App Icon Optimization

July 23rd, 2020

App Icon Optimization

App Store Optimization requires optimizing all aspects of your app, especially the visual elements. What visual makes a first impression more than the App Icon?

Your App Icon plays a significant role in drawing users to the app and conversions. Creating an optimized icon is essential for a fully optimized app, but where do you begin?

Research Icon Design

The first step to App Icon optimization is research. Look at leading apps in your category and see if there are any recurring design styles or themes that would be applicable towards your app.

Mobile games will often include a central character in their icon, as we can see on the Apple Arcade with Explottens, Sonic Racing and Oceanhorn 2. At the same time, there are many ways these characters can be presented. What kind of expressions do they use? Are they humans or mascot characters? Are the backgrounds detailed or just a general color?

App Icon

This same research can be applied to other categories. Music player apps will frequently use musical notes or waveforms for their icons - out of the top ten “music player” apps, eight include a musical note. At the same time, there are still elements like color choice to be considered.

App Icon

eBook apps may frequently find different styles for displaying books, such as minimalistic designs or silhouetted figures. Looking at some of the top eBook apps in Google Play, we can also see that blue is a recurring color choice. If you are developing such an app, you may want to see how you can use similar designs while making your icon stand out.

App Icon

ASO Best Practices

Understanding what elements users respond well to is important, but you must also be able to put that information to proper use. Following ASO best practices is what will let you take those design elements and turn them into an effective App Icon.

  • The icon needs to represent the app, whether through brand iconography or relevant visuals
  • Maintain consistent branding with the rest of your creative set
  • Keep the design simple, due to the small size and limited space of the icon
  • Use minimal text; single words or titles will be visible on an icon but an entire poem won't be.

Best Practices in Action

We can look at several apps on the App Store or Google Play Store to see how their icons follow these best practices.

App Icon

The Twitter icon uses a brand icon and color scheme familiar to users of the website. It uses its established identity to create a simple and easily identifiable icon

App Icon

Vimeo maintains consistency throughout its creative set, using the same black font and yellow background for its icon and screenshot sets.

App Icon

FarmVille 2 includes text on its icon to call out the name of the app while utilizing brand-relevant colors and font.

All of these icons use a core design or visual element that establish or reinforce the brand design without cluttering the icon. That makes them easy to find and identify while searching on the App Store and Play Store.

A/B Testing

Testing is essential for any App Store Optimization strategy. Running A/B tests lets you identify what performs best and build on your successes, so testing icons is essential.

While doing research and designing icons, you may want to test two or more variants. What color scheme do users prefer? Does a character work better with their mouth closed or open? Does the icon perform better with or without text? You can find out what works best by running A/B tests.

  • App Icon
  • App Icon

Apps will frequently change their icon designs based on what performs best. Pandora, for instance, changed its icon from a solid blue P to one with a blend of colors that create a wave-like pattern.

One Test at a Time

While testing, be sure to change only individual elements. If you test both a new icon and description, you won’t be able to tell if the changes in conversions came primarily from one or the other.

If you change your icon’s color scheme and character choice, it could be that users respond positively to one change but negatively to another. By isolating and testing individual aspects, we can identify the top performing variants.

Testing in Two Territories

If your app is available in multiple regions, you may want to run a test in a territory that provides a smaller but similar audience to your main target. This will depend on where your app is live and what territories you’re focusing on.

Running A/B tests in Canada can provide feedback that can be used for your app in the United States, which also gives you time to test different creative sets in the US. This can help you test and optimize your app without compromising any tests by changing multiple aspects at once.


Your App Icon will create the first impression for your app, whether users see it in search results, on a featured list or from an ad. This first impression can influence whether or not they convert, so you’ll want to be sure your icon is optimized.

By researching your category, following ASO best practices and performing A/B Testing, you can help ensure your App Icon is performing as well as it possibly can.

Want to learn more about App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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