Category Archives: Mobile

Are Icons Without Labels Conversion Killers?

Are you annoying visitors by having icons without labels?


Labels are helpful right? Without labels we are unable to categorise products, services, websites, cars, even people and many other things. So WTF  – I keep coming across websites and apps that use icons with no labels. Are they completely mad or do they think it is cool to create uncertainty and confusion among their visitors?

Here are the latest navigation icons from Tumblr. I use Tumblr a few times a week but I still can’t remember what all the icons stand for. Inventing new icons and not giving them clear labels just creates ambiguity, confusion and ultimately frustration from a user perspective. Many of us have tested the infamous hamburger button and found it inferior to a simple “Menu” label.

image of Tumblr navigation icons

Ok, so labels can have negative associations if they are misleading or inappropriate for the situation. But if you are unsure what the best label is then A/B test them to confirm which is most effective. Labels can also work to your advantage as vivid descriptive labels can help to create images in our mind that grab out attention and encourage a positive response. Buffer has the “Awesome” plan for their more active customers. Why use a boring term when you can inspire people.

image of Buffer navigation icons


Labels are immensely powerful as they frame how we perceive a situation or event. For instance people are psychologically more driven to avoid a loss than a potential gain. We can use this to our advantage by framing an action from the perspective of a potential  loss. VWO use a label on their alternative CTA that reinforces what a visitor will miss out on if they don’t click on the primary CTA. This makes it psychologically uncomfortable for the visitor to click on the alternative CTA. This in turn makes the primary CTA appear even more appealing.

image of VWO call to action buttons using loss aversion to persuade


Avoid confusing simplicity with a minimalistic approach:

One of the reasons why icons are used without labels appears to be that simplicity is confused with having a minimalistic approach. This often leads to over-simplicity which risks creating more friction and cognitive load because key navigation elements are either hidden or sit behind meaningless icons that new visitors cannot be expected to decode. Sure, try for a simple design, but think very carefully before you remove anything in case it assists the user journey.

Zeebox is a case in point where they thought their app would benefit from removing the top navigation buttons by introducing a side-menu activated by the now derided hamburger button. They thought this would de-clutter their app and give more prominence to their content.

However, after they implemented the new design they found that engagement time halved. They had to rush out an update to undo the damage and decided to A/B test it next time. When they did A/B test a new version of the side-menu it was again a disaster. Needless to say they did not implement a side-menu.

Navigation is crucial to an app or website’s success and so make sure you A/B test new architecture before implementing it. Just because Facebook is testing something new don’t assume it will work on your site. Even Facebook have added labels to their persistent bottom navigation. So, please stop annoying your visitors by using icons without labels.

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You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.


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  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift  Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.

Why Is Your Mobile Only User Journey Leaking Cash?

image of NASA Globe in Florida


The Rise of The Mobile Only User & My Experience with the NASA Tour Mobile Ticketing Journey


Since 2014 mobile devices have been the most used device to
browse the internet. But this is only a transient stage in the shift towards the dominance of mobile devices. The real change is mobile only, where users rely solely on their mobile devices and never return to a laptop or PC. According to research by Google more searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. Facebook reported that over half a billion users only visited their site or App via a mobile device.

Image of a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and headphones


What does this mean for website optimisation and conversion?
From a user’s perspective there will certainly be even more potential for distractions and interruptions as people begin, re-start and end conversations whilst online.  However, the most important change is that they may never see your desktop site again, particularly if they use your App. So, if it’s not on your App or mobile optimised site it won’t exist from their perspective.

This was highlighted to me recently when I visited Florida. Between theme parks I browsed on my mobile phone and decided it would be great to go on a tour of the NASA facilities at Cape Kennedy.  I had noticed that a SpaceX rocket launch was due during my stay and went to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) site to ensure I wouldn’t disappoint my family (i.e. me).

After initially being confronted with a mobile responsive desktop site, I was taken to the KSC Complex “Mobile Ticketing!” page. What caught my eye here was the “Scan phone at entrance” message. Brilliant, just what I needed as I did not have easy access to a printer at the hotel.


image of Kennedy Space Center mobile ticketing site


I clicked on “Start Shopping” and selected the Daily Admission and Up-Close Explore Tour. Before I continued to the basket I browsed the information on the Up-Close Explore Tour. It promised to take us behind the scenes of the complex with commentary from a space expert.  Happy with this I then completed checkout and received a confirmation email with links to my mobile tickets.


image of Kennedy Space Center admission ticket


I took screen shots of each of my tickets and carried on with my holiday. When the day arrived I scanned my tickets at the turnstile and noticed lots of other people doing the same.

However, when I went to the information desk to register for the tour I was surprised to see people handing over their passports.  Sure enough, when it was my turn to be served I discovered that NASA requires all non-US residents to present their passports
to qualify for the Up-Close Explore Tour.

Unfortunately for me this was only displayed on printed tickets, not the mobile friendly tickets that I had used. Neither was it mentioned in the tour details or anywhere else on the mobile only user journey.

Although we still had a very enjoyable day it did spoil our experience and confirmed the importance of mapping out and testing the whole mobile only user journey from beginning to end. It also resulted in a refund of just over $100.

I had four people in my party, but we could make a conservative estimate that around 10 people a day are caught out by the lack of
messaging on the mobile only user journey.  That’s $250 a day or $1,750 a week in refunds. Over a year this would be a loss in
revenues of around $91,000
. This is certain to rise as mobile only journeys become the norm.

It is only a matter of time before mobile only experience becomes the most common user journey for many online businesses.  For this reason now is the time to ensure integration of mobile-friendly versions of all mission-critical assets, including promotional material, customer service and other key elements of the user journey.

Mobile only users expect to be able to access the same content as other visitors, but not on a site that was clearly designed for desktop users.  Asking them to pinch and zoom as they navigate around a site designed for a much larger screen is going to irritate and frustrate them. If you want to retain mobile only users you need to start
delivering a great customer experience for whatever device they decide to use. All relevant content needs to be easily and quickly accessible from a mobile device or else your competitors will probably take these customers away from you.

User habits and preferences are rapidly changing. Unless you act now to comprehensively integrate and test to meet the demands of the mobile only user there is a high risk that your customer journey will leak cash.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.


  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as, and  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.