case (although I have a hard time figuring how something could be Complete without being Relevant, Accurate, Legitimate, and Precise in any context where these terms would be meaningful.) If it is, represent the progression visually. For example: a dashed-stroke empty circle --> a solid-stroke empty circle --> a solid-stroke circle with a center dot --> a solid-stroke circle with center dot and cross-hairs --> all of the preceding overlaid by a check mark (or a solid green disk with cross-hairs and reversed-out check mark).

Building on a single symbol in this way reduces the visual confusion, indicates hierarchy and is easier for the user to learn and retain.

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Great feedback here as well. In a vacuum I can see how these already abstract concepts are completely up for interpretation. It would help to see them in context- relevant is for tagging whether two pieces relate to each other, 'precise' and 'accurate' are applied respectively to wording and information. So, I can't use a progression. Micrometer is a great suggestion for precision- the size and style are a bit constrictive. Thanks for the suggestions. –  RSG Aug 8 '11 at 16:08
    
Glad this was useful. By all means update with a link to the final site, if it's publicly available, or the final icon set. –  Alan Gilbertson Aug 10 '11 at 21:00
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  1. Legitimate - G (but the check makes me think of a chosen answer, in the way SE uses checks to mark chosen answers)
  2. Accurate - B (accurate an precise only make since because the difference was drilled into me in science classes - but I wouldn't expect everyone to know the difference)
  3. Complete - C (could a numerical percentage work well here?)
  4. Precise - D
  5. Clear - E (this reminds me of a gun scope, which reminds me of vision, hence clear - but this is quite a mental leap to make while interpreting an icon
  6. Relevant - (only A remains, but it doesn't seem to match)
  7. Balanced - F (certainly the easiest to match)

Hope that helps. Personally I'd find numbers or text more useful signals for these concepts. Would it be possible to create more alphanumeric icons?

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This is great feedback, thanks for responding. I love that you went into explaining your thought processes on each answer- so helpful. I'll give it a day or two to see if more people weigh in. An upvote might help that cause if you think it's worthwhile. –  RSG Aug 8 '11 at 8:09
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To me, C. is "accurate" it looks like a bullseye with the arrow pointing there, B. is "precise" as multiple arrows share a similar location, and A. is "legitimate" since it looks like a legal building and is therefore "legit". This goes to show that there is no way these icons can be made "universal" -- each person will have their own interpretation. –  ghoppe Aug 9 '11 at 20:03
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