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Are Ubuntu’s Software Icons Confusing?

Are Ubuntu’s icons for the Software Center, Update Manager and Software Sources inconsistent and confusing for new users?

Some users think so, including Sam Hewitt who has posted a set of proposed replacement icons to the Unity Design Mailing List.

The Issue

 “What does this box with an arrow have to do with updates?” 

The current icons are, he says, ‘problematic in their iconography and branding’, with two of the three in question using a box/package metaphor that could confuse new users.

He cites a bug report filed against Ubuntu’s Update Manager, in which a user who conveys concern over the ‘legitimacy’ of Update Manager due to a lack of branding or documentation reference, as evidence of this.

The Solution

Sam’s solution suggests unifying the design of the icons.

By making [the icons] similar, they become related -rather: the other two become more related to the Ubuntu Software Center- and since the USC is a trusted application for users (or we want it to be), by association, the users ought trust the Update Manager and Software Sources,” he argues.

And it is hard to find fault with this. The current icons do indeed look disparate in their stylings, which is confusing.

The “package” metaphor is also old and (largely) irrelevant. Ubuntu isn’t a hobby OS these days, it has millions of users worldwide. And many of these users aren’t looking to manage packages, they’re looking to install and remove applications.

The iconography needs to convey that.

New Icon Theme

With Canonical’s design team about to begin work on a new icon set for Ubuntu we do know that these icons will change. To what? That we don’t know, but you can bet your System76 All-in-one that a whole raft of designs will be subjected to user testing before one is chosen.

We also shouldn’t overlook the original plan for the Ubuntu Software Center was to incorporate all of this separate package management tools into one unified interface (i.e the Ubuntu Software Center). That would solve this issue right away as one app equals one icon.

More Information

To read more on Sam’s reasoning you can hit this button:

 Ubuntu Software Applications Icon Change Proposal

Or if you just want to grab the icons and run you can hit this button:

System Software Icons (tar.gz)