What Does Icon Mean?

In a user interface, an icon is a small graphic representing a symbol that has meaning for the user. These symbols can relate to user commands, error messages, menu navigation or other types of communications. What icons have in common is that they present meaning to users through a small picture, rather than through a word or phrase.


Techopedia Explains Icon

Icons are built into many modern types of user interfaces. They are commonly seen on a personal computer’s operating system screens, and on the screens of smartphones and mobile devices. Over time, the user community has learned to recognize certain common icons such as home icons, previous or next arrows, menu lines and warning signs, and these cues function effectively as a way for developers to communicate with the end users of the system.

Part of the evolution of icons today involves responsive design. Developers and engineers look at how to present icons differently on a smartphone or small device screen, to help smartphone and mobile device users find more comfortable ways to navigate the Internet, use an operating system or implement computing tasks.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.