I am on a development team that is building an enterprise intranet application with several different user groups giving different kinds of support. The application displays attributes in key-value pairs all over.

Some users do not have access to all the attributes and instead of a value they are shown a padlock with a tooltip that say they do not have access. They have been used to this pattern for several years.

Now we are implementing a system where our users working in support, can identify the person that is calling them through a de facto standard authentication system in our country. The user will initiate the authentication by:

  1. Click an icon (or the callers name) on the screen to get a pop-up
  2. Click "Authenticate" in the pop-up

Now, we are having a really hard time to figure out an icon to display next to the callers name. We need an icon rather then text due to space-limitations. I have suggested an anynomous "persona" icon with head & chest or a padlock styled as a application-style button. I also tried with a red/green little "light-circle".

None of these suggestions have been accepted with the motivation:

  1. Padlock already has an established use-case where the user is prohibited from seing some content
  2. The "persona" icon makes the users think of Skype and the caller being "online" rather then "identified".
  3. The little "light" looked too much like Skype online/offline, not "identified".

I see both points and they are valid imho. I cannot come up with any other way to present this 16x16px icon. Nor do I have any arguments to motivate my suggestions other they "other applications use them and the context should make it ok".

Image for illustration using the padlock. It could be exchanged for a person icon or some light or perhaps a phone?

  • Is it ok to use same icon for slightly different meaning?
  • Do you have other suggestions on how to communicate "this is where to click to start the authentication process"?
  • Would you agree on any of my proposals (given the small amount of information here)?

Related topic: https://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/22160/colliding-icon-meanings

  • 2
    Without seeing the icons or screenshots of the applications it's really hard for us to provide feedback. I recommend editing your question to include images Jan 19, 2016 at 0:13
  • 2
    Your question is probably better suited for the UX group you already have a link to. It also think you already answered part of your question with what you linked to. Convention > Context is a very good way to thing about UI/UX today. Also without seeing some images, your question is a big hard to answer.
    – kenjikato
    Jan 19, 2016 at 0:37
  • @ZachSaucier, Thank you for your feedback. I added a mockup to give a more clear idea.
    – span
    Jan 19, 2016 at 6:21
  • @kenjikato, I agree with Convention > Context. I added a mockup to give a more clear idea.
    – span
    Jan 19, 2016 at 6:22
  • I +1'd your -1 since I think the question is clear and well-formed. It might (arguably) be more suited over on the UX SE, but that's not a reason to downvote.
    – PieBie
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:44

2 Answers 2


As a metaphoer for "Authenticate" you could also use those "Hi my name is" shield which are used on conventions or networking events. These shields (I don't know how the are called) "authenticate" the person with his name.

enter image description here

Or something like a "Passport Control". Where the user badge is validated and then approved.

Or you could make a "Stamp" icon you know these stamps you have in your passport when visiting a country which basicly say "You're approved for entering".


If they don’t like the lock icon, which is kind of a universal for access or no access, then maybe try something like these.


Access Granted:



Not Visible:

There’s also the universals More Info icon to give initial access to a pop-up:

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