7 Basic Steps To Build A Great App Icon

App Icons

Yea thinks yea have built a great app. Cool. And yea have tested its greatness, by uploading the app on all social media sites, and also on app websites, review websites and all. Super Cool. And going by the ‘likes’ on Facebook and other review sites, yea have done a superb job with the app. And, plus the feedback from other social media sites is all equally good.

Well, go and boil your heads … yeah!

As an app development company, we reckon your app still has a long way to go even before it receives its first download. Because, no doubt, people in the social media circles may give your icon a thumbs up. And, no doubt, they’ll tell you that the icon is as good as it can be. Nonetheless, the real test of the app icon lies with the app store.

Why? It’s the app store where app downloaders gather. It’s the app store that will give you the expected downloads and more. And it’s the app store that will help you get back the invested money. And as per recent app analytic reports 70% of the app users are at the app stores- Apple App Store and Google Play – downloading their favorite apps and not on social media sites. And their only job is to weigh one app against the other and download only those that seem incredible to them.

Honestly, most of the users go by the outside of the apps as much as by the inside of it. Simply put, if your app icon isn’t as per their taste, downloads will always remain a far-fetched dream for you.

That said, building a great app icon is literally a piece of calk, if you follow the below mentioned guidelines.

Here goes those 7 Basic Steps To Build A Great App Icon

1] Add Character Elements

character elements in app icon

“Every great story, they say, has a protagonist and an antagonist… the same is true for brands.”

So, if it’s true for stories and brands, it’s true for apps as well. If you are coming up with a gaming app specifically, it’s always nice to add some character element to your app. Why? Simply, because apps with character elements can easily cement their place in the player’s memories. Remember, Mario and Sonic. So, as an app maker your major challenge is to display your main character or protagonist in the best possible way. By doing this, you will be putting a stamp of individuality on your app and users will be able to distinguish your app from hundred others.   

2] Simple Design

steve-jobs-simple design

Complex icons are a complete no-no in the app world. Because, there are cent percent changes that your app will go unnoticed in Apple App Store and Google Play Store.  Of course, you and me, both love to ornament our apps with all the possible attractions, but the problem  here is that the app stores don’t approve of it. Candidly speaking, iOS platform places   a higher premium on aesthetics and details. So this can keep an Apple app store designer on their toes for a longer time. But, on the flip side, it gives the designer(s) a chance to stretch their imagination. The end result, should be a neat and tidy app that catches user attention, however. Ask any other major app development company and they’ll repeat the same rant.

3] Different backgrounds

While finalizing your app design, test your icon on both light and dark backgrounds. And, also on a variety of other backgrounds because you never know which wallpaper users will choose. And if you are planning an iOS app, don’t even think of considering a transparent background, as the iOS platform doesn’t support transparent backgrounds. And, by mistake, even if you have tried using it, you app will appear floating on a black background, which, in turn, will look awful on attractive wallpapers that users choose.

However, on Android you can use transparent backgrounds to give your icon any possible shape.

4]Bold Colors

Build on the basic concept, but ensure that the colors you use helps your app stand out. For instance, the Angry Bird icon – it grabs eyeballs at all sizes. Likewise, for any branding initiative, choose a color palette in advance and consider their look in complimentary layouts as well.

5] Minimal Text

less is more

Too much of text may bore the user. Not just that it can even dilute the overall impact of your app. That’s not to say that one needs to avoid text completely. But use text in such a way that it becomes a part of the design. Take for example, the BBC News app and ESPN app. In both these apps, text is central to the design. Also, avoid long descriptive text.

6]Symbols or Letters

App Icons

Even your company logo can be a source of inspiration for you, especially if it’s based on a symbol. Of course, the symbol can be your icon’s central element. Replicating your symbol on your icon will not only help you get instant recognition, it will also ensure brand consistency across platforms.

Here are the examples of Sneaker and Wrappit iOS. Also, see Snapguide and Pinterest icons that have adapted the stylised typography element of their logo. So, if you are running out of ideas, you can use them for your inspiration. An easy way out, isn’t it.

7] Premium Quality


Users will directly relate the quality of your icon to the quality of your app. Your icon will be the first thing that a user encounters on the app store. So make it as inspiring as possible. As Mark Stern, UX Evangelist at Apple, puts it, “if an icon looks great, and it’s been carefully crafted, it’s reasonable to assume that the rest of the design of the app is also great and also well-crafted.”

Moreover, there’s a lot of credibility at stake as well. A polished icon makes the user believe that your product is well made and is worth your time and money.


If you think crafting a great app is a mind-boggling exercise, think again. A right mix of self-belief, simplicity, and stoicism  will ensure that your app icon is a no less than a show-stopper in all the app stores. Good luck.

OpenXcell’s strength lies in app development and app marketing. So, if you are pursuing any serious app development and marketing plans for your organization, OpenXcell will be happy to help. We have the experience and wherewithal to make your app a super success.


Jini Maxin

Jini Maxin

Well folks, Appy Times are here. Though I am no appoholic, I am in an industry that breathe apps. So, despite myself, I keep waking up to smokin’ hot cuppa of app stories every day. So, do you like what I prattle here? Duh! Of course, you do. So just go ahead and scribble a line or 2 here in the comment box below, or share them on social media. Why? Because it will load me with just enough confidence to prattle a li'l (lot) more :)