I am currently trying to make an icon that indicates a bike shop sells bike accessories. This icon will be displayed along with other icons, such as the bike types the shop sells and if the shop accepts cards or cash.

The accessories icon however is turning out to be quite troublesome. This is what I've tried to create and why they didn't work:

Bike lock: is confusing because it looks like the shop might be locked/closed. Colleagues also thought it meant the shops are selling bike insurance.

Bike basket looks a lot like your average shopping basket. Because the icon is very small, adding a bike steering wheel makes the basket look unrecognisable.

Bicycle pump is used by other websites to indicate a shop offers maintenance service.

Saddle Seemed like the better option but I also need an icon that indicates the shop offers test rides on bikes, and I can't think of anything else that would fit test rides.

Since none of these icons are often used, I'm afraid my target group (which consist mostly of adults 40+) won't understand what they mean because they can all mean sort of the same thing.

What is a good option to avoid icons with double meanings? Would a label (maybe hovered?) improve the user experience? Or is it generally better to stick to textual things with complex categories like these?

  • 1
    Would you count a bike helmet as an accessory?
    – AndrewH
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 13:08
  • 1
    Use bicycle gloves! Nothing says "accessorizing" to a rider like a pair of bicycling gloves. Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 14:24
  • 2
    This is why pictorial language failed.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 15:54
  • 3
    Personally, I favor using words over icons, for just this reason. Icons are not clear. People have to guess what they mean and this is not user friendly. Can you use words instead?
    – DocPixel
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 16:27
  • 1
    @steve Rindsberg, for multiple languages, I guess an icon would work... If the user can hover over it and a word appears, that would help them figure out what it means. But, I maintain that the best usability is the clearest usability. And as far as the space goes, I still feel that if there's room for a clear icon, there's probably room for text. Remember the title of a very well-known book on web design, "Don't Make Me Think." ;)
    – DocPixel
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 3:26

3 Answers 3


A rule of thumb with icons is to keep it as simple as possible.

It's important that users get the idea by the first look, not by the second and third until the 'AHA' moment occurs. In general, you don't want that. Unless you are designing puzzles.

When I think of accessories for a bike, the first thing that comes to mind is the thought:

What normally isn't on a bike by default?

Picking something that's not that far-spread might be enough to give users the right idea.

For example a bicycle bag. Essentially something that is a little more specific, so it can't be misinterpreted for something else commonly used in a more general way. Like the gear symbol for settings.

If you end up with a more generic symbol, why not add a text that says "Accessories" when the user hovers over the icon?

The purpose of icons is to give the user a logic overview that helps him quickly orientate, not a detailed description.


If you can't find a single concept or item that doesn't already imply something else then you could use a group of accessories.

Accessories are often unrelated to eachother so the group is unlikely to imply what any of the individual items would.

Something similar to these:

enter image description here

  • 2
    I'm part of your target audience age, I ride a bike and (BONUS!) tend to find many icons impenetrable. One thought: if I saw a bike icon and also a bike icon with a "+" as part of the graphic, it'd convey "bikes and more", and the first "more" that'd occur to me would be accessories. Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 15:00

In one of the researches we conducted recently, users prefers saying it as it is, that is using words as an indicator to using a icons.

One of the things you don't want to do is confuse the users by making them think too much about what the icon means to them.

Also, using words helps with accessibility as it can easily be pronounced to the user and also quickly translated.

But the most important thing you need to do is research with users to know if they understand what the icons you've created means anything to them.

I love to hear your user feedback on whether they prefer the icons to using words or combination of both.

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