What the other app marketers are NOT telling you about app icons!

I was out visiting the local weekly night market recently. Its a great place to get all sort of stuff, food, and to see people.

Christmas Market Vintage Silhouette by Karen Arnold

From a distance, as I neared the street where the stalls are set up, the noise (and wonderful food smell) started streaming towards my ears (and nose). And as I approached the centre of the market proper, the screaming started to get louder and louder.

You'd think a triad has started a street war or something!

Hawkers shout at the top of their voices to get your attention. And while the loudest shouts usually did get my attention, it was often for the wrong reasons.

Which usually is that I have no idea what they're shouting, it gets hard to understand what they're saying in all that noise. Besides the shouts, the more outstanding the hawker stall, the more its going to get eyeballs towards it.

The calm after the storm

I walked over to the end of the street, zig zaging through the folks out to get the best bargain for their buck. I reach my favorite fresh sugar cane drink stall and had one iced cold cup. It gets pretty hot this side of the world!

While drinking, I looked around, and realised it was quiet at this side of the market. And another stall near me, where the owners weren't shouting away, well, lets say they got some of my cash for some snacks that I would soon munch while typing out this blog post for you.

Words of wisdom about the app icon business

My night market visit applies to the scenario of app icons. In an ever crowding world of the app stores, you want to be sure you stand out.

Check out your competition, check out the top performers. The problem is when all the apps are "shouting" at the same time, its hard to listen.

Every app store marketing expert will tell you that icon sells! But is that the whole truth? I've come to realise there is one important fact most app marketers have forgotten to tell you.

It is important to know that no matter how much you tweak your icon, it is not going to bring you downloads if your app is not search-able or ranking high in its category.

READ THE ABOVE LINE AGAIN... and let it sink in!

For that you will need to focus on keywords optimization and other SEO / ASO techniques (get the newsletter to get useful app marketing strategies in your inbox!).

So, should you actually even spend the effort on getting a great icon done? Well, you tell me what your take is of this.

Using screenshot as app icon

My top performing apps all have icons that are actually screenshots of the game:

App store optimization - icons

And they worked just as great as any other icons out there. I've got apps that hit over a million downloads in a month or two with these icons.

Of course, to say that the icons themselves generated the downloads is not right, its a whole chemistry of app store optimization and marketing.

Some time ago, I read that a good icon tells what the game or app does. And honestly, I still believe that's what matters most when making your app icons. Unless you're a big recognizable brand who can just put an F or a bird for icon, a descriptive icon works great.

What makes a great app icon?

If you are going to invest in an app icon anyway, here is a check list of what to do to improve your chances of scoring the download.

1 - Gives app functionality

Again, this is very very important! Your app icon should tell what your app does. And seriously, drop the finger image on the icon. Your apps are on smart phones, don't clutter it up.

2 - Be the sore thumb!

Think about the hawker stall folks. They are what your app icon is all about. The more "loud" your icon get, the more its going to garner attention.

But what happens if everyone is also shouting? Try a serene peaceful one instead. Go against the convention.

Check out your competition and see what the other icons are. and what you can do to be outstanding. Everyone using borders? You go border-less. Everyone is in 3D? You go for flat 2D look.

3 - Be unique

If all the other zombie shooter game icons are using a first person view of the gun aimed at a zombie, why not get a third person view of the zombies scrambling over to the shooter? Or an image of a zombie with its head blowing up?

But be careful though, being unique, if done wrong, might take away from your app's functionality (point 1). Find the right compromise.

4 - Look at all angles

Check out your app icon on various sizes and backgrounds. Sometimes details get so lost on smaller screens that your app icon starts getting rubbish.

As for backgrounds, well, the Google Play uses white anyway. But having an app that outshines on any background color will help increase your app's engagement after user installs it on his/her device. It will be like a shining star!

5 - Avoid text

Drop any text that you're thinking of adding to your app's icon. Seriously! They say, a picture tells a thousand words. Adding text to an icon takes it from the 1000 words to perhaps 1003 words. Just drop it, and use the space to get an awesome full icon out.


App icons are important salesperson of your app. They give the first impression, but an impression does not always seem positive when its too loud.

Being outstanding does not always mean shouting the loudest, it sometimes mean taking a step back and doing it calm and peacefully.

Make a great icon that explains the functionality of your game or app.

And remember, there is a lot more to get downloads than just app icons.



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