I have an arrow icon notifying the user about pending software updates. The update needs to be downloaded, which indicates the arrow should point down. On the other side, updates are raising a software package to a higher version.

Which one is more suiting in this case? An Up- or a down facing arrow? I'm also open to better alternatives other than arrows.

EDIT: this is not about smartphone updates. More about software updates in general. Also the icon is not interactive, but just an indicator.

  • Here is a link to noun project on for word download and update
    – joojaa
    Nov 15, 2016 at 12:56
  • Thanks @joojaa, interestingly enough the icons for "update" contain both down-facing and up-facing arrows. Nov 15, 2016 at 14:16
  • Well update can alse mean data exchange in some cases, such as update database to cloud (also synonymous to sync).
    – joojaa
    Nov 15, 2016 at 14:29
  • Obviously, the icon should be an arrow pointing upwards, overlaid with the text "15-11-2016"
    – Jasper
    Nov 15, 2016 at 16:46
  • @Jasper Your comment is actually an answer, so feel free to add it as such. I'd prefer not to discuss answers in the question comments section. Nov 15, 2016 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Just a down arrow on its own doesn't notify that, you need a line underneath the arrow... otherwise it would emphasis other incorrect meaning to the user to what your intention is!

An arrow facing down would confuses the users and they may interprets it as "scroll me down" or "take me to the bottom of the page" etc.

Take a look at Apple's example on AppStore, there is box with the arrow facing down, but it hasn't touched the box, this is to indicate there is something downloading into that box, in which the box is your phone!

I would personally make a box just like what Apple has done and simply place the tip of the arrow inside it without touching the walls, simple but wouldn't confuses the user!

Hope it helps.

  • A down-facing arrow pointing to a solid line or to a rectangle is often used for downloads. In my case the icon is meant for indicating that new updates for a server are available. The system showing the icon cannot be used to install the updates, howerver. It's only an indicator. Nov 15, 2016 at 14:20

As @Farzad-Cyrus mentioned, an icon displaying an arrow pointing down to a solid, horizontal line would generally indicate an automatic scroll function- it's pointing to the bottom-most line and this would suggest that action. Similarly, the arrow into an open box gives a strong indication that the item in question must be downloaded. I wonder if it is obvious enough to explain that it is a software update and a download will trigger an automatic install, none of which the user will experience. This icon is often seen on document downloads and image downloads, resulting in something (comparatively) tangible for the user to interact with.

Alternatively, you could go down the route of trying to evoke this consideration using a graphic of your own design. A down-arrow pointing to the centre of a cog/gear, perhaps. This may provide enough suggestion that the download will affect the (what's commonly interpreted as) settings & preferences.

Alternatively, and more convoluted still, could be to include perhaps layers of a globe in the background, a phone in the foreground, and a 3D arrow directing from the back to the front... though the point of iconography is to display quickly, easily recognisable shapes and objects to perform visual cues to someone new to your system.. so this may not be ideal.

  • Not sure what you mean with the phone. The updates in question are for a server and the icon is not interactive. It's only showing "hey, there are updates for this machine". Nov 15, 2016 at 14:17
  • Ah- apologies. My thought process was revolving around smartphones and app updates. Nov 15, 2016 at 14:19

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